×

ASCAP Expo Touts Streaming Revenues, Diversity Initiatives and Big Dreams

It was fitting that ASCAP president/chairman Paul Williams took the stage Thursday morning at the opening of the 14th annual “I Create Music” Expo to the strains of Kermit the Frog crooning “Rainbow Connection,” one of the many hits he’s written as one of Hollywood’s go-to tunesmiths.

“Someday we’ll find it,” go Williams’ lyrics. “The lovers, the dreamers and me.” That connection was precisely his message at the annual membership meeting for the three-day schmooze-athon taking place at the Loews Hollywood Hotel through Saturday. “If you have music in your soul and want to turn your passion into a profession, then you are in the right place.”

Williams’ theme was music as “a way forward for positive change through our shared humanity as songwriters,” urging attendee creatives to “write your truth, write your passion, write what you want to see in the world.”

Part of what songwriters would also like to see in the world, of course, is a continued path toward the profession being a livelihood. With this week’s announcement of record revenues totaling $1.227 billion, much of which is directly attributed to audio streaming, ASCAP is looking more robust than ever, and much of the Expo is devoted to enabling musicians, composers and writers to understand how to monetize creativity by asserting their intellectual and legal rights.

After introducing the new board of directors on both the writers’ and publishers’ sides, Williams touted last year’s passage of the Music Modernization Act and European approval of the EU’s Copyright Directive, both of which he insists will “narrow the value gap” between creators and digital streamers like Spotify, YouTube and Pandora.

To that end, Williams cited the MMA’s stipulation of a Mechanical Licensing Collective that will result in digital companies paying out millions in withheld royalties owed to songwriters and publishers.

While the delicate balance of art and commerce was the subject of many of the day’s panels, Williams ended his remarks on a personal note by remembering his late younger brother Mentor Williams, who struggled to follow in his more established sibling’s footsteps. On his last day as a staff writer for A&M Records in almost complete despair, Mentor came up with “Drift Away,” memorably covered by Dobie Gray. The ASCAP chief visibly choked up.

After touting the org’s positive financial results, CEO Elizabeth Matthews (pictured above) then discussed ASCAP’s ongoing campaign for diversity, including a new coalition with Alicia Keys and Universal Music Publishing chairman/CEO Jody Gerson’s “She Is the Music” initiative. Matthews introduced Atlantic Records signing MILCK (aka L.A.-based singer/songwriter Connie Linn), who sang her own “Quiet,” which turned into a viral anthem when she first performed it at the 2017 Women’s March in downtown Los Angeles.

Longtime membership EVP John Titta was next, introducing a new program dubbed ASCAP Wellness, designed to support music creators’ health in “mind, body and soul.” The performing rights org is joining with Aaptiv, an audio service for music-fueled workouts; Better Help, a digital service offering access to therapy and mental health resources; and Shine, a mobile app for “daily mindfulness and self-care.”

Tiutta then brought to the stage ASCAP client Portugal. The Man, who performed a two-song set which included “Live in the Moment” and their ubiquitous, much-synched smash, “Feel It Still.”

Later in the day, Variety executive editor Shirley Halperin moderated the “Publishing 101” panel with Kobalt Music Publishing creative GM Sue Drew; Sony/ATV Music Publishing’s SVP of A&R/head of research and analytics, Jacob Fain; Universal Music Publishing Group’s creative VP,  Luke McGrellis; BMG’s co-head of A&R, Monti Olson, and Warner/Chappell Music’s president of A&R for the U.S., Ryan Press (pictured below).

Ryan Press at The 2019 ASCAP "I Create Music" EXPO - Day 1
CREDIT: Getty Images for ASCAP

 

ASCAP board member and film composer Joel Beckerman and colleague David Vanacore (“Survivor,” “Big Brother”) used the Expo to announce the formation of “Your Music, Your Future,” an education campaign designed to provide free resources for aspiring TV and film composers, while informing them on how to protect their rights in making deals with studios and producers. The initiative was revealed during the Beckerman-moderated panel “Synch Holes & Score Wars: Understanding Your Film/TV Music Contract,” which included Vanacore along with music attorney Bradley Shenfeld, producer/composer Joseph Trapanese (“Straight Outta Compton” and the “Need for Speed Playback” video game) and Alicen Schneider, NBCUniversal’s music creative SVP and head of west coast music operations.

