Given the ever immersive battles waged by musicians to keep their fair share of profits in today’s Wild West digital music landscape, a performing rights organizations like the American Society of Composers, Authors and Producers (ASCAP) often has its hands full bouncing from courts to boardrooms. But all that work would be useless without supporting the org’s fundamental building block: songwriters in the act of creation.
Marking its sixth iteration later this month at the Renaissance Hotel Hollywood, ASCAP’s I Create Music Expo is designed for precisely that reason. Having seen panels, master classes and showcase performances from the likes of Quincy Jones, Tom Petty, Justin Timberlake, Randy Newman and Bill Withers in the past, this year’s edition welcomes such heavy hitters as Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald, Mike Elizondo, Lindsey Buckingham, Fergie and Jermaine Dupri.
Songwriter Paul Williams, who has been ASCAP’s president and chairman since 2009, says simply “getting songwriters out of the house” has a virtue all on its own, with personal relationships and mentorships having played such an invaluable role in so many careers.
“Opportunity walked up to me in shoe leather,” he remembers. “It was meeting somebody who knew somebody, and all of the sudden I was sitting in a publisher’s office. Creating all these panels and workshops is fabulous, but the primary benefit is in relationships.”
As is the case with most such conferences, the actual tangible benefits for attendees are difficult to quantify, though Williams points to recent success story Fransisca Hall, who landed a songwriting job at EMI after participating in a one-on-one session last year.
The Expo looks to take a catholic view of the industry, inviting old-school hitmakers and industry execs alongside hip-hop producers No I.D. and Boi-1da, film industry mavens Tracy McKnight and Marco Beltrami and left-field legend Van Dyke Parks.
“I have a tendency to get all Jiminy Cricket on this stuff,” Williams says with a laugh, “but I think there’s a harmonic energy to a gathering like this. … To wander through a gathering of a couple thousand people from different areas of the industry but with that same spirit, it’s healthy for me. It reminds me why we do this.”
ASCAP Golden Note Award:
Presented to Fleetwood Mac maestro Lindsey Buckingham, followed by an interview session conducted by 2010 breakout chanteuse Sara Bareilles.
ASCAP Founders Award:
Presented to Rod Stewart at the org’s Pop Music Awards, the day before the Expo.
The Writers Jam:
An in-the-round discussion and performance, featuring John Rzeznik, Ryan Tedder and Chris Stapleton.
Featuring Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald, Desmond Child, Marcus Miller, Eric Whitaker, Mike Elizondo, Jermaine Dupri, Antonina Armato.
Featuring songwriters Josh Kear, Savan Kotecha, Kevin Rudolph.
Film composition panel:
Featuring composer Marco Beltrami and helmer Wes Craven.
Music placement panel:
Featuring Lionsgate vice president of film music Tracy McKnight.