Jared Leto's new music-industry documentary Artifact (out this week on multiple on-demand platforms) follows 30 Seconds to Mars through their legal struggle with their label EMI. Despite selling 3 million copies of their second album, A Beautiful Lie, the band found themselves more than 2.7 million dollars in debt to the label, claiming they never saw any money off the album, and wanted out of their contract.
"This was a very real lawsuit. It wasn't just a headline," Leto tells Rolling Stone. "We had a very real possibility of owing a corporation 30 million dollars, of having our music and our album tied up in the courts and never seeing the light of day and our careers an our dreams shattered."
As the band begins to shoot a documentary on the making of their third album, they discover they are being sued by their label for $30 million dollars for breach of contract, and turned the cameras on that battle instead, eventually naming the album This Is War. Artifact premiered in 2012 at the Toronto Film Festival, where it won the People's Choice Award for Documentary.
"I didn't really want to make a film, and share it with the world and I didn't really want to turn the camera on ourselves, on our lives, in this really personal and revealing way — but we had a story to tell, and it was an important story for us to share that story with the world," Leto says.
The film explores the complicated state of the modern record industry and raises questions about whether it is even possible to for a young artists to get a fair shake in the current recording landscape.
"Just because you sign with a record company doesn't mean you can be treated unfairly," he says. "If you ask any lawyer, any manager, any artist that's been around a for a decade or more, the general consensus would be the same — it is culture where you sign a really unfair one-sided record deal and then with success you either sue or you start renegotiating."
The film is driven largely by Leto's anger, and lets viewers in on an edgier, more short-tempered side of the blue-eyed heart throb as he and his band go head to head with the company.
30 Seconds to Mars eventually settled and release the album earlier this year, and Leto insists the company is under new management, claiming their relationship is stronger than ever. "I'm not anti-record company, I'm anti-greed," he adds. "I'm pro-fairness, pro art, pro-creativity. I believe there's a way to have a successful company be profitable and treat audiences and artists really fairly."
Watch the trailer for Artifact below: