The music industry's portrayal in film has always been a fairly mixed bag for me. There are some absolutely amazing films about the music industry in one way or another--That Thing You Do!, Almost Famous, This is Spinal Tap, even Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. However, the genre as a whole seems to be facing an overall lack of original story types and ideas lately. This means that we are seeing an increasing number of cookie cutter films (aka musician biopics), that really aren't bringing us anything new.

To me, this issue seems to come primarily from a failure of film in general to adjust to how the music industry has changed in our digital age. Therefore, the stories we're seeing are either actually from a time before the internet, or treat the music industry like things are still the same.

This has me wondering: how will our current era of music be portrayed in film? Will film adjust to the changes in the industry, or will this largely be a forgotten era? Will my dream of a film dramatizing the mid-00s Emo Boom ever become a reality?

I have now been an active (which I would personally qualify as playing shows or writing music specifically to record or play live) musician for over a decade now, and have seen various levels of success. As both my love and study of film, and my music life have grown and evolved, something that has struck me about music industry movies is how far removed they feel from the average, everyday realities of the music industry. Even in movies where we see a band struggling to get by and get "their big break," they play venues that even really successful bands would be lucky to in real life.

I think it says something that the moment I have identified most strongly with in relation to my own experiences in music was when Scott Pilgrim responds to Ramona Flowers' question, "You have a band?" with "Yeah, we're terrible. Please come." It isn't a great sign that the movie that resonates with my real life experiences as a musician is one where the main character pulls a flaming sword out his chest, not once, but twice.

The reality for most musicians and their experiences with the music industry doesn't really fit within the narratives that music industry films tell. This doesn't necessarily mean that these films are unrelatable, or lacking in any specific or general way. This is because they are generally working within familiar story archetypes, and music is a device in which to propel characters through classic story arcs.

Of these story types, music industry movies (even satires), typically can be grouped into one of two major categories. There are the overnight, rags-to-riches stories of success and its fallout (That Thing You Do!, Walk the Line, Walk Hard: the Dewey Cox Story most other musician biopics). Then there are post-peak of success comeback/redemption stories (Crazy Heart, This is Spinal Tap, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping).

Obviously, these are incredibly compelling story types that, when broken down, we frequently see across literally every genre of film. However, the ways in which the music industry has changed makes these stories less relevant to the experiences of musicians today. Even when musicians achieve rapid "success" today, that usually does consist of the stereotypical fame and fortune. Instead, it means living in a van and sleeping on strangers' floors or in terrible hotel rooms. It means working a regular (usually not too great) job when you're not on the road.

The biggest issues that musicians and the music industry face are different now as well. In fact, these issues are not exclusive to music, but actually reflect how the world as a whole has changed. For instance, it's no secret that piracy is a huge and complicated issue in the music industry today. How should the world react to this, though? Is piracy even a big deal, and how should we look at it in relation to the increasing prevalence of cybercrime across the board?

For music industry films to be more relevant to our world today, a few things need to happen. Firstly, the scope of these films needs to be broadened rather immensely. No matter how interesting they are, biopics of famous musicians can only get the genre so far. We've seen every conceivable iteration of these films already, so whenever a new one comes out, it's hard to not imagine them as more than what This is Spinal Tap or Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story were making fun of.

To take the next step past this, we need to start seeing films that tell interesting and creative stories through the lens of the current state of musicians and the music industry. Instead of feel-good success stories, show us the struggles and triumphs of living on the road, and how that contrasts with trying to hold down day jobs back at home. Show the new challenges musicians now face to make their dreams a reality when people don't buy music like they used to.

Basically, film needs to stop either treating the music industry like it hasn't changed since the rise of the internet, or ignoring stories since this happened. There's a wealth of stories to draw from, and movie fans deserve to see them brought to life.