April 23, 2012

The 2012 ASCAP EXPO Delivered Education, Connection, Inspiration and More

By Erik Philbrook

From the moment the 7th Annual ASCAP “I Create Music” EXPO kicked off in LA on the morning of April 19th at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that those in attendance were energized by the educational, inspirational and networking opportunities available at the EXPO.

You could feel it in the rooms where master classes were held, where top songwriters and composers ranging from The Smeezington’s Bruno Mars, Ari Levine and Philip Lawrence, Dan Wilson, Peter Frampton and Carly Simon to Allen Shamblin, Greg Wells, Stargate, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Mark Isham provided intimate knowledge on craft and creative process. Desmond Child offered his own take on a master class by creating a “town hall” setting in which participants gathered in a communal circle to take advantage of Child’s unique way of sharing his expertise.

You could hear it in the questions attendees asked of the speakers on panels covering important topics relevant to today’s music creator, from music licensing, publishing, touring, digital marketing and fan engagement, lyric writing, international markets, legal issues, collaboration, project funding and asset protection and recording.

You could see it in the faces of audience members when Don Felder (former lead guitarist for the Eagles) performed the blazing solo for “Hotel California” at the powerful “I Create Music” Center Stage showcase, where he was joined onstage by David Paich (Toto), Allen Shamblin and members of The Go-Go’s in an unforgettable writers in the round evening.

Everywhere you turned there were moments both big and small that demonstrated the power and the purpose of this unique event, custom-designed solely for songwriters, composers, producers and those souls for whom a music career isn’t a choice but a necessity.

This year’s three-day EXPO drew nearly 2,500 attendees, proving once again that the pursuit of creating music is not only alive and well, but thriving, across all genres. There was something for everyone, as this year’s EXPO met the thirst for knowledge by offering panels covering a wide range of musical genres, from DJ and club music to R&B and hip-hop, from gospel to concert  music, from Film and TV scoring to commercial music and more.

Other important panels addressed music creators of all stripes. Music business guru Don Passman covered the “Nuts and Bolts of the Music Business,” addressing such specific issues as iTunes, webcasting, YouTube, digital royalties, 360 deals and much more.  ASCAP President and Chairman Paul Williams moderated one of the most important panels of the weekend: “Copyright of Way: How Policy is Shaping the Future of Music,” featuring ASCAP CEO John LoFrumento, Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) and John Morton, Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who all covered what was being done to protect the rights of music creators in Washington, DC. Morton perhaps delivered the most potent message of the day: “If innovation isn’t protect, it will be lost.”

If the incredible concentration of knowledge at the EXPO wasn’t enough, the characteristic that defines ASCAP conference more than any other is the chance to be heard and to be taken seriously, face-to-face, by panelists and other attendees. Song feedback panels allow them receive advice on their music from industry experts; one-on-one sessions allow them to ask direct questions of experts to receive career advice; and lunchtime roundtables provide a casual environment in which top music creators generously share their insights with participants.

This year, a highlight was the ASCAP EXPO Attendee Showcase, hosted by acclaimed songwriter Eric Bazilian, which featured a group of attendees who earned the opportunity to perform before their peers. In addition, each night, the Renaissance Hollywood Lobby Bar was packed as an eclectic selection of attendees performed into the late night hours.

A signature feature of the EXPO has always been the closing “Writers Jam” panel, in which some of ASCAP’s most successful songwriters from across the musical spectrum bring it all home with fun, stripped-down performances of some of their best-known songs. This year Jonny Lang, Hillary Lindsey Priscilla Renae and Lindy Robbins delivered the goods with sheer power, personality and incredible songs, leaving the audience covered in Goosebumps and inspired to head home to create their own masterpieces.

Be sure to check out ASCAP's EXPO Blog for current and upcoming video, photo and editorial coverage from this year's EXPO.