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The Dells: Next Generation

  • Kris Bass, Director
  • Thomas Elliott, Producer

black and white album cover showing five african-american men in suits leaning into the picture

About the Project

This is an educational documentary film that features interviews, images, archival footage, and music by The Dells and other popular artists from every era since 1877. It traces the history of the record business, from the invention of the gramophone to today, to demonstrate how the connections between world events, cultural influences, and technological innovations have impacted the economics of the way songs have been created, marketed, distributed, and experienced throughout time.

The Dells are arguably one of the most successful vocal groups who were active in the era from 1952 to 2002. They are one of only two groups in the history of the music business that have that achieved hit recordings during five (5) decades.

The film focuses on how The Dells reached the height of their success during an era when the record business operated in a vinyl record sales economy.
By contrast, the film also focuses on their offspring, who are talented, highly trained, and experienced musicians and record company executives, struggling to succeed in today’s digital streaming economy. What becomes apparent is that, in both economies, it takes talented humans, inspired by emotional experiences, and trained in music theory and composition, to create “good” songs.

However, due to the economics of the music streaming business, soon, it may no longer be financially feasible for humans to spend time creating music. The film shows how the rapid advent of artificial intelligence and robotics technologies could continue to reduce the role of humans in the creation, marketing, and distribution of music. Given these realities, the film brings attention to society’s concern over the nature of how humans will experience music in the near future.