- 20 Mar 01
COLM O HARE reports on the IMRO Songwriters Week 2000
One hundred members of the Irish Music Rights Organisation (IMRO) took part in a week-long collaboration workshop, which was held at NUI Maynooth recently. The exercise followed the success of similar events held over the past few years at Killarney and Clifden where world renowned songwriters such as Rodney Crowell, Lamont Dozier, and Paul Williams, collaborated with Irish songwriters including Eleanor McEvoy, Kieran Goss and Jimmy MacCarthy.
Participants at this year's event included Niall Toner who recently scored a major success by having one of his songs recorded by Bill Wyman, and Denis Allen, writer of the Shannonside anthem 'Limerick You're A Lady'. Also taking part was Ray Heffernan who hit the headlines a few years ago over his contribution to Robbie William s 'Angel'.
According to Donal McGuirk, Director of Membership Services with IMRO, events such as these are about much more than songwriting.
"One of the advantages of getting our members together in this way is that we can educate them on other aspects of the business. Older, more established members can teach newcomers some of the pitfalls of the business based on their own experiences."
A lively question and answer session chaired by the event facilitator Keith Donald and involving key music industry representatives was one of the highlights of the week's programme. Radio and RTE in particular came under fire from several of the songwriters present who felt they weren't getting a fair deal from the state broadcaster
But RTE Senior Producer Ian Wilson outlined the realities of radio in no uncertain terms.
"It's a harsh commercial world out there, like it or not," he told the gathering. "When it comes to getting airplay, the quality of the music is often secondary to other considerations. Unknown songwriters or performers will always find it hard to get exposure on radio. For exactly the same reason ten people will go to see Shamrock Rovers play next Sunday, while tens of thousands will buy some shite in the Man Utd. store."
However he also said that RTE, through the Dave Fanning Show, pay a fee to forty-seven unknown bands each year to record a session which is then broadcast nationally.
Sony A&R man Hugh Murray outlined the process by which he searches out new talent.
"If you send me a CD or a mini-disc I'll listen to it. If I like what I hear, I'll ring you and arrange to have a chat at some point. I'll probably go to see you or your band live and if I think I have something I can work with, I might give you some development support and we'll take it from there".
"How many unknown artists have you signed in the past year?," one delegate asked. "Sony rarely sign totally unknown artists," Murray replied. "Usually you'll need to have some kind of track record before we'll consider you. A lot of people approach record companies far too early in their career. They send their early demos rather than waiting to develop their songwriting or performing skills."
Not surprisingly Murray left the session laden down with CDs and tapes handed to him from participants in the workshop! Membership of IMRO has now reached 3,000. According to Donal McGuirk anyone who is writing music or performing live in Ireland or abroad should join IMRO. "They are effectively losing money as well as losing out on the benefits that can accrue to members," he said.
To join IMRO contact Donal McGuirk Ph: (01) 6614844 or by email: [email protected]