Maybe you’ve seen the trailer. A guy in a cheap suit jacket, brandishing a big microphone, approaches some unsuspecting young women after a concert. He is making a documentary, allegedly. His manner is naïve, but the questions he asks are plainly insulting. Still, the women are kind enough to play along. He says something weird about bra-burning. They respond politely. Nice.
But this isn’t that fake documentary “Borat.” It’s a real documentary, or at any rate an earnest one: “Before the Music Dies.” The interviewer, eager to make a point about the idiocy of popular music, has found these enthusiastic young women outside an Ashlee Simpson concert. He asks them if they are familiar with Bob Dylan. (At least a few of them aren’t.) He explains Mr. Dylan’s appeal, or tries to: “He used to inspire people to, like, drive to Washington and burn their bras.” Apparently Ms. Simpson has no such incendiary effect. Case closed.
“Before the Music Dies” is the work of a couple of concerned music fans, Andrew Shapter and Joel Rasmussen, who set out to document the decline of “raw, undeniable talent,” as Mr. Shapter puts it, “the kind that doesn’t seem to be around as much in these days of instant pop stars.” The satellite radio network XM is broadcasting the film as an audio documentary. (For more information, visit beforethemusicdies.com.) And the film is touring the country in do-it-yourself style; it is being shown in clubs, at colleges, and in private homes; tomorrow night a guy named Ryan in Minneapolis is inviting people over to watch it.
In the end, author Kalefa Sanneh doesn't really think the film succeeds, but as someone who ruminates amateurishly over the nature of the music business, it might be worth seeing.