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[fa:p:a=72157594270496732,id=235358378,j=r,s=s,l=p]The Daze talks with “Before the Music Dies” directors Andrew Shapter and Joel Rasmussen

AUSTIN DAZE: What is the main thing you want folks to take away with them from the movie?

AS & JR: If you’re a music fan and especially if you are a musician it would be easy right now, looking at the way the industry has changed over the last ten years to get really depressed about the way things are. We’ve talked to music fans all over the country that are just really frustrated and dissatisfied. They feel like they are not getting great music. It’s just going down hill and they don’t have any control over it. And so while the inspiration at the start of the film as you’ve seen is an investigation of that, what we hope came through in the third act is just what an amazing time this is to be a musician and to be a music fan. The only trick is that you have to go find it yourself. If you’re looking for music and you’re making music you have to take responsibility for yourself and your career. If the days of having a DJ introduce you to new music are over, the days of having a record label come in and just do everything for you are completely over. But that’s great news if you’re a musician. You can be completely in control of your career and your life. It just takes more work and you have a bigger responsibility but if that’s really what you want to do with your life, what an amazing opportunity.

There is an underground revolution going on and people are tapping into it. That’s what we found as we talked to music fans and musicians. From people just getting started all the way up to Bonnie and Erykah Badu. There is a revolution going on and it is now time.

We hope that a young musician who wants to be a musician for life, who wants to make music for the rest of their lives, is inspired and feels that there is a chance to do it. And that that young person will look at what is on MTV and listen to what is on the radio and think, “Oh, I’ve got to do that in order to make it”. We hope that they watch the film and listen to Hubert Sumlin, and Bonnie Raitt and Dave Matthews and all the people at the end of the film that give the advice of just being yourself and doing the music your way from your heart. And if you get famous, great. And if you don’t, you’re still doing music the way you want to make it.

AD: How did you choose the musicians that were interviewed? Did you get everyone you wanted?

[fa:p:a=72157594270496732,id=235358227,j=r,s=s,l=p]We can’t say we got everyone that we wanted. We were hoping to get Tom Petty. That was probably the only disappointment because we knew he had a lot to say. But other than that we got pretty much everyone we wanted. But it took a lot of time. We got gray hair.

You know we have Dave Matthews in the film for example, not because he’s a huge star, but because he’s taking his stardom and he’s using his well earned money to get behind a label that allows 9 to 12 other bands have a shot at keeping their career going. And what they all seem to have in common is that most of them were dropped from major labels. Patty Griffin. David Gray. And he gave them a second chance. So regardless of people’s opinions of Dave, whether he’s too commercial or whatever, shouldn’t matter. What he is doing for his fellow musicians is what mattered to us. And Branford, obviously, because he’s Branford, and he’s got an opinion. Erykah was a surprise to us to find out how funny she was-she steals the show.

AD: Speaking of gray hair, how long did it take for you guys to do this film?

AS & JR: About a year and a half. If you add in the research and the coffees and lunches to raise the money, it’s a full two years.

AD: What has been Clear Channel’s response?

We haven’t heard from them yet but if articles like this one continue and we get more press we are sure we will hear from them at some point.

We were very careful not to take a swing at anybody. With Clear Channel being the one company that we do call out, the reason that we hold them up there, is that unlike any other companies that we could have looked at, Clear Channel and the other radio conglomerates have a responsibility. They are the custodians of a public asset. They are caretakers of our airwaves. When the FCC was created, they were supposed to take care of three things: they were supposed to manage based on diversity, localism, and competition. So the FCC was created to care for this public asset and these radio stations do have a responsibility. Not an opinion, they actually have a legal responsibility. The FCC has abdicated it and Clear Channel has abdicated it because their argument is that they are diverse. And it’s a false argument. The same set of 80 songs shows up in 25 different play lists and they try to claim that that is somehow diverse.

