Metallica manager Peter Mensch has revealed what he calls the “simple” secret of the band’s record-breaking year.

Since releasing their 10th album, Hardwired ... to Self-Destruct, in November 2016, the thrash giants have topped Billboard’s annual Hard Rock Album and Top Rock Album charts, and grossed an estimated $66.5 million. They’ve been assisted by the Q Prime organization, which is run by Mensch and his business partner Cliff Burnstein.

“It’s really simple,” Mensch told Music Week of his relationship with Metallica. “We like each other and we respect each other. That’s the bottom line. My partner and I have a line: ‘You get the acts, as a manager, you deserve.’ There are acts that could be as smart as Metallica, or likable, but don’t respect what we have to say. We have a peculiar bunch of acts that we all like talking to, that we think are smart, they think we’re smart, we give them advice, they comment on our advice, we go back and forth and we come up with a plan.”

He argued that the band’s absence from the U.S. market worked in their favor too. “They hadn’t put out a record in eight years, it was quality music and then they went and played a bunch of quality shows,” Mensch noted. “It got bigger because I believe they maintained the quality of their product, so music is No. 1. No. 2, there’s no question about the quality of their performance. No. 3, they were out of the marketplace with a new record for years. They played Europe and stuff like that, but in America where they just completed an absolutely sold-out stadium tour, they hadn’t played in eight years. And No. 4, guess what? There’s nobody even close to them.”

Metallica have endured some relative failures over the years, including Lulu, their controversial 2011 collaboration with Lou Reed, and their 2013 movie Through the Never. But Mensch underlined that they’d turned things around with the Hardwired cycle. “If you’re Metallica and you tour around, and killed it at the O2 [in London] and broke the house record, and you got more shows to play and more plans and more music to make and James Hetfield writes a riff every time he picks up a guitar, you’ve got to feel pretty good about yourself. And you survived it. You’re looking around and you’re on the top of your mountain. There’s nobody else up there – you’re up there with the U2s of the world, or whatever. You may not be the Rolling Stones yet, but you’ve got 20 more years to get there.”

Mensch added that even though the band has been around for 36 years, the world was still waiting for “the next Metallica. I get plenty of emails saying, ‘We’re the next Metallica,’ and then they send me s---ty music. But there’s nobody else.”