Reel People

Andrew Shapter, Filmmaker

By Paul Farber
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Jan. 10, 2007

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Deserves props for: Helming the critically acclaimed documentary B4MD: Before the Music Dies, focusing on the decay of the profit-driven, jingle-oriented music industry.

How did you arrive at this project?

"I was a photographer working for record companies and fashion agencies, and I noticed the two entities were coming together fairly rapidly. I was getting more and more work, because the labels were signing more and more young girls."

Was there ever a time in modern music where labels weren't profit-driven?

"I think the biggest misconception about the film is that we think it's happened only recently. For the most part in the industry, pop music has always ruled. But there were other genres getting equal amounts of airplay, and there were artists who weren't focus-grouped who were doing just fine and had longer careers."

What are the needs of music fans today?

"Music fans demand variety. You can go to a rural part of Idaho and grab any teenager's iPod and you'll get this strange mix of Toby Keith and Snoop Dogg. There's not one record label that facilitates stacking artists in that way, and there's no radio station that really plays those genres together. What the audience is interested in is more of a potpourri or melting pot of music. Right now the labels aren't set up to facilitate that."

How open were the artists you spoke with?

"They were dangerously candid with me, and I can't really put my finger on why. I think we took our time with them. I talked to Dave Matthews about Clear Channel radio and Clear Channel plays his music every day. He went ahead and took a pretty critical shot at them. These people had a trust that was unparalleled. They basically come clean."

Why have you taken on the burden of marketing your film on the road with local screenings and special events?

"In the film we talk about how consolidation hurts creativity and how it doesn't facilitate new forms of art. We know if we went with a larger studio and put the film out that way, it would have been a major contradiction we'd have to live with for the rest of our lives. It would've been nice to take a check. Instead we said, 'Let's just roll the dice and put this film out the way we tell musicians to put out albums.'"

Is Ashlee Simpson the Antichrist?

"She's a cutie, but she's not an Antichrist. I think the whole point was not to necessarily go at Ashlee, but to go after a system that makes her its primary act. Labels of the past have had Ashlee Simpsons all the time, but it was just one component. Now it's the main and only component."

Andrew Shapter will host a Q&A after the screening of B4MD: Before the Music Dies, Tues., Jan. 16, 8pm. Free. Trocadero, 1103 Arch St. 215.922.LIVE.

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