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BMI Opens Doors for Music Biz Majors

Posted in News on December 7, 2005
Seniors at Belmont University in Nashville are getting a real insiders look at Music Row with a new program offered this fall called "Catalog Cast." The brainchild of BMI's Shelby Kennedy, Director of Writer/Publisher Relations in Nashville, this innovative program has 15 students trying to convince label talent scouts, producers and artist managers to turn the song demos they selected into hits.

BMI's Shelby Kennedy (center) with students from Belmont's "Catalog Cast" program.

The apprentice song-pluggers, who meet weekly at the BMI office, winnowed 450 uncut songs down to just 40 and are shopping them around. One of their picks, "A Boy Like That," has even been put on "hold" for Tia Sillers by a prominent Nashville producer. Getting a hold, or a request not to shop a song around anymore, is often the first step to getting it cut.

But Kennedy says that even if none of the songs ever get cut, the experience is still worthwhile. "There's a lot to be said just for figuring out where all the different offices are on Music Row," says the industry veteran who also created the Vince Gill Celebrity Basketball Game and Concert, which raises scholarship funds for Belmont students.

The Catalog Cast curriculum features guest lectures by a broad cross-section of people representing key aspects of the industry, including Broken Bow VP Larry Shell, producer Mark Bright, songwriter Phillip White and Warner artist Ray Scott, among others.

And the students aren't the only ones with something to gain. The 35 publishing companies that offered uncut songs for the program, as well as the roster of all-BMI writers, are getting their demos distributed to potential suitors essentially for free. The students themselves have served as a kind of focus group, giving a read on where country music tastes are headed among younger audiences. The program also helps identify potential job candidates who are about to graduate from Belmont's Music Business School.

"One of the things that's very cool about this industry is that we all get to help shape the environment we'll be working in when this next generation comes along," Kennedy adds.