1973, New York City. Together with his partners, Richie Finestra, President of American Century Records, is on the verge of selling his struggling company to German Polygram, an impending distribution agreement with Led Zeppelin part of the package. But after an awkward encounter with Robert Plant, it's clear that the sale is in jeopardy.
Heading home to Greenwich, CT, a detour leads Richie to an unplanned reunion with Lester Grimes, a musical artist with whom he has a complicated history. With thoughts of Lester weighing on him, Richie heads to the office, where he learns of another problem: bombastic Frank "Buck" Rogers, owner of a chain of radio stations, is about to boycott American Century due to a perceived slight from their artist, Donny Osmond.
In crisis mode, Richie gives his A&R department a mandate to find new acts, prompting office assistant Jamie Vine to bring in The Nasty Bits, a proto-punk band unlike anything anyone has ever heard. Richie, meanwhile, enlists thuggish independent promotion man Joe Corso to help with the Buck Rogers situation. After a three-day coke binge, Corso summons the sober Richie to Rogers' home, where things go horribly awry.
Later, Richie learns that Polygram has agreed to buy the company, but with both Lester and the Buck Rogers debacle on his mind, he goes violently off the wagon, trashing the den of his home and jeopardizing his relationship with his wife Devon and their two children. Coked out and on his own in downtown Manhattan, Richie ends up being drawn by a crowd of young people to the Mercer Arts Center, where he sees The New York Dolls perform. It ends up being a night that sets Richie, and everyone close to him, on a new and unexpected course.