The Journey Of Unlocking The Truth Shows The Ugly Realities Of The Music Business

March 29, 2015  |  

Being a star isn’t easy. That’s what Black teen heavy metal band Unlocking the Truth is finding out.

Though signed to a whopping $1.8 million record deal with giant music company Sony they have yet to see any of evidence of the deal, have been dealing with label reps trying to turn them into a “spectacle” via branding, and are getting worn out on the road.

Their journey has been captured in Breaking a Monster, Luke Meyer’s new documentary.

The Brooklyn band got mega attention when a video of their Times Square metal performance went viral. It led to the trio of 11- and 12-year-olds getting signed to a $1.8 million record deal. What they didn’t expect is what happened next: the endless meetings with record company reps, it A&R folks, with lawyers, and dealing with branding ideas such as turning them into anime Boondocks-like characters for an accompanying cartoon. They also have to cope with a super strict manager, who has even banned one member from skateboarding. In other words, no fun.

“The guys are such a blank slate,” says Meyer. “They wanted to jump into the world and wanted to be rock stars, but they had no idea what it was going to be about. When people meet the guys, they usually meet them with their idea of who they think they should be—like a Boondocks cartoon, or these cute metal heads. It’s a place where you can see this divide between the guys’ intentions and the label’s intentions.”So far the road to stardom has been everything but glamorous.“It was pretty difficult at times with these meetings—especially with this one particular lady at the label, who had a meeting with us once where she was just talking at us for six hours,” bassist Alec Atkins, 13, tells The Daily Beast. “We were pretty young at the time so we were pretty restless and wanted to get up and do something else, but she just had us in this meeting for six hours.”

The trio is so fed up, they want to get out of their deal. They say they didn’t really understand what they were signing up for. “The $1.8 million is what happens if you add up all their advances for five records, and it increases in amount with each successive album,” says Meyer. “In order to make money beyond their advance, the group has to sell more than 250,000 copies of a single album, which these days is a bit of a pipe dream.” Moreover, their deal includes handing over a piece of touring, merchandising and other items to the record company.

“Our whole lives changed after we were signed,” says drummer Jarad Dawkins, 13. “We can’t just go out and ‘do things,’ we have to get everything approved. But we realize that we’re not normal kids anymore and we have a career ahead of us, so we don’t want to mess that up.”

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