An Alternative View: 2014 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival - Day 2

When I was in 9th grade, I was monumentally stoked about forming a one-off band and playing covers in my friend’s basement on New Year’s Eve. In contrast, most of Brooklyn metal trio Unlocking The Truth — ages 15, 13, and 12 — hasn’t even reached high school yet, and according to the NY Post, they just signed a $1.8 million contract with Sony. A video of the band shredding their way through a virtuoso instrumental number called “Monster” went viral last year, earning them a spot on the Coachella lineup and lots of industry attention. A year later, they’ve inked a million-dollar deal, pending approval from the New York courts system because they’re minors. Here’s the catch: Other than royalty payments, they won’t see any money beyond a $60,000 advance unless their record sells at least 250,000 copies. Nobody sells 250,000 copies these days! Especially not metal bands! For context, Miranda Lambert’s Platinum, the 20th best selling album of 2014 so far, has moved just over 305,000 copies. Mastodon’s new album debuted at #6 with only 34,000 in first-week sales, and they’re arguably the biggest metal band in the world. So these boys have a long promotional battle in front of them if they expect to unlock those millions. Still, $60,000 is a lot more than I was making at their age for meticulously replicating Pantera and Metallica riffs in my basement.

Watch the performance video that went viral:

[Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.]

Comments (13)
  1. Interesting, and I wonder if this is a “ploy” to sell more records. I am not so much of a metal fan, but looking at the deal, it seems fairly slanted towards the record label.

    Marketing wise, what would be better, having a band “go viral” and everyone buy their album JUST so that Sony has to cough up that extra dough that they put in front of these kids. I would spend the $17 just to buy the album so there is a chance that they get the $.

    On the other hand, IF they DO sell the 250,000 records, how much $ would Sony get.

    I can see more deals like this happening in the future to stop leaks and have the consumer support the artist.

  2. More importantly, is that $60k recoupable? i.e. if the label backs a tour, tons of marketing, and merch, and the album still only sells 20,000 copies, are these kids in debt for years like so many others before them?

  3. Platinum’s guaranteed to go platinum (in US alone), like all Miranda’s records. It’s been out a month.

  4. I’m very interested in this article, as i am very interested in all things finance and money and how money has to do with financially keeping things afloat

    • That is very interesting in the amount of interest you have in this article. Would it interest you to discuss a deal that I have in the works with the Royal Prince of Nigeria. If so, it could be extremely beneficial to the financial situation of each of us. Thank you and good day!

  5. If you had asked me five years ago, I’d have said there’s no way a band with an unwieldy name like UNLOCKING THE TRUTH could ever get signed. Then came Foster the People….

  6. These kids are cool however their contract stipulation is almost unattainable. I hope they prove me wrong.

  7. replace the drummer

  8. Is it the novelty of having “African-American” children playing metal? I am aware that I may be in downvote territory here, but I don’t understand how this video went viral.

    • I think you’re absolutely right, the label is only exploiting these kids because they’re something different. There’s no doubt that if these were white dudes, they’d be still jamming it out like the rest of the unsigned artists. I’m sure people are not going to like what I have to say, but I know many are thinking it. Let’s be honest, they really aren’t even that good. I teach students who have more creative skills and technical ability. I see this as a gimmick, another means of making money off the unconventional, it’s unfortunate these kids are likely going to be in debt to the music industry for life. Another thing to quote from the article, “A video of the band shredding their way through a virtuoso instrumental number”, seriously?! Does the writer of this article even know the definition of virtuoso, be real and stop blowing smoke up these kid’s asses. I give them TOTAL credit for going out there and giving it all, there’s no doubt they have passion. It sure makes me feel good to know the music industry is ALL about entertainment and not MUSIC. Thanks Sony!

      • I’d say it’s a combination of them being young, black, successfully busking on the street in the biggest city on earth, and generally seeming like cool, smart kids (based on the one interview I saw). They are reasonably talented for their age but definitely not contract-worthy.

        There’s no way Sony can possibly hope to sell 250,000 copies of this album unless there is also a reality TV show in the works, or something similar that specifically capitalizes on the viral video factor. None of this band’s songs are going to be played on the radio so we have to assume the label has a larger marketing plan in mind.

        Either that, or they figure $60k is a very tiny investment, particularly if they plan to recoup it later.

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