If you're like most people, after reading the title to this article, you are probably wondering to yourself, what is the song poem industry? Well imagine, if you will, that you want to write a song. Now imagine that you can’t sing or play any instruments. Then suddenly you stumble upon an ad from an artist seeking lyrics for his next big hit. You send the words to your song. A short time later you get a reply. It tells you how great your song is, and that a major up and coming recording artist wants to record it for their next album. But in order to do this they’ll need a small fortune from you to help cover recording costs.
This is the subject of the 2004 PBS documentary Off The Charts. It examines a fascinating segment of America's sub-culture few know exists. Hundreds of people chase their dream of fame and fortune this way each year. Meanwhile, there are people that make their living recording these strangers songs one after another. The average recording time for a song poem is around twenty minutes. As you can imagine some of these songs can get pretty weird, and the folks that write and record them are even weirder.
This film is hilarious at times. It’s reminiscent of a Christopher Guest style mockumentary like Best In Show. However it’s not fiction. All the strange and interesting characters are real people. You’ll meet a young man who has written countless songs about his love for Annie Oakley and his “kung fu” bicycle. There’s a so called country star who has been making his living doing song poems for over 25 years. There’s also the bizarre people who collect song poem records.
Off the Charts is 54 minutes of pure entertainment. The cast is superior than anything on a reality show. There are moments where you’ll laugh out loud, and you may be surprised at how endearing these strange characters turn out to be. This best part, it’s available for free all over the internet. There’s a link included below.