Cole Carter (Zac Efron) is a 23-year-old former music star and DJ who fought for the electronic dance music (EDM) scene, dreaming of becoming a major music producer. He constantly remembers that his plan to reach the top consists of three things: a laptop, talent and a leader. Cole lives with his friend, Mason (Jonny Weston), and usually stays with his friends, Ollie (Shiloh Fernandez) and Squirrel (Alex Shaffer), around his hometown, San Fernando. With the help of Mason and his friends who promote a lot on college campuses, Cole finally makes a DJ reservation at a local nightclub, where he meets the headliner, an innovative DJ, James Reed (Wes Bentley). After their shows, Cole finally comes face to face with James, sharing a cigarette together. James invites Cole to a party where Cole begins to hallucinate because the cigarette they shared contained phencyclidine (PCP). The next morning, Cole wakes up at James ‘house, where he is introduced to Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski), James’ girlfriend and personal assistant, who voluntarily takes him home.
After the event’s revenue does not satisfy their satisfaction, they seek out their friend Paige (Jon Bernthal), who runs a real estate solutions company, where the four work. Later, James calls Cole to DJ at his home party, a paid show. After explaining to Sophie the key mechanics of DJing, James sees Cole’s potential, which is interrupted by his three friends who arrive at the party. After a fight breaks out between Mason and one of James’ guests, James forgives Cole for his friend’s actions. From there, James takes Cole as a student. After listening to Cole’s original music, James criticizes Cole for emulating other well-known producers, such as Skrillex, and openly suggests using organic sounds to create an original atmosphere. The two co-create a song using this technique, with the voice of Sophie, who is successful at the local nightclub. One night, James suggests that Cole accompany Sophie to a party organized by his college colleagues, where she learns more about her past, which causes a fight. Later, Sophie thanks her for her defense. Cole and his friends travel to Las Vegas for a music festival, where he turns away from his band to find Sophie, whom James has abandoned. Sophie then gives Cole MDMA, and they quickly fall in love and flee together to the Las Vegas Strip, riding the High Roller and recording in Las Vegas Paris, where they dance and end up having passionate sex.
Back in San Fernando, James invites Cole to watch an MMA fight with him and Sophie. A strange moment ends when Sophie tells Cole to accept what happened and leave him alone, and James gives Cole a new MacBook Pro and the opportunity to open for Summer Fest, a popular music festival. One day, Cole and Paige meet Tanya Romero (Alicia Coppola), whose home is under embargo. During the negotiation, Paige buys his house and rents it, with the intention of selling it quickly for a substantial price, which irritated Cole. When James’ alcoholism begins to affect Sophie, he and Cole go to a strip club to celebrate his birthday. Cole falls ill and James discovers Cole’s relationship with Sophie, ending ties with him. Returning to his three friends, it is revealed that Squirrel was looking for better jobs because of his intellect and Mason rented a house for everyone. After an intense drug partyand alcohol, the Squirrel goes unconscious that morning and then dies of an overdose. After the funeral, the remaining friends begin to question their future, ending up taking separate paths when Mason blames Ollie for the drug overdose on Squirrel. Cole visits James, whose alcoholism has completely consumed him, to inform him of the Squirrel’s death and possibly it could have been his fault, to which James consoles him and also tells him that Sophie has moved to the San Fernando Valley and works at a local cafeteria. store, where to visit later.
As he runs, Cole’s phone battery goes off and stops his music from playing. Looking more closely, he listens to what is around him, which inspires him to record samples and integrate them into his long-awaited piece. So Cole calls James that he has something for Summer Fest, which gives him another chance. The festival takes place outside the American Apparel Building in Los Angeles. Cole publishes his topic, which contains excerpts from his conversations with Sophie and Squirrel, and later uses Squirrel’s quote “Will we ever be better than that?” and use it as a hook before the beat decreases. At the end of the song, Cole is greeted with enthusiasm by the audience and by James. The film ends with Sophie returning to college, reading Ollie for an audition, Mason running the club and Cole remaining optimistic about his future and establishing a suitable relationship with Sophie.
In the intermediary credits scene, Tanya opens the door to an Adidas box from which Cole saved all of his earnings throughout the film.