10 must-see documentary films for musicians and producers

Entertaining, educational and inspirational, watching into these documentary films can be a real insight into the music industry and often, bumpy ride towards success. We thought we'd round up 10 of the best to help influence and inspire those wanting to be musicians, producers, engineers and work in business, in the music industry.

MV5BNjAyMjg0MTMtZmUxZC00MzhiLTk1YzYtOGE4YWNmYmIzMjc4XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTMxODk2OTU@._V1_SY1000_SX675_AL_1. The Defiant Ones

This multi-part series examines the success and partnership of hip hop icon Dr Dre and music producer, engineer and Interscope Records founder, Jimmy Iovine. Apart from being amazingly entertaining, it shows that perseverance, getting things done and seeing your ideas and vision through to the end are often the route to success, but it's not a smooth ride! It also highlights all those small steps forwards and new contacts that help drive a successful career. 

MV5BMTgwOTEwODg4OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTIwNjcwMDE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,675,1000_AL_2. Sample This

A sort of Simon Cowell of his day, this is a truly incredible tale of Michael Viner and his Incredible Bongo Band. A track called Bongo Rock would become a commercial failure until one particular break became one of the foundation stones of Hip Hop. Along the way there's assassination, murder, and more crazy stories that are so bizarre you couldn't make it up if you tried. A great insight into entrepreneurship and the ever present complexities of rights and intellectual property in the music industry. 


Focusing on the incredibly talented musicians that tour and session in the studio with some of the biggest names in music, Hired Gun explores the complex relationship and often disposable nature between the lead singer or artist and the 'band'. Although very US-centric, this documentary highlights the perception of success as a musician versus actually getting paid. A great lesson in contracts, being adaptable and being a master at your art to succeed whatever happens!

MV5BMjIyNzc3NDM2N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTcyMTk2MTE@._V1_SY999_CR0,0,674,999_AL_MV5BMjIyNzc3NDM2N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTcyMTk2MTE@._V1_SY999_CR0,0,674,999_AL_4. Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon

Although this documentary isn't just 100% music focussed, the story of Shep becoming the manager and accidental business guru behind musicians like Alice Cooper, Teddy Pendergrass and so much more is fascinating. Where documentaries like Hired Gun and The Defiant Ones highlight a ruthlessness and war-like plotting side to the business, Shep's approach of focusing on the ideas, happiness and being an all-round Supermensch is brilliant. Watch this and learn just how far being nice, trust-worthy and reliable can get you.

I-dream-of-wires5. I Dream Of Wires

Undoubtably this is one of the more nerdy, and in depth documentaries on this list (there's a four hour super-extended edit if you're really keen!), this film explores the history of modular synthesizers and their recent renaissance. Meet the makers, eccentrics, obsessives and musicians that make this particular part of the wider electronic music scene so unique and innovative.

dubechoes6. Dub Echoes

Learn how the Jamaican invention of Dub influenced so many music genres and styles of today. Learn how equipment limitations sparked creativity and how the entire studio became an instrument of Dub! If you want to understand the impact Dub has had on the wider music scene, the movie speaks to the leaders and innovators of the genre, plus meet the modern producers and artists it has influenced. 

The_Wrecking_Crew7. The Wrecking Crew

Another behind-the-scenes look at a group of musicians that would form the backbone of so many classic records in the 60s and 70s, largely without credit. It's a happy glance at a different, sunnier time in US recording history where if you wanted to make hit records, you needed the very best players. There's some amazing footage of sessions and interview with A-list recording artists, all of which were backed by The Wrecking Crew.

anvil-movie8. Anvil! The Story Of Anvil

This real-life version of Spinal Tap is a look at a massively influential Canadian metal band who helped inspire Metallica, Anthrax and many more, yet were never a commercial success themselves. It's been a long road for the band, but this documentary proves the far reaching influence music can have and how despite constant setbacks the music is always the most important factor.

808-movie9. 808 The Movie

Centred around the story of the iconic Roland TR-808 drum machine this movie boats a huge cast of heavyweight names in the music industry and their own personal stories around this legendary piece of equipment. From the birth of Hip Hop to so many other genre's the TR-808 had a huge impact. Watch and learn why such a classic drum machine was only made for three years, with apparently only 12000 units ever produced.

brightsparksvimeoposter110. Bright Sparks

An interesting movie collaboration from the band, I Monster alongside their album. Produced by G Force Software's Dave Spiers, this is an incredible in-depth documentary on some of the pioneers of electronic music and features a plethora of music industry and synth heavyweights. If you want to discover the people behind some of the legendary sounds and equipment that changed the face of electronic music, this is a music see.

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