Songwriters get tips on how to beat the odds

By Russ Corey Staff Writer

Last Updated:July 29. 2006 12:00AM
Published: July 29. 2006 3:30AM

 Lonnie Sill, of the Sill Music Group (left), and Frank Radice, a vice president with NBC, listen as Randy Wachtler, of 615 Music, talks about music in TV shows.

FLORENCE — Songs are pitched almost daily to people in the music business in places like Nashville, Tenn., but only a fraction of them are ever recorded.

A panel of experts offered some advice for songwriters who want to try to beat the odds and write a hit song.

“How To Get a Song Cut” was just one of three panel discussions presented during this year’s Songfest, an event sponsored by the Muscle Shoals Music Association in conjunction with the W.C. Handy Music Festival.

The first step, said Rodney Hall, president of FAME Music Publishing and the son of FAME Recording Studios founder Rick Hall, is sitting down and writing a great song.

“The song is it,” Hall said. “The first thing you need to do is write a whole lot of songs.”

If a song is written for a particular artist, it needs to fit that artist’s particular musical perspective, said Kirk Boyer, director of A&R for Disney’s Lyric Street Records.

“It all begins with the right songs,” Boyer said.

Lynn Gann, of Full Circle Music, defined a great song as one that has universal meaning that listeners can identify with.

Music publisher Jeff Tweel said most of the songs he expected to be recorded by a particular artist ended up being recorded by someone else.

Tweel said songwriters, of which there were several among the crowd of about 30 who attended the panel discussion at the Florence-Lauderdale Public Library, must “pour out their soul” in their writing.

“Usually the best songs come from some place deep and meaningful,” he said.

Hall pointed out that some of the best songs in the world took months to write.

Songwriters eventually have to get their songs into the hands of the artists, their producer or record label. Either that or a publishing company.

Hall suggests the songwriter have a solid catalog of music once they get in the door.

He said FAME Music Publishing accepts unsolicited songs, but they must follow the company’s policies.

It is also a good idea for songwriters to copyright their music.

In an earlier discussion on music in television and film, Randy Wachtler, of 615 Music in Nashville, said his company used to produce jingles, but now produces songs like the new theme song for NBC’s “Today Show.”

Frank Radice, vice president of marketing for NBC Television in New York, said his job is to get people to watch the network’s shows.

Music, he said, is an important part of the promotion of those programs.

“We’re getting away from jingles,” Wachtler said. “People are getting smarter. People want to hear songs — songs that have a message.”

Radice said the “Today Show” theme will be available at the iTunes store, a popular Web site to download digital music, and as a ringtone for cellular telephones.

The panel said that composing songs and music for television and film is another opportunity for songwriters and musicians.

Lonnie Sill, a Los Angeles, Calif., music supervisor with major film credits, said the industry is always looking for good lyricists.

He said the popular television show “American Idol” proved that anyone can break into the business.

The panel also pointed out that music used in television and movies can help revive the careers of aging rock acts.

For example, The Who song, “Who Are You,” is the theme song of the popular CSI television shows.

Russ Corey can be reached at 740-5738 or


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