I first saw Jared Leto in the painfully difficult to watch, Requiem For A Dream. He was great but how could anyone walk away from that film with anything other than Ellen Burstyn’s chilling performance. Forward a decade and Leto pops onto my radar nabbing an Oscar in Dallas Buyer’s Club – he deserved it.
Apparently Leto was a busy bee in between heading up a band 30 Seconds To Mars with his brother and apparently getting into quite a legal row with the now defunct EMI label. This documentary, Artifact, focuses mostly on the row between band and the label.
It comes as no surprise to me that large recording labels are profit-oriented; its particularly challenging in a digital age. However, it did surprise me to what extent the labels will go to make sure they capture almost all of the profit, completely alienating both the creative forces and the consumers fueling their profit model. Its dysfunctional. Now I understand the push for artists to create their own recording labels; its seems the only financially pragmatic solution is to remove the middle management.
The film is well-presented. Many interviews with the Leto brothers as well as members from other bands such as Linkin Park, OK Go and System of a Down. Interviews were interleaved with footage from recording sessions and concerts. Since I had never heard of 30 Seconds to Mars before, it was nice to get a feel for their musical style – U2 meets The Cure with a side of Panic At The Disco. The film strikes a good balance between showing the reality of turning profit on music in a digital age from the business perspective and from the artistic perspective. In the end the film delivers a message we already know – innovation and creativity builds big business, big business destroys innovation and creativity.
What’s the answer to this stopping this cycle? It hard to say but in today’s market it seems the fans will decide, social media will be the judge and big business no longer has the power.