Where would the world be without music? We hear it everywhere – the bus, the elevator, ringing in our heads as we drift off to sleep. Music truly is the soul of the universe, and it’s when music and TV combine that we’re able to understand and truly appreciate its beauty.
Whether it’s a TV show about hip hop, rock ‘n’ roll, pop, or classical, it never ceases to amaze me how well songs are able to tie into the drama, comedy, and overall life of a TV series. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of the best TV shows about the music industry!
Empire, Fox (2015 – 2020)
Empire has lived up to its title in more ways than one. The show’s premiere in 2015 was watched by almost 10 million viewers. Peaking at 17 million in the first season finale. And though the numbers have dwindled since then, the gripping storyline, ensemble cast, and amazing performances have secured this show a spot on this list of the best music industry TV shows.
Empire chronicles the life of the Lyon family after its patriarch, Lucious Lyon, is diagnosed as terminally ill. He’s forced to decide who among his three sons to take over the family business. All while dealing with his ex-wife who also wants to take control of the business.
There’s drama, music, and Taraji P. Henson – all of which come together in a seamless portrayal of the reality of the music industry.
Where to watch Empire:
Vinyl, HBO (2016)
Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll – such was the New York City music scene in the 1960s. However, all of that changed in the following decade – the 1970s.
Vinyl shows its viewers the shift from rock to punk and disco through the eyes of Richie Finestra – a record executive desperately holding onto his recording company as it struggles to keep its head above the water.
HBO recruited the talents of Martin Scorsese, Mick Jagger, Rich Cohen, and Terence Winter in the hopes of garnering the same success that Winter brought with Boardwalk Empire and The Sopranos. But sadly the network decided to cancel the show after its first season.
Nevertheless, Vinyl is a fascinating view into the ever-changing landscape of the music industry in the latter part of the 20th century. And therefore a great addition to this best TV shows about the music industry list.
Where to watch Vinyl:
Nashville, ABC/CMT (2021 – 2018)
We all know Nashville to be a city with a vibrant music scene. So it only seems apt that a show following the lives of country music singers is set here.
Nashville shares the ups and downs of the lives of both aspiring and established music singers in a competitive arena full of talented artists. All going through the same struggles. Viewers were treated to a look in their favorite (fictitious) singers’ lives as they juggled their public and private lives. Often showing that living in the limelight isn’t always all it’s cut out to be
Though it wrapped up its sixth and final season back in 2018, Nashville continues to be a favorite amongst country music and country music TV show fans. And we can also thank the show for boosting sister-duo Lennon and Maisy Stella into the musical limelight!
Where to watch Nashville:
Monarch, Fox (2022)
Speaking of country music, there is another entry into the country music drama genre with Fox drama Monarch.
The country music dynasty series follows the Romans, America’s first family of country music, as they try to protect her family’s legacy.
But the family’s success is based on a lie. So now Nicky, the eldest daughter and the heir to the crown, has to fight tooth and nail to keep their family’s reign as country royalty.
Starring Oscar-winner Susan Sarandon and country music legend Trace Adkins as heads of the family, Monarch is a drama you won’t want to miss!
Where to watch Monarch:
Star, Fox (2016 – 2019)
Fans of Star have yet to find the proper closure after the show was cancelled after only 3 seasons.
Thankfully, creator Lee Daniels has hinted at something lined up for the show in the future. Details are hazy at best, but he promises fans that they “ain’t seen the last of Star“.
Star mainly revolves around a talented teenager named Star, who escapes her past by banding with fellow aspiring female artists to form their own singing group. As they slowly start to chase their dreams, they’re forced to face their pasts, battle through their personal relationships, and fight to stay relevant in the music scene.
Considering its previous crossover with the previously mentioned Fox show Empire, perhaps that’s where we’ll finally see the story come full circle. But while we wait for that to happen, make sure to binge the first three seasons of this awesome TV series about the music industry!
Where to watch Star:
Queens, ABC (2021 – 2022)
Another newer TV series that takes you behind the scenes of the music industry is ABC’s Queens. And although it lasted for only a season, it’s still a good binge-watch.
