It’s been a good month for Metallica. Yesterday, they officially topped a million copies sold of their album Death Magnetic after less than four full weeks on shelves — and those are certified Nielsen SoundScan numbers representing a million flesh-and-blood buyers, not the bogus “units shipped” that the RIAA uses to issue platinum plaques. This comes shortly after they secured the all-time record for most consecutive #1 debuts in chart history. (They’re bigger than the Beatles!) There’s no denying it: Metallica is one of 2008’s hugest artists in anygenre, right up there with Coldplay, Lil Wayne, and the Jonas Brothers.

I talked to drummer Lars Ulrich about all this for a news story that’ll be in the issue of EW that hits stands on Friday. Ironically enough, the onetime mortal foe of Napster now credits the band’s online outreach efforts with juicing Death Magnetic‘s sales. Nor does he seem to mind anymore if you’re stealing it from a file-sharing site: “They estimate between 800,000 to a million copies of the album were downloaded [illegally] in the last ten days before it came out,” Lars told me. “Who cares? The people who are going to buy it, are going to buy it anyway. The people that feel they have an entitlement to get it for free, you don’t really care about them anymore.” Easy for him to say when they’re raking in the cash through legit avenues. But if his estimates are right, that’s something like two million Metallica fans rushing to grab Death Magnetic, whether at Best Buy or off BitTorrent, in the space of about a month. Pretty staggering, no?

So here’s my question: Are any of you PopWatchers among those two million? Did you choose to buy, download, or both — and why? I’m really curious to see just who’s behind those numbers…

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