The Future of American Music Hangs In the Balance

Never have so few companies controlled so much of the music played on the radio and for sale at retail stores. At the same time, there are more bands and more ways to discover their music than ever. Music seems to have split in two - the homogenous corporate product that is spoonfed to consumers and the diverse independent music that finds devoted fans online and at clubs across the country.

BEFORE THE MUSIC DIES tells the story of American music at this precarious moment. Filmmakers Andrew Shapter and Joel Rasmussen traveled the country, hoping to understand why mainstream music seems so packaged and repetitive, and whether corporations really had the power to silence musical innovation. The answers they found on this journey–ultimately, the promise that the future holds–are what makes BEFORE THE MUSIC DIES both riveting and exhilarating.

39 comments so far

  1. Dragan says...

    hi my name is dragan im thirteen years old. a few weeks ago my music teacher Mr. Austin showed us the trailer for this movie and he also showed us the how to create a sexy popstar clip. i wanna say that to be growing up in a community where everybody listens to shitty emo bands and fucking dumbass rappers that cant even spell their own name is pretty sad to say the least. i wanna say that music has been in our culture for forever and to ruin it with with commercial musicians is a total waste. i want to say that people buy in to propaganda so easily that the real musicians dont that care about th emusic and the fans dont have a chance anymore. what happened to bands like the clash or sex pistols or even nirvana. what happened to the world and why did they decide that money is the answer. as a modern society we have lowered our standards greatly. and the only thing people find entertaining these days is hot girls and hot guys. i just want to thank the whole production that worked on this movie i want to thank you because you guys are really trying to make a difference. thank you. Dragan

  2. Nadirah says...


    As a 29 year old who loves music…I can say I agree with this movie. I DON’T EVEN LISTEN TO THE RADIO ANYMORE. I don’t want my children listening to that crap either. Mainstream music as a whole has become carbon copies of the same thing. In fact I’d argue that if you can listen to several different songs played it isn’t easy to tell one “artist” from another.

    Like Steve said it isn’t a matter of whether you like the Roots or the Dave Matthews Band; it’s a matter of whether the people that do are given a chance to hear them on the radio, and whether they are given the same exposure that the new “artist” from a Mega Company are given to put their product on the market.

    If these artist sold out to the Mega Companies and became cookie cutter artist singing or rapping about their names, women, sex and cars; they’d be huge household names. Nas said, “Hip Hop is dead” and I agree that music is not far behind, sadly.

  3. Greg says...

    Thanks a lot for this movie! At last somebody speaks out loud this horrible truth! Real music is dying, people don’t let such a thing happen!!! Comercial, what a horrible word….

  4. momo says...

    that exec of clear channel is a dick man its ppl like him that are wrong with society

    sTAY AWHERE momO

  5. momo says...

    Well hell you don’t have to be a genius to realize that dam ass American Corporations are to blame, they screw everything over Global Warming, Lack of resources, and Music. The one thing that the human civilization has had for as long as we have existed but Clear Channel and other sh!t like that are all in it for the money doesn’t matter if your making 95% of the population a bunch of numbskulls by selling some random sh!t makes the audience think as much as the thought needed to opening a jar of jam. And hell its not the music its media in general for example when’s the last time u saw a movie that actually made you think and im not talking about some action movie or horror that has nothing to do with real life but a fukcing decent movie about today’s issues.

    I thinks its about time someone took the time to make a movie that has to do with people and the future not some Hollywood starlet shaking her ass, for making this movie I thank u for taking the time to do a act that can affect minds to make a clear decision to see there is something wrong with the way things are being done in our modern world.

    We’ve screwed ourselves over momo

  6. waker7202 says...

    I’m so upset this hasn’t been brought to my attention yesterday. I decided to give in and start a blog, and the very premise of this movie was my inspiration. I stumbled across your site looking for references to help argue my discontent with where music is today. I immediately bought the DVD, and if there were time left I would most certainly love to host a screening. This is a long-overdue statement being made, and I am truly grateful for your efforts! Every real artist and music lover, beginners & pro’s alike will appreciate you!

    Thank you!

  7. Seth says...

    I am so glad that there is someone out there that has finally gathered the fortitude to expose the sham that is today’s commercial music. It’s not that there is a lack of heart in music today, it’s just that the corporate giants such as MTV and Clear Channel don’t see a profit in “real” music. I encourage every musician and music lover to watch this film, and remember to listen to what YOU like, and lastly, support your local and unsigned music.