Named after the titular girl group, Queens tells the story of Brianna, Jill, Valeria and Naomi, four estranged in their 40s who reunite hoping to recapture their former fame.
In the 90s, the Nasty Bitches were hip-hop legends but since then their stardom has faded and most of them live relatively normal lives.
However, when a current superstar Lauren “Lil Muffin” Rice approach the group for a collaboration, they decide to mount a comeback. But do the ladies still have what it takes after spending more than two decades out of the limelight?
Where to watch Queens:
Roadies, Showtime (2016)
Roadies marks the first musical drama on this list that also injects a little bit of humor in its script. Though sadly, it only ran for one season.
Featuring a star-studded cast composed of Luke Wilson, Carla Gugino, Imogen Poots, and Colson Baker aka Machine Gun Kelly amongst many others, Roadies serves as an interesting take on individuals indirectly involved in the music industry. We’re talking about tour and production managers, instrument technicians, lighting riggers, general roadies and yes, even the band member kid’s nanny.
Ever wondered what it would be like to tour with a band? Roadies might just be the perfect show for you, then! Despite its singular season, knowing that superstar creative talent Cameron Crowe is behind it will make the repeated binge-watching worth it.
Where to watch Roadies:
Smash, NBC (2012 – 2013)
NBC’s Smash is proof that just because a show runs for only a few seasons, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t any good.
With creative geniuses like playwright Theresa Rebeck and Steven Spielberg, it was bound to be a roaring success. And a success it was, being nominated for categories at the Golden Globes, Grammys, and the Emmys (among others). And winning the award for Outstanding Choreography for the latter.
The show followed a group of varying personalities creating new Broadway musicals. And, as seems to be the norm when pursuing a creative passion, chronicles the struggles they endure as they attempt to balance personal lives with the demands of a theater life.
Smash fans witnessed the curtains drop as the show came to a close after only two seasons. But it still makes for an amazing binge-watching experience. And is definitely worthy of being on this list of the best TV shows about the music industry.
Where to watch Smash:
Mozart in the Jungle, Amazon Prive Video (2014 – 2018)
Having just recently ended in 2018, Mozart in the Jungle is thankfully available for streaming on its original platform, Amazon Video.
What’s beautiful about this four-season show is its theme of female composers and conductors. Which is something you just don’t hear enough about. In fact, Mozart in the Jungle even features historical female composers like Nannerl Mozart and Fanny Mendelssohn. Not to mention Caroline Shaw appearing in the flesh!
Mozart in the Jungle is just enough of an adventure into the musical genre to be comfortable without drowning you in technicalities and jargon. Making it perfect for those of us with an elementary knowledge of classical music who still want to enjoy a good drama series.
Where to watch Mozart in the Jungle:
Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, FX (2015 – 2016)
FX’s Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll is a comedy series that aired over 20 episodes before being canceled after its second season.
The show follows Johnny Rock, the lead singer of a band called The Heathens who could’ve made it big in the 80s and 90s if they hadn’t disbanded after just one album.
Johnny is struggling to stay afloat but his saving grace comes with his 21-year-old daughter Gigi, who he just found out even existed.
She offers him a chance to revive The Heathens with a rebranding, her as the lead singer, and him as their lead songwriter.
Now, Johnny must navigate being a new father and a music industry very different from the one he was used to.
Where to watch Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll:
Instant Star, CTV/The N (2004 – 2008)
When a musician wins any kind of reality competition, they are propelled into superstardom whether they’re prepared for it or not; sometimes they don’t even have to win, they just need to have enough fans.
Instant Star tells the story of Jude Harrison, the winner of a singing competition for teenagers, and how she deals with the day-to-day now that she’s, well, an instant star.
Despite being young, Jude learns to juggle her love for music and her growing career as a recording artist with the regular struggles of being a teenager – especially when the lines between personal and professional cross.
Where to watch Instant Star:
Paradise City, Amazon Prime Video (2021 – present)
A musical drama and the occult: two themes that we don’t see enough of together, but we definitely need more of.
