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Songwriter Paul Williams to Deliver Keynote at Midem (EXCLUSIVE)

ASCAP president to outline where value of music should lie tomorrow

Songwriter Paul Williams Deliver Keynote Midem
Mark Sullivan/WireImage

LONDON — Composer and songwriter Paul Williams, who is president and chairman of the board of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, will deliver a keynote interview at music biz event Midem in 2015.

Midem, which is organized by Reed Midem, takes place in Cannes, France. It has moved to a new slot, running from June 5-8 in 2015.

Williams’ hits include “We’ve Only Just Begun,” “Rainy
Days and Mondays,” “An Old Fashioned Love Song” and “The Rainbow Connection.” His songs have been recorded by a wide range of artists including Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Tony Bennett and The Carpenters.

He won an Oscar for original song in 1977 on “A Star Is Born,” shared with Streisand, and won Grammys in 1971 for “Sesame Street,” and in 1980 for “The Muppet Movie.” This year, he won an album of the year Grammy as a featured artist on two songs he co-wrote on Daft Punk’s album “Random Access Memories.”

Williams was elected head of performing rights organization ASCAP in 2009.

Speaking exclusively to Variety from Nashville, Williams said that one of the things he’ll talk about in the Midem interview will be “the life that I have been given through music.”

He would also speak about the value of music. “I love music. I think that we are involved in a creative process that is spiritual at its very depth, and it’s one of immense social value to the world,” he said.

He added: “I want to talk about the social gift that all creators provide. Gathered at Midem are people who reach into the center of their chest, and others who assist those creators, offering a message that comforts the world.”

Williams said that there was a “component to what we do that is a heart payment” that was as important as a “dollar payment,” but he added, “I love the applause, but unfortunately I can’t feed my family on applause.”

Williams said that ASCAP was changing to meet the challenges presented by the age of digital distribution, including the protection of composers’ rights and the fair distribution of earnings.

“It all begins with a song,” he said. “I am sitting here in Nashville looking at the skyline, and somewhere in one of those little houses out there on the outskirts of town is a woman writing with an electric keyboard, probably with headphones on so she doesn’t wake the baby in the next room, and if she manages to find something in the center of her chest that is honest and real about what her life is like, somebody hears that, records it, and is lucky enough to have a hit with it, then she deserves to make a decent living with it.”

He added: “If things don’t change then song-writing becomes a hobby.” But things are changing, he said. “That young lady that is writing a song today is going to have a music business community that will support her dream, and will allow the music lovers of the world to hear it.”

In a statement, Bruno Crolot, director of Midem, said: “We are thrilled to welcome Paul Williams as keynote interviewee of Midem 2015. Midem is the natural home for such legendary music creators, especially when they are as well-versed as Paul in the inner workings of the music business. His presence shows that the core industry is more than ever at the heart of Midem.”

The keynote session will be part of Midem Talks, the Midem plenary conference program covering key topics for today’s music business. The other keynote speaker so far confirmed for Midem 2015 is Danae Ringelmann, co-founder and chief development officer of Indiegogo, the world’s largest crowdfunding platform.