Sucky news for the advancement of metal guitar playing — the user-generated vault of wisdom has taken down all of its tabs in the wake of a harrassing letter from the NMPA, National Music Publishers’ Association. The directory of hundreds of songs remains, but the song pages are all empty. The white page you get looks like the sound of silence.

While technically I guess being able to download a fan’s interpretation of “Milk” might make someone less likely to buy the Speak English or Die songbook, the availability of tabs by the likes of Machetazo and Trouble are also threatened. Of course bands like Megadeth or Children of Bodom who actually make money from tabs should have to right to remove their songs. But even if Brujeria or Obituary wants their tabs to be available to promote a greater understanding of their music, the NMPA apparently wants to speak for them.

There was an enterprising kid in my high school who sold xeroxes of his own pencil-drawn guitar tabs for Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All. I still play some of those riffs wrong to this day, thanks to him. And I showed them to other kids, and at one time or another we all supported that band all the more because we were deeply into not just listening to their songs, but playing them.

I think getting obsessed with the mechanics of music via guitar-playing is one solid reason that metal is growing more popular, lifting heavy CD sales in the wake of an industry-wide nosedive. Cutting off a source of this culture is like cutting the roots in your garden to keeping beetles from eating them.

I dropped a line to the guy who runs MetalTabs to get the full story, hope to have more to report soon.

UPDATE: Alex from writes: “MetalTabs is not the first, much bigger sites like OLGA, mx-tabs, mysongbook and taborama are closed because of NMPA/MPA take-down notices. I’m currently contacting bands and their labels directly asking for permissions to post their tabs. If this helps to save even 20% tabs of bands that care – that’s still better than closing the site completely.”

What does this mean? We can hope that MetalTabs or some other entity can gather the resources to fight back and keep tab culture alive on the Net.

In the short term, if you play or are in some way affiliated with one of the 1,033 bands tabbed on the site, get in touch with to confirm that you care, and that you support what what they’re doing. Hell, you might even take the opportunity to correct a couple duff notes that some fan in Argentina heard wrong.


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