  8. Victoria says...

    Amazing…. The so called music you hear on the radio now isn’t music…it’s a bunch of noises put together on a computer. Real music comes from the heart and soul of a group or individual, not thrown together and mass produced. Some of the best music started off as lyrics written in a ratty notebook in someone’s basement while jammin on REAL instruments, not some sound board or computer

  9. Sade Turnipseed says...

    I need this film for my Blues festival in Greenville, MS…How can I get it?

    call me 662.334.2952


    This movement is something that i have been looking forward to
    All of the music heard on the radio is not music
    These so called “artists” dont know what the point of music is
    They flaunt themselves way too much and degrade woman, themselves, and music
    Something must be done quickly befor music really dies
    If anyone can tell me what i can do to make a difference
    and influence
    this movement needs to grow

  11. Kerry Fiero says...

    As both an Artist Manager, music lover and Director of the Nat’l Assoc of Record Industry Professionals chapter in San Francisco, I loved this film. In such a turbulent time between the chaos at labels, radio and retail and the wonder of new technology such as the success of digital distrbution, MySpace, YouTube, ringtones, etc… it is amazing to see how the two film-makers were able to weave this story (told by the artists living it) into such a short film (about 90 min). Yet they took this crazy industry and really solidly told the story of where we have been and where we are and where we may consider going. I think every music professional and music artist striving towards a career in music should see this. In addition, music fans will enjoy it just as much. Well done! You will laugh (go Erykah with your bad self!) and also be sickened by some of the realities, which in essence is the trick to great film making.

  12. Shannon says...

    Just a quick thought for some of the negative comments posted about this film. I personally don’t listen to all the types of music in this film but I appreciate how hard musicians have to work regardless of genre. I also feel that anyone who has not watched this film all the way through should not even be posting comments. The trailer’s for this movie do not do it justice. You need to watch it before you even open your mouth. This movie did’nt say there was anything wrong with Pop music or Popular music at all. It is just trying to make us aware of the watered down, coporate radio and record labels that are killing music. Not to say there are not new and upcoming artist that are not great it’s just saying there are alot of music that is not. I feel that if you watch this film and are not moved by it in a positive way, you are not human, and you are definatly not a TRUE!!!!, music lover, That is of course my opinion and I am only right 99% of the time, so what do you do…!!

  13. B4MD is about freedom of music and musical integrity says...

    I hope it says it all in my nickname here.
    I have seen the movie, and it’s all about supporting
    artists and their visions. It’s “checking” the corporations
    for some of the dis-service they have done to the musicians
    by catering to their certain “target audience”.
    It states a lot more, and opens your eyes on a lot of the industry facts.
    Please read the summary of the film.. Any music lover in good conscience
    will support this movie once they seen it.
    Also basically every single musician out there will too.
    Just get the facts. Check it out… Educate yourself. Arm yourself with
    the knowledge this movie offers. Then as an entire people, we can give
    back some of the control to the musicians and consumers.

  14. Meara says...

    My name is Meara, I’m fourteen years old, raised by avid fans of just about every musical group out there except for what was shown in the very disturbing video featuring the “popstar” who only goes to show that the music industry has truly become a beauty contest. I saw B4MD, and it’s as scary as global warming. False icons litter CD stores and Itunes, and the stuff they sing about? How can a woman make a song about her breasts and know that people are going to take it seriously? It’s also upsetting to see how sexuality, which in truth is very beautiful, can be sung about in ways that are just trashy and degrading to women.
    Thank you so much for making Before the Music Dies. Hopefully people will realize that a lot of “real, talented singers” are just people who flaunt their looks and brazen sexuality.

  15. Christine says...

    The creeping monopoly of corporate should never be allowed near art otherwise the future will be nothing more than a bland existence of brainwashed masses. Oh wait..too late for most.

    There is an upside. This film was made and so free thinkers are alive and for the moment well. Music can still be heard without having to fix the wrong pitch by the click of a mouse.

    Thank you for taking it upon yourselves to create and tell this rarely discussed important matter among a generation of American Idol freaks.

    Now can you do a film on literature because that seems to be dipped in fake gold and presented on the shelf of advertisements as well. Brainwashing is not just science fiction, it’s a old way of controlling the masses.