Prime Video gives us a hefty dose of it with Paradise City, an eight-episode series that continues from where the story left off in the 2017 film it’s based on: American Satan.
In the movie, a rock and roll band strikes a deal with the devil in exchange for success, but a hitch in their human sacrifice causes more trouble than the fame is worth.
In the sequel series Paradise City, the band still has ties to the occult and are trying to keep themselves together amidst the dark mysteries that just keep knocking on their door.
Where to watch Paradise City:
Girls5eva, Peacock (2021 – present)
Don’t we all wish that our favorite bands from the 90s could make a comeback one day, even if it’s just for one last album or reunion concert?
Peacock’s Girls5eva gives us a peek into what that might be like for our favorite pop groups some 20-odd years after their fame.
The comedy series focuses on the four remaining members of the titular Girls5eva, a pop group from the 90s that was, for lack of a better term, a ‘one-hit wonder’.
They’re suddenly brought back into the spotlight when a famous rapper samples their track and they jump at the chance for a comeback.
However, now they’re struggling with the troubles of aging: body pain, jobs, spouses, and children.
Where to watch Girls5eva:
Bandish Bandits, Amazon Prime Video (2020 – present)
Bandish Bandits is the first foreign language series on our list, and it hails from India.
The first season received high praises from critics, leading to a quick renewal for an upcoming second season.
Bandish Bandits explores two opposing perspectives on the nature of music: as a strict discipline or as a means of liberation.
We follow the relationship between Radhe Rathod, who is a classical musician, and Tamanna Sharma, a YouTube sensation and pop singer.
Despite coming from vastly different worlds, the two join forces and embark on a journey of self-discovery – in life, in love, and in music.
Where to watch Bandish Bandits:
Selena: The Series, Netflix (2020 – 2021)
Selena Quintanilla is one of the most famous names and faces in Tejano music – if not in the entire Latino music industry and even beyond.
Her story is both amazing and tragic; her rise to fame at such a young age is inspirational (as is her truly exceptional talent), but the story ends too abruptly and much, much too soon.
Even if you’ve seen the 1997 film starring Jennifer Lopez (the movie that shot her into fame), you’ll surely enjoy this series adaptation starring Christian Serratos, Selena: The Series.
The series highlights her childhood and rise into stardom, including the difficult choices that she and her family had to make.
Where to watch Selena: The Series:
Luis Miguel: The Series, Telemundo/Netflix (2018 – 2021)
We have another foreign-language show with Luis Miguel: The Series, a biographical series that wrapped up after three seasons in October of 2021.
The series covers the life of famed singer Luis Miguel, whose love for music and natural talent led him to have an early start in the industry – slowly gaining popularity before he was even a teenager.
At 11 years old, his father took it upon himself to turn Luis Miguel into the superstar he couldn’t be.
As his fame continues to grow, the public sees a picture-perfect version of him, but Luis Miguel: The Series dives into how it affected his personal life and family.
Where to watch Luis Miguel: The Series:
Turn Up Charlie, Netflix (2019)
It’s rare to see Idris Elba in a comedic role, so Turn Up Charlie is the breath of fresh air we need – in more ways than one!
Though it is a narrative that we’ve heard before both in fiction and real life, it adds its own little twist as well.
Elba plays Charlie, a struggling DJ who’s desperate to establish his music career.
He gets one shot through an offer from a famous friend, but it’s not what you might think: to become a “manny” for his problem-child daughter.
Still, Charlie jumps at the opportunity, knowing he can still jumpstart his music career, but young Gabrielle certainly doesn’t make things easy for him.
Where to watch Turn Up Charlie:
Dave, FXX (2020 – present)
Fans of American rapper and comedian Lil Dicky are gonna love this comedy series created by the man himself!
The series also stars him, using his real name Dave Burd, as a fictionalized version of himself and is, in fact, based on his own life.
In Dave, he is a neurotic man in his 20s who will seemingly stop at nothing to become the greatest rapper of all time – something he’s already convinced he’s destined to be.
His friends are reluctant but come along for the ride anyway, boosting him through his bumpy journey to stardom.