“I don’t know what it feels like to everyone else, but you know what the high school experience was supposed to feel like when you’re walking around the quad, you’re popular, and everyone’s in the same boat with all that school spirit? I had none of that in my school — I was usually trying to avoid getting dunked in the pool. ASCAP Expo is pretty much exactly what I imagined that was supposed to feel like.”
So says the distinctively colorful Paul Williams, ASCAP president, in setting the scene for the performing rights organization’s seventh annual I Create Music Expo — where camaraderie, not hazing — sets the prevailing tone of an event scheduled for Thursday-Saturday at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel.
Inviting a plethora of songwriters, composers, producers, legislators and music supervisors to discuss the ins and outs of their craft, with an audience largely comprising of songwriters and aspiring songwriters themselves, the event manages to tread a fine line of practical workshop, mass networking summit and all-out pep rally.
Topping off the list of panelists and performers are such bold-namers as Jimmy Webb, the Eagles’ Don Felder, OneRepublic frontman (and songwriter for Beyonce, Adele and others) Ryan Tedder, Jared Leto, three members of the Go-Gos, and songwriter-producer trio the Smeezingtons, consisting of Bruno Mars, Philip Lawrence and Ari Levine.
The Expo’s mixture of insider specifics and personal encouragement is probably best demonstrated in its master sessions, wherein pros lay bare their own processes and philosophies, opening up both souls and ProTools spread-sheets to the audience. This year’s lecture series will feature former Semisonic frontman and Adele collaborator Dan Wilson, ’70s rock mainstay Peter Frampton, Carly Simon, Allen Shamblin, Greg Wells and Norwegian songwriting duo Stargate.
Naturally, there will also be scores of musical performances and networking mixers, as well as the org’s Pop Music Awards (honoring Simon and Trent Reznor, among others) the night before. This year’s Expo also features a DJ panel for the first time.
Film music will have a substantial presence at the Expo as well. Composer Mark Isham will conduct a master session alongside Variety contributor Jon Burlingame; production music libraries will be explored in another; the maestros behind “Breaking Bad,” “The West Wing” and “Burn Notice” will convene for a TV music panel; and Trevor Morris will open up his files for an “Inside the Composer’s Studio” session.
Perhaps most notably for the nascent songwriters present, however, the Guild of Music Supervisors will present a panel titled Getting Your Music Licensed in Film, TV and Beyond.
Panel organizer Anna Granucci hopes the panel will elucidate the new digital-media licensing opportunities available to songwriters, as well as demystify the music supervisor’s gatekeeper function.
“There’s a plethora of music out there from a million different avenues,” Granucci says. “We want to reach out to the attendees, and facilitate giving them all the clues and caveats about licensing music and getting it synced.
“This panel is going to be very interactive,” she says. “We want people asking questions, I want to make it easy enough for them that they feel part of the process, whether their music is licensable or not — because maybe they can go back to the drawing board afterward and make it more licensable.”
Of course, given the numerous high-profile battles fought both domestically and internationally over copyrights and royalty calculation, there will be a legislative element to the confab as well. Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) and ICE director John Morton will appear on a copyright panel with Williams — no stranger himself to arguing for performing rights in front of lawmakers — and attendees are encouraged to record video messages for Congress at various points during the Expo.
Williams says such panels are “key to informing members, and also key to flipping the advocacy switch.” Yet he stresses the focus of the Expo will remain squarely on songwriting.
“If you’re going to be a plumber or an electrician, you actually become one when you start doing it, when you join the union,” Williams says. “However, you become a music creator at a point that is way back there on the horizon, and you stop at a point which is way off as well.
“And there’s a point when you’re not quite in the center of it yet, when it can feel like such a distant and impossible thing to do. To have Randy Newman or Tom Petty or Bill Withers share stories from their lives (at past Expos) that parallel where you were at the beginning of your career, there’s something reassuring about that. It gives you the energy to keep going.”
When: April 19-21
Where: Renaissance Hollywood Hotel, Hollywood
Wattage: Featured panelists include The Smeezingtons (Bruno Mars, Ari Levine, Philip Lawrence), Peter Frampton, Jimmy Webb, Ryan Tedder, Jared Leto, Desmond Child, Don Felder, Mark Isham, Monica, Ron Fair, Charlotte Caffey.
Carly Simon, recipient of ASCAP’s Founders Award, and Golden Note Award designee Trent Reznor will recieve their honors at at the org’s Pop Music Awards, April 18, at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel
6 p.m. Cocktails & poolside dinner buffet, Renaissance Pool Deck
8 p.m. Awards ceremony, Renaissance Grand Ballroom