Dave Doughman, front man for Swearing at Motorists

In economics, a winner-take-all market is one in which the lucky and talented few at the top of the mountain amass such wealth and power that there’s nothing left for those at the bottom. 

Music, writing, and acting are the most cutthroat winner-take-all markets today.

So what are us creative dreamers at the bottom to do?

After watching Jim Burns’ latest documentary, I’d say we should follow the path of Dave Doughman and just keep going.

It’s Not All Rock And Roll is a compelling film about the ups and downs of Doughman, the front man for the Hamburg-based band Swearing at Motorists.  If you haven’t heard of Doughman or Motorists (self-described as the World’s Local Band), well, that’s the point.

Dave Doughman has spent the last twenty years playing music.  He works as a fork-lift operator and acts in commercials to make ends meet.  He battles substance abuse, depression, and uninterested crowds.

His singular goal is to play like he’s in front of the world’s largest and most energetic crowd, even when he can count the audience on one hand.

He’s on a mission to gain fans one at a time if that’s what it takes.

The film shines brightest when spotlighting Doughman’s relationship with his young son.  The only serious threat to his music career is his touching desire to be a good father, the kind of father he didn’t have.  In a revealing scene, he notes that he stopped playing music for several years because success meant touring, and touring would take him away from his son.

But he found that without music he was a miserable person, and believes that his own father’s misery was the largest factor in their strained relationship.  For Doughman, playing music is part of being a good father.

“I don’t need to be rich and famous,” he says, before deciding to tour.  “I need to be a working musician.”

Unlike the untouchable mega-famous whose every moment of supposed authenticity is crafted by a team of publicists, Doughman is candid, raw, and humble in his desires.

It’s Not All Rock And Roll is a warts-and-all look at life with a calling.  Every life is dotted with triumphs and defeats, and I can’t help but think Doughman has a better life than his mega-famous competition.

If talent and perseverance were all that were needed to succeed, we’d all know Doughman’s name.  I wonder how many of those mega-famous would keep at their craft for twenty years if the winds of fortune hadn’t blown their way. 

In a world filled with endless entertainment, It’s Not All Rock And Roll rises above the noise—as Doughman himself often does onstage—and is well worth your time.

Winner take all? 

Not so.

Only a few can stand on top, but Doughman proves that if you work hard and long enough, there’s room for everyone on the mountain.