MGF Reviews Before the Music Dies [DVD]

Before the Music Dies [DVD]
B-Side Entertainment (12/12/06)
Documentary (Unrated)
93 minutes

As Roger Ebert said of An Inconvenient Truth, I shall say of this film: If you are a music lover, “you owe it to yourself to see this film.”

This film came to me, as all grassroots revolution material should, in a blank manila envelope with no return address. Before I went all Lost Highway crazy, I opened it up to find a lone disc and a business card for B-Side Films. It did, actually, only say B-Side so I figured it for some shitty music label out of Austin, Texas, sending me some lame band called Before the Music Dies. Low and behold, when I put this CD into my player at work it didn’t play. I took it home and put it into my computer and to my surprise a movie started. A wonderful movie. It was like picking up a book I’d bought years ago but never got around to reading it and loving it completely. Filmmakers Joel Rasmussen and Andrew Shapter set out on a quest all struggling filmmakers/music fans would love to take: travel the country talking to rock stars about the state of music.

Before the Music Dies is a well-paced documentary, never lingering too long on a single subject but always sure to make its point. The filmmakers interview such icons as Elvis Costello, Erykah Badu, Eric Clapton, Dave Matthews, Bonnie Raitt and Widespread Panic. They also tail the ebb and flow of Doyle Bramhall II’s career, which could be a quintessential story for many true musical artists in the business today. They visit festivals and talk to fans, speak with industry professionals about the state of music—even a shadowed insider at Clear Channel.

Overall, the film does a great job of not Michael Moore-ing the music business but saying that there is no room for the little guy, that life is a hopeless void and we might as well curl up and die if we want to be artists. There is hope, they talk with independent music stations and labels and even talk about how MySpace and other Internet sites are turning the major labels on their respective heads.

The only misstep in the film is when the filmmakers try to “create” a pop star by taking a pretty girl, fixing her voice on a computer, and shooting a sexy video. The plot never seems to go anywhere, they never test it on kids to see if they buy it, and all in all just falls flat. Although, seeing how a computer program can make a person’s voice sound so much better is really scary.

If you are as frustrated with the current state of music, as I am, then you need to see this film. All of your worst suspicions will be confirmed but, in the end, you will leave knowing that there is still a place for music in the music business.