Best Music Documentaries on Netflix Instant

Presented in no particular order, all films available as of 12/31/13

Who Is Harry Nilsson

An informative look at a mostly forgotten career.  He was one of those guys my mom collected- I listened to his music without knowing anything about him beyond what was expressed on vinyl.  Amazing songwriter and performer, tortured guy, good documentary.

Fela Kuti: Music is the Weapon

Another guy I didn't know much about beyond his music and the murmur that he was "political". Of course with a nickname like 'Black President' that wasn't a surprise.  His music takes somewhat of a backseat to biography here, but it's an interesting ride.

I Need That Record!

A celebration of and elegy for the independent record store as an institution, and also the idea of music as a physical object.

Shut Up and Play the Hits

Concert film of LCD Soundsystem's final show at Madison Square Garden, bookended with interviews and studded with backstage footage.  Captures a scintillating performance with a crowd that spends the entire run time in a state of ecstasy- they're my second favorite concert doc crowd, just behind the lunatic hoards of Rush in Rio.

Ken Burns: Jazz

It's a Ken Burns film, so you're getting Ken Burns' notions of jazz history- heavy on the old timey traditional stuff, skimpy on anything more than a half-step outside the mainstream.  But it has a lot of excellent stuff on the people it does choose to cover, and in particular gave me an appreciation for just what a monumental figure Louis Armstrong was in the history of music.  A guy I thought of as a purveyor of quaint ragtime numbers and grandma-friendly novelty hits (What A Wonderful World) was actually a pivotal figure in music history.
Thanks for that, Ken.

A Band Called Death

A chronicle of pioneering black punk band Death, one of those influential groups nobody's ever heard of.  A happy resurgence of interest a few years back resulted in remastering, re-releasing and this documentary.

Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me

Another underexposed, hugely influential band, the Velvet Underground of the south.

Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey

A plot that sounds like a high concept setup for a Hollywood comedy:  singer in Journey cover band gets job singing for Journey just before a huge world tour.
COME ON, with that setup you cannot lose.

The Other F Word

What happens when ravening punk rockers grow up, get married and have kids?
This engaging film gives you a glimpse, along with a look at how the digitization of music has affected bands that achieved a certain level of fame (Pennywise, who end up hogging most of the screen time) without achieving breakout success (represented by Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers).   While I'd have liked them to get more in depth with how these guys who survived relatively monstrous fathers & awful family lives handle their duties as new parents, it's an interesting watch.

Neal Young: Heart of Gold

A straight up concert film.  If you love Young, you'll love this.

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