Casual Evangelist

A mission to learn a little about a lot…

“Before the Music Dies”

Posted by Andrew on February 15, 2008

Sometimes, when I’m determined to veg out in front of the tube, I wind up “surfing” TiVo – checking out what’s coming up over the next week or so on a handful of channels I like. This is how I discovered “Before the Music Dies” by filmmaker Andrew Shapter. Not unlike to how I discover music.

On its surface, “Dies” is a doc about the tribulations of the music industry over the last decade or so. Something we’re all at least vaguely familiar about. Consolidation. Napster. Wilco and its label(s). Metalica and its fans. Britney. Cratering sales.

But “Dies” goes deeper, painting a picture of the Western music *world* and the schism that’s currently in full swing. If you haven’t noticed, there’s a major disconnect in music right now between Wall Street and actual music as an art form. One sells, one doesn’t. Which is which? You might be surprised.

There’s always been beautiful people playing music, but music always took the lead. But now, with video, pop culture worship, and technology that can turn any vocalist into a perfect-pitch siren, image has taken over. “Dies” hilariously demonstrates hit creation using a gifted songwriter, a model who can’t sing, and computer wizardry that produces pure candy that fits right into radio or MTV.

“Dies” peeks into focus-group testing, *Artist and Repertoire*, and commerce. It explores why great artists don’t “cut” it (sell hits), how country music can be “too country,” and what it means to be a “band.” Would Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and U2 have made it today? What does the Internet and file-sharing really mean? What happens when the artist takes control of their business?

You see, corporations are throwing good money after bad, and they’re running out of money. But there’s a lot of success to be had in the biz with really good music. And success can mean a lot more than just money.

Heart matters. Improvisation is exciting.

“Dies” includes great live footage of Doyle Bramhall with Eric Clapton, Dave Matthews Band, Calexico, The North Mississippi Allstars, and Erykah Badu.

“Before the Music Dies” is playing on the Independent Film Channel (IFC) on Wednesday, February 20. Record it and watch it.

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3 Responses to ““Before the Music Dies””

  1. tilts said

    Thanks for this. Sounds very interesting. Guess its one of the cons of new media. Will check it out.

  2. Jonathan said

    You know, I always thought that back in the day in Reston was where I started developing my musical tastes – they suited me well over the years and have progressively changed as I have gotten older. I’ve always been on the cautious side of pop music, finding music that fit me better outside main stream channels.

    Now, I mostly browse around Amazon’s mp3 downloads and get samples from NPR’s music site to locate new tunes. I’m forced to listen to the radio in my carpool which just reinforces my distaste for anything main stream.

    I can’t watch the video at work, but if you ever get a chance (if you haven’t seen it yet) there’s a documentary on the Pogues front man, tragic and sad to see it go to waste. Does your video talk about the internet and downloading and such at all? I wonder how that will play into the future success of musicians…

  3. motownmutt said

    If my niece says she’s considering becoming a prostitute to jumpstart her music career…

    Music will outlast popular culture. There is music being made for pure reasons. The songs will be known by the tag “Author unknown”.

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