With film and television increasingly a source for musical discovery, songwriters Glen Ballard, Sondre Lerche and Jesse Harris are finding visual media an inspiring source of storytelling -- not to me

With film and television increasingly a source for musical discovery, songwriters Glen Ballard, Sondre Lerche and Jesse Harris are finding visual media an inspiring source of storytelling -- not to mention work.

The three songwriters addressed the Billboard/Hollywood Reporter Film & TV Music conference today (Nov. 1) in Los Angeles.

For his first film score (for the movie "Dan in Real Life"), Norwegian singer/songwriter Lerche was inspired by visiting the set, going to auditions and even giving star Steve Carell guitar lessons.

"That was my main inspiration, to be there," said Lerche. "I found out only later that this is not how soundtracks are usually made."

Ballard, who contributed music to the film "Beowulf," and Jesse Harris, whose work is heard in "The Hottest State," agreed that they wouldn't necessarily quit their day jobs as songwriters in the music industry. But, as Ballard pointed out, films are "a great outlet for songwriters, along with all the other things we try to do to make up for the fact that people don1t buy records as they used to."

Most important to the craft, the panelists said, was creating music specifically for the film as opposed to simply recycling material they already had lying around.

Lerche wrapped up the panel with an impromptu performance of a song that he wrote in the house where "Dan in Real Life" was filmed.

"There are so many singer/songwriters and it's all about expressing yourself. But I've done that for four albums," he offered. "It's refreshing to have that perspective, to be part of a team that's not about yourself."

Earlier, during a master class on choosing music for visual media, the consensus from panelists was that a decline in both box-office and recorded music sales has led to fewer throwaway soundtracks, greater access by the studios to music by major artists, and bigger opportunities in film, TV and video games by smaller musical acts.

"We're no longer in the era where you have record stores next door to the theaters in the malls of America," said Walt Disney Studios president of film music and soundtracks Mitchell Leib. Successful soundtracks -- whether they be "Grey's Anatomy" compilations or "High School Musical," the top-selling album of 2006 -- are featured prominently in a film or TV show and are integrated both story-wise and in the film's promotion, said Leib.

Gone are the days when a big-name artist would disdain working on a film, when their label would insist on cramming in one of their songs that didn't fit, or when a big act would simply throw some songs together without regard for whether they actually helped tell a story, the panelists said.

"I'm working with artists and record producers who have never scored films before. It's an incredibly vital creative time now," Sony Pictures president of worldwide music Lia Vollack said.