  16. Kurt Riley says...

    Thank God someone is awake! Now let’s fix it. There are more of us than we might think…I went through my whole life thinking I was the only kid in high school who listened to Chess Records and Bo Diddley, The Master Musicians of Joujouka and Mozart, Hank Williams and The Beatles. Everyone else was an idiot, praising the “talents” of people who couldn’t even write or sing. But I am 20 now, and this film has helped give me strength. What we need to do is form bands, form organizations that will save rock and roll and fix this problem. Little Steven’s Underground Garage radio show is one example of this…let’s change it! We can do it. We must.

  17. Sam Jacobsen says...

    the truest piece of filmmaking to date. the message is about music but the underlieing message is wonderful. This film needed to be made 10 years ago.

  18. wanderlust says...

    Thanks for fighting the good fight. It\\\’s always nice to see people encourage free thought.

  19. David says...

    it\\\’s gonna be available in México, where can I buy it? Someone knows?

  20. Jameson says...

    I just heard about this movie today and I have not seen it yet but I can tell by the trailers that it will be important. Movies like this as well as movies such as Bastards of Young are really showing people what music should and needs to be about today.

  21. Steve says...

    Hey all… this is Steve from B-Side… the distributor for the film. Thanks to all for the posts…

    Just to be clear for everyone… the point of the forum — and the film itself — is definitely to raise consciousness around important issues, not impose taste on anyone. You don\’t have to like Widespread Panic, The Roots, Dave Matthews or anyone else in particular to enjoy the film or life in general. \”Manufactured\” pop can also be great… as long as that isn\’t the only choice available to the consumer.

    These issues affect all musicians who work hard to keep their artistic vision intact and have their music heard… regardless of what genre they occupy or even how \”big\” their name is in the industry. I think one reason why musicians of all stripes have responded so passionately to the film is that they hear big name artists talk about their own struggles with the same issues…

    The goal of the film and the model for our release is to educate those who aren\’t completely familiar with these issues, provide a platform for discussions like this, and perhaps most importantly… to continue providing a source of support and inspiration for artists as they make decisions about their craft and careers.

    Finally in response to Joy\’s comment about extending the screening program… go for it. We\’ll be extending the program at least through May 1 based on the incredible response we continue to receive for the program.

    Thanks so much to all of you for your participation.

  22. Joy says...

    This film is SO important, not just for musicians, but for all kinds of artists.
    I’m screening it next week, and wish that the end date for promotion was extended, because I’d hold a few more!

  23. RE: dissapointed says...

    Dear sir,

    I can understand your argument about these trailers being one sided. From myself not seeing this film, it does seem that way, but I can gurantee you that this documentary is not one sided. If it was, it would have not won six Film Festival awards.

    As for the “pop music” argument you were stating, one can understand how you cannot disagree with the choices in this fim. If you do not like the choices in this film, that’s fine, but don’t call them garbage. People like Dave Matthews and Bob Dylan are very talented musicians and work their butt off to produce music that their fans will enjoy. If you don’t like it, that’s fine. But, people do.

    The same goes with today’s musical style. Whether it be the “talents” of My Chemical Romance, Nelly Furtato, 30 seconds to Mars, etc. people enjoy what they hear because it speaks to them. This documentary is mearly stating how much these styles converge and are the same and how those bands simply make money off of it.

    Look at Nickelback, for example. Every time I hear them on the radio, it’s the same style with the same chords with the same kickoffs. It worked for them at first, so let’s milk that skill and make money off of it. The only problem is that the record producers (whom once were about the improvement of the bands’ talent) aren’t doing anything because they see the money.

    (Sidenote: Listen to “The Black Parade” by My Chemical Romance and then put on “This ain’t a scene, it’s a Arms Race” by Fall out Boy and see the resemblance in drum kickoffs)

    It’s also the same with the pop genre of the “boy bands” back when I was a young teen. We all saw how *NSYNC tore apart from their band manager because he was taking the sales, and as they produced new material without their manager/record producers, their sales pummited. Why? Because they began to try new material. Now, we see only one member of the “boy band” world live, and he took a completely new genre of music… possibly because he was forced too.

    Is music dying? No, it’s just “gone south for the winter”. HOWEVER, the mainsteam (Thanks to Clear Channel) has decided that money >>>>> music and will milk it until someone decides to make a change. When will that change happen? It all depends on who will wants to make it happen.

  24. dissapointed says...

