If HBO operated in the music industry, it would be a perennial “hit factory” due to the countless award winning and cultural defining shows it’s produced. HBO is the EMI Records of the TV game, and its new series Vinyl is only adding to its admirable track record.
Created by the impressive team of Mick Jagger, Martin Scorsese, Rich Cohen, and Terence Winter, Vinyl is a new music-centric drama set in 1970s New York City. A ride through the sex and drug addled music business at the dawn of punk, disco, and hip-hop, Vinyl is seen through the eyes of a record label president, Richie Finestra, played by Bobby Cannavale, who is trying to save his dwindling company and soul without destroying everyone in his path. The show also stars familiar faces like Olivia Wilde, Ray Romano, and Ato Essandoh.
Vinyl will premiere on HBO on February 14th, but thanks to the kind folks at Noisey and Vice, I had the opportunity to catch an early screening of the first episode. Ever since Empire became a mainstream hit, a number of music related shows (e.g. The Break on VH1, The Get Down on Netflix, and the upcoming Roadies on SHOWTIME) have recently surfaced. The music business is an ultra sexy industry that many dream to work in, but very few actualize that aspiration. These shows provide fans with a dramatized perspective, as well as occasionally catchy soundtrack, to fulfill that fantasy.
In Vinyl, Richie Finestra’s American Century Records is on the verge of irrelevance, as its roster of artists are no longer hitting with the 1970’s mainstream, who is flocking to the sounds of glam and punk rock. Finestra and his team had turned to shady, but probably accurate, practices of paying off radio stations with money and drugs to play records, and dumping records in the East River to count them off as sold. After failing to sign Led Zeppelin, Finestra is desperate for new talent to turn his business around. The two-hour premiere does a great job in introducing Finestra and his rise to success, often at the expense of others. Being the big boss eventually catches up with Finestra, as he struggles to find the balance between business and his genuine passion for music. Ultimately, he experiences a major epiphany after a coke laced outing at an underground rock show that literally brought the house down. With Martin Scorsese at the helm, Vinyl is shot very well, as it captures a very raw and gritty New York City, in addition to the ostentatiousness vibes of the 70s, fueled by promiscuity and drugs.
If you’re a fan of music or intrigued by the industry, Vinyl is definitely worth checking out. I was totally engaged throughout the entire episode. I’m sort of familiar with the cutthroat nature of the music business and I felt that Vinyl does a good job in presenting some of the major issues, including dealing unpredictable talent, the backroom politics, and the balance between business and artistic integrity. And of course, it has a great soundtrack that capture the sounds of the era. Watch the trailer below and catch the premiere on February 14th on HBO.