I wrote Networking In the Music Industry nine years ago (out of print my friends), interviewing around 100 toilers all up and down the music biz. Over and over the story was the same: you better be in this because you love it – if you’re in it for fortune and fame you will almost certainly be disappointed, even if you’re real good.
The story is told again tonight:
- Anyone with a dream should know this: If you work hard enough and just believe in yourself, anything’s possible.
That, anyway, is the message Hollywood’s been selling for decades in movies and TV shows, the same one that brothers Frank and Vince Rogala bought into when they abandoned frosty Mackinaw, Mich., for sunny Southern California two decades ago in pursuit of their rock ‘n’ roll dreams. What happened once they got here, however, bears little resemblance to the familiar Hollywood version, from “A Star Is Born” through Mariah Carey’s “Glitter.”
The Rogalas’ experience has resulted in a riveting documentary, “Won’t Anybody Listen,” by first-time director Dov Kelemer, a film (premiering tonight on the Sundance Channel) that examines the gargantuan gulf between the myth and the reality of life in the pop music world.
It paints with unyielding honesty a business in which music is often treated as an afterthought, and in which the players rarely know just how heavily the deck is stacked against them. Kelemer began filming the Rogalas’ band, Anaheim-based NC-17, with the simple goal of producing a concert tape to sell to fans.
As he monitored their progress, he watched (and kept filming) as their career path took one harsh twist after another, down a sometimes heart-wrenching, sometimes stabbingly funny, ultimately disillusioning road that leads to riches and glory for a select few.
Kelemer is sympathetic to NC-17’s travails, but he never treats the group as if it were the undiscovered Nirvana.
He weaves black-and-white footage with color interviews, performance and rehearsal shots with the band’s six members, their wives, girlfriends, parents, several entertainment attorneys and record company artists and repertoire executives.
Those execs talk about the staggering odds for commercial success. One estimates there are 40,000 bands in Southern California alone; another notes that of 400 to 500 major albums released each year, maybe 20 will sell enough (500,000 copies) to reach “gold” status and only a handful will break the platinum (1 million copies) barrier. Only a small percentage of the acts that don’t hit those numbers will ever record another album.
For those in the small minority who do land record contracts, the same execs outline the music industry’s financial practices that charge bands — through recoupable advances — all expenses related to making albums, putting them in a hole from the outset that fewer still ever crawl out of.
….”Won’t Anybody Listen” premieres at 9 tonight on the Sundance Channel, part of the monthlong “Hi-Fi Fridays” series [check local listings].