NASHVILLE, Tenn. --- Musicians thinking they can change the world?
Nothing new there, but a group of big names from the Christian recording industry is putting that idea to the test with an unusual plan to collectively write 10 to 12 songs and donate them to charity.
Any money the tunes generate -- and with people such as Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman and Chris Tomlin involved, it's a safe bet there will be a good bit -- will help the poor for as long as the songs are around.
"All those names on the list at some stage have written with each other over the last five years," said Martin Smith, the lead singer for the Arundel, England, group Delirius?, during a recent phone interview. "We thought, 'Hey, let's all get together for a week and see what we can all do together on a creative level, and why don't we give the songs away before they're written?' "
The 37-year-old singer-songwriter is organizing the retreat, which will be Monday through Friday in Perthshire, Scotland. So far, 13 people are onboard.
He said the project has drawn some attention from the secular music world, and he would welcome its involvement, too.
"It has a We Are the World vibe," Martin Smith said, referring to the star-studded 1985 effort to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia.
Proceeds from the songs written at the retreat will be donated directly to the poor, for clean water, food, medicine -- whatever. Half will go to the songwriters' charity of choice, and the other half to a yet-to-be-determined charitable program agreed on by all the writers.
"This is a slightly different model in that the actual charities will own the copyright," Mr. Smith explained. "That way, we can bypass the publishers, the managers, the agents, ASCAP, BMI. One hundred percent of the money comes directly to the copyright holder."
The copyright holder in this case will be Compassionart, an organization that Mr. Smith created as a conduit to the charities.
Besides the two Mr. Smiths, Mr. Chapman and Mr. Tomlin, participating songwriters are Darlene Zschech, Matt and Beth Redman, Tim Hughes, Paul Baloche, Israel Houghton, Graham Kendrick, Andy Park and Stu Garrard.
Among them, they've sold at least 42 million albums and had 82 No. 1 songs on the Christian music charts.
Though the artists have co-written songs before, they've never done it in this kind of setting, with a dozen other writers. The plan is to break into small groups of three and see what happens over the five days.
"We've all tried to sit down and write a hit and failed. The ones that get out are the ones you never expect to," Martin Smith said. "I think we'll just have to get in there and see what comes of it."