We’re not shaking our finger at clear channel and saying, “Shame on you, this is bad from an artistic perspective”. What I hope we are saying is, “You’re missing an enormous opportunity. The public wants a greater diversity in the music. And when you talk to Clear Channel they are saying, “Well we’re looking at the bottom line and we’re giving the people what they want”-they’ve simply missed it. If you talk to Clear Channel they are saying one thing but their ratings are going down and their expenses are going up. If you talk to the public you get something completely different. And if they were to take just a little chance, just an hour a day and put a show together. Hire the guys from Pace magazine. Hire some amazing ears and put together a show that is just Shania Twain and Snoop Dog and just go crazy. Take the formula and throw it out the window. I think it would be an enormous hit. People would not hiss when they saw Clear Channel they would actually think, “Well, at least they are doing something different”.

I think the main thing that Clear Channel is guilty of is just not caring about the music that goes on the airwaves and caring simply about the all mighty dollar. We’re not anti-corporate. A lot of documentarians come off that way. We started this film on the heels of Fahrenheit 911 but through the process we found that there does exist powerful large companies that have people in the companies that actually do good things. Starbucks is a good example of people that when they purchase an album, for example, Antigone Rising is a young female band that came out of nowhere, they get paid more money per unit than any other distributor company out there. With the Wall Marts of the world and the Targets and Best Buys, Starbucks is giving to the musician a greater cut. So they deserve the spotlight. So there’s not some overall conspiracy to squash the musicians. You hear the term, “The man”, you know, “sticking it to the man”. But some of these companies can do good things and we wanted to highlight that.

In Clear Channel’s case, they are not Halliburton, but they are guilty of just not caring.

AD: Well living in Austin, we’re spoiled because we get live music every night of the week. We forget what it is like going around the different parts of the country and we lose touch with that. We are friends with many of the musicians that you talked with and expose. How do you think we can best spread our great local talent further?

AS & JR: We hope that when people leave the film that they feel that it is necessary and it is sort of a duty for people that live in Austin to have a responsibility. Because we are spoiled to be living here, we are fortunate to be living here. One of the things that makes this town so great is its music population and if we don’t get behind and support that, we don’t shut our TVs off, get a babysitter and get out there, then these musicians aren’t going to survive. We have a responsibility to save our springs, save our environment and save our musicians. We need to get behind them. So we encourage people to shut their TVs off and get out there. There are a lot of early shows and the smoking ban is now in effect so you have no more excuses. There are also no ages shows. There are free shows in the park. Shut off your TV, get off your butt and get out there and support those people who work their asses off for nothing.

The only thing that would threaten Austin is complacency because we don’t realize how good we have it. There is so much talent here and if you just take a quick little trip 100 miles in any direction you would be shocked at what people have available to them, or more accurately, what they don’t have available to them.

AD: What do you think about SIMS foundation?

AS & JR: Well, first off, we worked with Sim’s brother, Kyle–he is one of our shooters on the film. It is a fantastic organization because of what we just said. We need to get behind it. It should be one of the main charities that everyone should know about because musicians don’t have the infrastructure for health insurance. Believe me, there is a health hazard to being a musician. We’ve seen it first hand from being on the road and eating that food and staying up late at night and being in those smoky bars. There is a real health hazard. And thank God for them and what they do because musicians sacrifice money and other jobs to do what they do. And they just simply don’t have the funds available for the rising health cost in America. We need to get behind that organization. We need to tell more people about it. If we can do anything for them, set up some special screenings or whatever to raise money, we are all for it. So, we are putting that out there right now-we are volunteering to help the SIMS organization however we can as filmmakers.

AD: Anything else?

AS & JR: We are just so grateful for the response we have gotten. It has just been beyond our expectations.

The greatest thing is to hear the response from the musicians themselves. DJ Jazzy Jeff took us aside late, late one evening at the Austin Music Hall and said, “You guys have spoken for me. We can say that you have spoken for me. I’ve been holding a lot of feelings in for the last twenty years and you guys have said what I have been trying to say for years. And thank you from the bottom of my heart for making the film”


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