ARTIFACT DOCUMENTARY : A War of Music and Business

(image source: link )

By Jakesepher Hohenheim | January 17th , 2016

This is an important documentary film to give insight to all would be musicians or bands about the dark side of the music industry. Produced and directed by Jared Leto (Requiem for a Dream, Lord of War), the film follows the  American rock band Thirty Seconds to Mars in the making of their third album This is War (2009) and shares the daunting experience in the 2008 lawsuit between the band and record label EMI.

“Thirty Seconds to Mars had attempted to sign with a new label after the A Beautiful Lie tour, prompting  EMI (the parent label of Virgin) to file a lawsuit for $30 million. EMI claimed that the band had failed to produce three of the five records they were obligated to deliver under their 1999 contract, which Virgin entered into with the now-defunct Immortal Records. Jared Leto responded to some of the claims in the suit stating “under California law, where we live and signed our deal, one cannot be bound to a contract for more than seven years.” Thirty Seconds to Mars had been contracted for nine years, so the band decided to exercise their “legal right to terminate our old, out-of-date contract, which, according to the law is null and void.””

EMI lawsuit and This Is War (2008-2011), Wikipedia

Watch the video below to see a model of how that math works out…


It is interesting to see the perspective of what signed musicians or bands goes through to make an income with their art, while being obligated to a contract that can very well drive that artist in crippling financial crisis. The business structure is almost no different from any conventional job; the artists are the employees that contribute the most productive output which generates the initial revenue and the labels are the employers who handle the distribution and operation and yet benefit the most from the sales and branding of these artists. And no different from any company in any market, when there is a changing trend that loses revenue, it is always the employees that get thrown under the bus. In this case, the last decade has seen a staggering decline (more like a complete drop) in CD sales and increase in free music downloads which resulted in these extreme measures committed by the labels.  The last couple years has actually seen an increase in online music streaming. In retrospect, the labels were just reacting to survive in a market that is basically controlled by technology. The Device to Consume (mobile/tablet/computer) and the Access to Obtain (internet).

(image source: Music Streaming Revenues Overtake CD Sales In The U.S. )

“The labels have never been cohesive enough to create their own distribution systems, which is why it took a computer company to start iTunes. Had they been smart enough, they could have co-owned their own digital delivery like iTunes.” 
Serj Tankian (System of a Down), Artifact

mixerPresonus StudioLive 16.0.2 16-Channel Audio Mixer

You could see the same trend in the film industry with movies rips being pirated online and the decline in DVD sales due to people favoring movie streams via cable, satellite, and/or internet.  Music has been recorded on various mediums from  wax to vinyl, tape, CD, digital, and now streaming from a playlist hosted on a cloud or what have you to your mobile device, tablet, desktop, and/or laptop. When you take into consideration how many devices are used by each person in each household.  It is an extraordinary time to be in for artists who specialize in film, music, photography, graphics, or any other kind of medium who want to showcase their work into the world via the world wide web. However, the power of distribution (the channels to get your work in front of as many people as possible) still lies in the hands of major record labels and major film studios. Time will tell how the business model in all areas of the entertainment industry will change to adapt in this changing market. With technology clashed between art and business.

Thirty Seconds to Mars includes members Shannon Leto  and Tomo Miličević. This Is War (2009) was produced with Flood who produced albums with Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode, The Killers, etc. And Steve Lilywhite who produced albums with U2, The Rolling Stones, etc.

Distributed by FilmBuff

Watch ‘Artifact (2012)’ on Netflix

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– Movie Review: Thirty Seconds to Mars Vs. EMI in ‘Artifact’ – Lost in Reviews
– Minute By Minute: 30 Seconds to Mars’ ARTIFACT
– Why Jared Leto Made a Music Industry Documentary – Rolling Stone