The “rainbow connection” was never more apparent as attendees lined up to grill the panel members, including one eager film composer from North Dakota who asked the best way to get his scores — which he transcribes on paper, of all things — to the right people in Hollywood.

“Well, first of all, you have to move here,” laughed Trapanese, who offered an analogy that the odds of succeeding in the music business were somewhat akin to getting struck by lightning. “And to do that, you have to go to Kansas and stand in the middle of a corn field during a thunderstorm wearing a tin foil hat.”

And while it might seem that it takes a miracle to succeed in music, just last year at this very same ASCAP event, teen singer/songwriter Billie Eilish and her brother and collaborator, Finneas O’Connor, were modestly introduced as part of a panel … with little sense that Billie-mania would be greeting her every move a year later. Now, she’s 2019’s global sensation, and ASCAP will honor Eilish and O’Connor with its prestigious Vanguard Award at the organization’s annual Pop Music Awards on May 16 in Beverly Hills, given to those “shaping the future of American music.”

Sometimes there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Popular on Variety

More Music

  • Azim Rashid

    Columbia Records Names Azim Rashid Head of Urban Promotion

    Azim Rashid has been named senior vice president and head of urban promotion at Columbia Records, SVP Promotion/Operations Jim Burruss announced today. The Sony Music label’s urban roster includes Lil Nas X, Taylor the Creator, Russ, Dej Loaf Dominic Fike, OBN Jay and Polo G, among others. Rashid arrives from Roc Nation where he also served [...]

  • Plume of black smoke rising from

    Universal Music Says ‘Many’ Suing Artists’ Masters Were Not Damaged in 2008 Fire

    UPDATED: Late Friday the attorneys representing Soundgarden, Steve Earle and the estates of Tom Petty and Tupac amended their lawsuit against Universal Music Group over damages to their music archives as a result of a 2008 fire. While most of the amended complaint updated details in the original document — adding information about UMG’s alleged [...]

  • Lady Gaga

    Variety Earns 14 Folio: Eddie & Ozzie Award Nominations

    Variety has received 14 Folio: Eddie & Ozzie award nominations for its coverage of the entertainment industry over the past year. The awards gala, which will take place at The Hilton Midtown in New York City on Oct. 30, celebrates publications that have demonstrated impressive investigative journalism, in addition to thoughtful digital and print design. [...]

  • Music fans listen to the band

    Woodstock Gets a Low-Key 50th Party With Ringo, Santana and That Album Cover Couple

    After efforts to stage a massive event celebrating Woodstock’s 50th anniversary failed to materialize, the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts in New York’s Catskills region became the only game in town. For months, organizers quietly promoted a weekend of concerts that would put the focus on the 1969 event and its musical and cultural [...]

  • Carrie Underwood, left, and Reba McEntire

    CMAs Make Hosting Change: Brad Paisley Exits, Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire Are In

    The CMA Awards have had the most consistent hosting situation of any music awards show in television, but 11 years after installing Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood as the reliable faces of the telecast, even ABC and the Country Music Association have decided it’s time for a switch. Come Nov. 13, Underwood will return for [...]

  • Ava Max iHeartRadio Wango Tango, Portraits,

    Megan Thee Stallion, CNCO, Ava Max to Perform at VMAs Pre-show

    CNCO, Megan Thee Stallion and “Sweet but Psycho” singer Ava Max (pictured) have been added to the performer lineup at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards. The three will take the stage during the VMAs’ red carpet pre-show, hosted by Terrence J and Nessa. Zara Larsson will join the two hosts as a special correspondent. [...]

  • Bruce Springsteen FYSEE Opening Night with

    Bruce Springsteen Drops Introspective Trailer for 'Western Stars' Film

    While initial reports about Bruce Springsteen’s forthcoming documentary around his recent “Western Stars” album said that it would essentially be a concert film, the first trailer for it, which dropped today, suggests it’s going to be a more introspective outing, more in line with his autobiographical performances at “Springsteen on Broadway” in 2017 and 2018, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content