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a/perture cinema, the Official Movie Sponsor of The Less Desirables, presents Artifact (2012), The Less Desirables Movie of the Week. The film stars Jared Leto, Shannon Leto and Tomo Miličević. It was directed by Bartholomew Cubbins.

This documentary follows the struggle of Leto’s band, Thirty Seconds to Mars, and its 1artifact.jpglawsuit from EMI/Virgin/Terra Firma Capital Partners. Basically, the band signed a deal for nine years for no return in California. The rub is that the state of California doesn’t recognize contractual agreements longer than seven years. So, after their seven years, the band alerts the label that they are terminating the contract. The label flips their lids and sue Thirty Seconds to Mars for, get this, $30M. Thirty million dollars.

The truth is that the record labels are losing their arses and are starting to grasp for straws in all aspects of the music biz. This even the case when a European billionaire purchases a company and decides to get rid of the label brass and is the one that is forcing the suit. It’s basically a stiff-arm tactic and nothing more than a “I will show you” scenario.

The doc shows the band trying to record a new album to release and it’s slowed down because there’s really not a lot of money and the because the suit is ongoing, they are having a hard time. Consistently through the film, they’re negotiating the terms of their very existence and because of EMI’s power, they can hold them on the line as long as they see fit. I honestly believe that Guy Hands, the head of Terra Firma, had the best of intentions in trying to pull EMI out of the depths of despair, but he had no clue how the music business worked. That and getting rid of all the presidents and CEOs of Capitol Records, EMI and their holdings, they had no root in the industry. That threw them off.

Even after selling millions of albums, Thirty Seconds to Mars found themselves indebted to EMI for a few million dollars. The doc does a good job at showing how the recording industry works and whilst the general public thinks these artists are making shloads of cash from having big label contracts, really, the artists generally go in the hole from these mostly outdated contracts. Beyond Thirty Seconds to Mars’ specific legal issues as well as the journey of making the new album, the film also examines the somewhat sad state of the modern music industry, and shows the relationships between major labels and their artists aren’t always glam and glitter. Cubbins interviews various other musicians  and former EMI/Virgin/Captiol executives who give their first-hand accounts of their own experiences in the business in general and any of first hand knowledge of this situation. You also see the point at which Leto decides that the album should be called This is War, as it certainly was. In the end, industry leaning and common sense, along with Citibank taking over the company due to Hands’ inability or unwillingness to pay his loan debts, garnered that the label caved, dropping the lawsuit and signing the band to a new, favorable deal that not only got them out of the muck but got them back on their way.

One thing that I found interesting in the documentary was that whilst they talked about people not knowing about the record industry trying to pull the labels from the red, they also talked about how the biggest music distributors of digital music aren’t even in the record business. They’re tech and internet companies: Apple and Amazon. It’s very interesting, as is what the labels still charge the artists back for that have nothing to do with digital music but the artists continue to get bent over and given the old in/out when it comes to that. Ridiculous.

Overall, I found this documentary fascinating. I realized that I enjoyed Leto and his band. I don’t know that I’d go out and find a lot of the music but what was in this doc was really interesting. Rotten Tomatoes hasn’t gotten a rating for it, yet, however it does have a 96% “Want to See” rating. IMDb has it rated at 8.2 stars out of 10. I saw this film on Netflix and I will highly recommend it and rate it 4.5 stars. One last note on it, Bartholomew Cubbins is a pseudonym for someone you may have heard of, his real name is Jared Leto. Have you seen the film? What did you think? Also, what would you like me to review in the future? Hit me up and let me know.

Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
Scorp out!

“To the soldier, the civilian,the martyr, the victim, this is war.” – “This is War” (Leto)