Between 2007 and 2009, the global economy faced a financial crisis. USA experienced the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. The financial crisis of 2007-2008 had multiple causes. Using business and economic terminology, I could explain the multi-faceted issues surrounding this controversial topic. But I’ll spare you the details. Basically the underlying reason is financial institutions lent out too much money and their borrowers couldn’t pay it all back. That’s the problem with credit. When poorly implemented, credit can be very catastrophic.
During the economic recession, the average American had increasingly less discretionary income to spend on luxury goods and services. The financial crisis impacted all industry sectors including the music industry. Also, there was a new player in the music industry. Digital music. It was rapidly gaining widespread popularity. Apple’s iTunes was the dominant distributor of digital music. During 2008, there was a significant drop in the sale of physical CDs. CDs were the main source of revenue for this industry sector. Yet this continued to still be the most popular format of music. With the digital era, it gave rise to a whole new beast. The illegal downloading of music. It prevents artists from being properly compensated for their efforts.
Since their inception in 1998, Thirty Seconds to Mars has experienced their fair share of hardship in the music industry. Their self-titled debut album didn’t garner much mainstream popularity. Thirty Seconds to Mars released their sophomore album in August 2005. A Beautiful Lie was a breakthrough album for them. It essentially launched their music careers.
Let’s put this into perspective in terms of the music industry at that time. Rock music genres had gained mainstream popularity around the mid-2000s. This certainly helped Thirty Seconds to Mars. They joined the ranks of other popular rock bands such as Green Day, Fall Out Boy, Panic! at the Disco, Seether, 3 Doors Down, Nickelback, Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance, and Franz Ferdinand to name a few.
From their sophomore album, the second single “The Kill” finally put them on the map. The band’s hard work had finally paid off. They were floating on cloud nine. Also, the band wanted to create a documentary about the production of their upcoming third album.
Sadly, their success was short-lived upon discovering they owed Virgin Records nearly $2.5 million. Up to this point, the sales from their two albums had not generated any profits. Also, the record company hadn’t paid them their due royalties from these albums. They wanted to leave Virgin Records. In mid-2008, the band attempted to sign with a new record label. EMI, parent company of Virgin Records, filed a $30 million lawsuit against Thirty Seconds to Mars. According to EMI, the band had failed to produce three of the five albums obligated within their 1999 contract.
Here is some background information about EMI. In August 2007, Terra Firma Capital Partners Ltd, a UK-based private equity firm, acquired EMI for $4.7 billion. Terra Firma’s takeover implemented an entirely new restructuring plan for EMI along with 1,500 to 2,000 job cuts. The restructuring plan was intended to pay off EMI’s massive debts to Citigroup. Terra Firma’s belligerent business practices quickly deteriorated the relationship between the record label and their artists.
They fought hard for their survival. During this time, the band was recording their third studio album. The record company had absolutely no involvement in this process. In fact, Thirty Seconds to Mars used their own money to hire well-known music producers, Flood and Steve Lillywhite, along with a small staff. Jared, Shannon, and Tomo channeled all the tumultuous emotions of the legal battle into the new songs. This documentary offers intimate, behind-the-scene footage of the band’s recording sessions and legal meetings. Yet, Artifact simultaneously explores the complexity of the modern music industry along with the relationship between record label and their artists. First-hand account interviews from musicians, EMI executive and employees, and music journalists gives eye-opening insight to the much uglier side of this ruthless industry.
The documentary has an overall somber tone. But there are light-hearted, sentimental, and humorous moments sprinkled in throughout the film. You learn more about the upbringings of Tomo and the Leto brothers and how it shaped them into the people they are today. Also, Artifact incorporates beautifully panoramic shots of Los Angeles consistently throughout the documentary.
Between 2008 and 2009, Thirty Seconds to Mars’s financial reserves were stretched very thin. They almost became broke from the mounting costs associated with making the album and paying legal fees. In addition, they funded their documentary, Artifact, on a very limited budget. It is unlikely they’ll even generate much revenue from it. Without a doubt, this time of immense tribulation made Tomo, Shannon, and Jared much stronger people. This explains the heavily emphasized tone of struggle and perseverance in the songs off their third album, This Is War. In 2009, the $30 million lawsuit came to an end. EMI renegotiated a new contract with the band. Both parties wanted to make amends to their previously contentious relationship. The war was over.
Thirty Seconds to Mars fought like hell to pursue their music careers even when the industry didn’t appreciate nor recognize them. This band prefers to stay out of the celebrity limelight which is almost unheard of nowadays. With their hard work and perseverance, Thirty Seconds to Mars have fulfilled their rock star dreams over the years. Their music is well loved by the worldwide community of their Echelon family. Over the past three weeks, I’ve formed a whole new appreciation for Thirty Seconds to Mars.
Artifact was directed by front man, Jared Leto, under his longtime pseudonym Bartholomew Cubbins. Also, he worked with Emma Ludbrook to produce this film. The documentary premiered at 2012 Toronto International Film Festival. This documentary received favorable reviews from critics and audiences. It would go on to win more awards from other film festivals. Well-deserved accolades!
I would highly recommend Thirty Seconds to Mars’ Artifact to everyone. You don’t need to be a musician to enjoy this compellingly riveting documentary. It is an emotionally engaging work of cinematography. So worth all 103 minutes of your time!