Justin McConnell’s Working Class Rock Star is essential viewing for those with rock star dreams. The documentary is unrelentingly dark, but then again, so is the music industry. It’s bad for labels now, and it’s worse for artists. This film portrays the struggles of bands trying to “make it.” It is divided into several sections: “The Myth,” “The Life,” “Tour,” “Work & Family,” “The Business,” and “The Future.”
Some established artists – The Haunted, Unearth, Devin Townsend, Gwar – discuss how hard things can be for them. This is sobering in and of itself. These are the 1% of artists that “make it,” the music equivalent of professional athletes. But things are tougher for minor leaguers. The film achieves great poignancy documenting the lives of several up-and-coming bands. It’s obvious where some are headed: nowhere. Their music is unoriginal or doesn’t stand out. Yet they’re completely invested in it.
This is heartbreaking, as these are caring, committed people. McConnell gets deep into their everyday lives, showing their struggles with work, family, and finances. As one gets to “know” them, one wants them to succeed. But the world has more bands than ever, with fewer places than ever for them. This film makes that clear. It lays bare the costs of touring, recording, and giving up the stability of normal life. The production values aren’t glitzy – hand cams, straight shots, plain fonts. They’re perfect for the message, though. McConnell’s eye is sharp, and what he sees is bleak.
You can view the first four minutes of this film here.