    This is rather dissapointing and one sided (judging by the preview). So music is only music as long as it is not pop music, right? Also if it’s not indorsed by major companies right? What I don’t understand is, they mention music by bands like Dave Matthew’s, The Roots, Bob Dylan etc. Is that music? In my opinion it’s garbage. I don’t like it, and since I don’t like it, does that mean it’s not music to me? Hell no it doesn’t mean that at all. It’s still music. Just because these directors are living in the past does NOT mean music is dying. I do not listen to pop music or anything that is endorsed by major corporations, but I also don’t listen to the music being ‘indorsed’ by this movie. Sorry, garbage.. I would never watch this documentary.

  25. Shannon Clark says...

    Thank you! Thank YOU!!!! This film through was amazing! I was laughing and crying because you have said exactly how I feel! After our band has been offered several record deals on the condition of us changing things like our hair and our shoes and pants (want’s us to wear girl pants) We found ourselves wondering is this it? Is this all there is, artificial and shallow? From the deepest part of my and my wife’s Hearts (our Drummer) we thank you! If you ever need anything or anyway we can help promote your movement (movie) Please let us know!!! Thanks

    Shannon and Brittany

  26. Morgan says...

    i saw the film last night at Grossmont
    it was AMAZING

    thank you for showing the REAL music and talking about how everything is changing in pop culture
    i am glad u made this cause i have been thinking about the same thing ever since i noticed only skinny, pretty girls and muscular handsome men are being made into “singers”
    just like erykah said, you have to get those breast implants those butt implants and a different hair style just to be singer now days.
    like ray charles and stevie wonder would not of had made it if they were blind
    i just hope people start listening to the real meaning of music and listening to real music so we can influence children on the music and not tell them “oh ashley simpson was a great singer back in the day”,etc.
    it really made a difference
    i just hope that musicians and music fans all over will see this.

    some kids at my school didnt want to see it coz they thought it was going to be “lame” or they “didnt have time”
    and i think they totally missed out cause it was just amazing and inspiring.

    it made me think even more about music and how if i just keep playing music and not even thinking about the pros and cons i think i will hopefully go somewhere in life with music.

    thank you very much for making this film

  27. Steve says...

    Hey, Just got my copy of the DVD today all the way down in Australia, and went late to work from watching it. This is probably the best film I have seen since I don’t know when. It’s good to see some other Aussies out there (Maggie) interested in this film. Spread the word I say. I know I will.
    Finally someone has spoken out about the so-called music industry. I play guitar, and have also done engineering/mixing work over the years. I have continually tried to explain to people what the industry is doing with these over produced “pop icons”. Now they can see first hand through this film exactly what they do. I love Erikah’s explanation of getting butt , breast and calf implants to make it in this industry. Who needs talent, when you’ve got the look! :-)
    I found out about this film researching Doyle Bramhall II, and am ever so glad for finding it. I work as a theatre projectionist now, and our company has a distribution side to it. So I will be speaking to someone at our head office about this film.
    Let as many people as you can know about this film. If we make enough noise, someone’s bound to notice.
    Have fun all.

  28. Maggie says...

    This is pretty inspiring. It might take a while for this movie to make down here to Australia, but given that we seem to be racing after the USA yelling “wait up!” on all counts I think it will be just as relevant.

    To Duncan, on revolutions: By now there are so many different styles of music out there that it’s hard to see something wholly new emerging - when rock happened, it was like nothing anyone had ever seen before. There’s less and less we haven’t done. Everything’s a blend now, everyone wants to label things so badly - not just in the music industry, popular multi-genre authors are finding out to their surprise that they’re writing neo-goth-pulp-noir. I’m saying, it’s not so much creating something new now as making something small into something big, and that will inevitably get it popularised. Still, hey - it’s an endless cycle. We’re not going to run out of things to say, and we might run out of ways to say them, but not for a long while yet.

    Bring it on.

  29. DJMike5 says...

    I am very excited about watching this movie. Finnaly the real truth about the main stream music industry is revield!!! I am definetly going to get a copy of this film!
    Be Blessed Yal!!!

  30. sheepish one says...

    all these points are dead on, what a great film, great cause… but someone has to say it, Taylor Hannah is smoking hot!

  31. mizzoukid19 says...

    One more comment: This type of packaged, artificial music brings about so many other social problems with it: sexual objectification of women, patriarchy, hyper-masculinity, homophobia, sexism, materialism, hyper-commercialism, and glorification of being uneducated. It allows people to be controlled by images and pre-determined sounds and teaches them not to think for themselves. What’s worse is that this fake music lives and dies by their music videos, the main tool used to sell the music. That’s where the dangerous images come from. Thank MTV, VH1 and BET for that. It’s absolutely ridiculous.

  32. mizzoukid19 says...

    I think the “certified old guy” Duncan put it so well. It is so unnerving to listen to some of the music being sold to us in a bubble-gum package. But the most intolerable aspect of it is this - music industry execs know that 2/3 of their artists are simply not good artists. They can’t sing well, play instruments competently and they can’t hold a candle to many independent artists who may always be overlooked. And yet, they sell it to us anyway. They are “dumbing” us down so much and degrading our intelligence, and what’s worse is that the options presented to us are so limited. It’s a shame that we have to literally go on a gold hunt to find decent music nowadays. This film is so important because it speaks to an even larger issue of rampant consumerism, abuse of capitalism, miseducation of our youth and loss of equal opportunity for good artists. Bravo for this work.

  33. dex44 says...

    Hey! I think the whole idea is great, I hope it will be available in Europe, because I think that whole world has the same problem with music… Great artists can’t publish they work (except internet:) and loads of cheap s*** can be heard every day, whenever you want it or not. I’m not sure if your movie will change something, but we can’t stay quiet, can we:)

    Good luck!

  34. Duncan says...

    Let me preface this by informing you that I am a certified old guy (and a Luddite). I had the misfortune of coming of age during the disco era and the good fortune of living in England for awhile in the late ’70s.
    My revolution was the birth of punk. It was a spit in the eye of the corporate masters and the cacophony of disco and it sprang from social and aural disillusionment. And it felt like being able to breath again. Same with grunge, same with rap, same with the 1 or 2 years the hippies actually existed. Big Bands, BeBop; hell, Rock and Roll was born out of the Eisenhower era and the lack of taste in white bread.
    The packaging of what passes for music today reminds me of the disco era. It’s like processed cheese; it’s music-ish. Find what sells and flog the daylights out of it. And it’s a reflection of the technology available. You can’t fault a for-profit industry for trying to make a profit. It’s cheaper to pick a face and make it be able to sing than to find and cultivate actual musical talent. There has always been a battle between the art and the business. It swings like a pendulum altho’ perhaps never this far before. Eventually it has always swung back, and with a vengence. Hence punk, rock, rap. And then they, too, get sucked into the machine. Same as it ever was, same as it ever was.
    All musical styles get subsumed by corporate America. “Pop” stands for popular. London Calling now sells Jaguars, and that causes me real physical pain. Rap music, the Beatles; same story.
    It’s time for the next revolution. This one won’t be mine but I can’t wait to hear it. So if your pissed, do something about it. You’re part of a distinguished lineage. Make us proud. Do not, I repeat, do not grow a mohawk or a pony tail. Nothing is sadder to me than a 20yr. old who’s 25yrs. too late. Make your own revolution. Do it for Sid, for Joe Strummer, for Elvis and Buddy, for Kurt and Miles and Duke. Do it in memory of Flava Flav. Now would be a good time.

  35. Ferguson says...

    Hey I am a senior in high school. I live in a small town in Maryland and I saw this documentary on which led me to this site. It’s great what you all have started. I just wanted to let you know that some day soon I will save the music.

  36. vishal says...

    I’m a student at the University of Florida and just saw B4MD screened by a club on campus called MEISA(Music and Entertainment Industry Student Association). I really appreciate all the work that was put into this documentary and hope that it has a significant impact.

  37. Greg says...

    Thank you so much for making this documentary. It’s about time that somebody said what every music fan knows. I am a violin performance major and business administration double major and just saw this film a few hours ago at Illinois Wesleyan University. As the lights went down I fully intended to leave the student center and go study for my music history test on Monday, but as soon as I heard what the creators had to say I couldn’t move. I stood in the back throughout the entire film and couldn’t bring myself to leave to use the restroom or go for a cigarette (or sit down, for that matter). As a musician, the deplorable state of the music industry in this country has both alarmed and saddened me. As a music and business double major with hopes set on law school, I only hope I can someday make a difference. If there is anything that a lowly college student can do to help inform the rest of the nation please let me know. Thank you so much.

  38. Mars Attacks

    Reisen durch die Vergangenheit