Inspiration, Empowerment and Creative Freedom Defined the Unforgettable 2018 ASCAP “I Create Music” EXPO

May 10, 2018

What a whirlwind! It’s going to take a loooong time to process all the invaluable advice we learned, profound life lessons we received, once-in-a-lifetime performances we witnessed and the connections we made at this year’s ASCAP “I Create Music” EXPO. In the meantime, here are some of the highlights from the last few days.

DAY 1 started off with ASCAP President Paul Williams’s fiery kickoff speech, where we learned about all the progress we’re making in Washington with the Music Modernization Act (it’s not too late to text SONGS to 52886 to urge your Senators to co-sponsor it). We were inspired by five of music’s great contemporary hitmakers, learned how to thrive in multiple genres and found out what today’s most experienced publishers are looking for. Our panel of hit producers shared their secrets, including Jermaine Dupri - who went deep into the creation of Usher’s Confessions. Capping it all off was an unforgettable night of music and laughter from Johntá Austin, Claudia Brant, Marc Cohn, Edwin McCain and Jason Mraz, who played their biggest hits (and previewed some new ones) in front of a packed audience at Ohm Nightclub. At the EXPO Factor attendee showcase, singer-songwriter Sara Sommerer took home the grand prize after a killer display of songwriting and vocal chops.

During her conversation with King Princess, St. Vincent coined the new adage “Freedom is contagious,” a perfect description of the spirit of the EXPO heading into DAY 2. We got schooled on the state of branding partnerships and heard from some of today’s star emo songwriters about how the style has intertwined with pop. In an all-time EXPO highlight, ASCAP Board members Desmond Child, Michelle Lewis and Alex Shapiro (with producer Deputy) led the EXPO in an interactive edutainment session called Welcome to Splitsville, USA!, all about the importance of working out songwriting splits. The music creation extended until the wee hours with the [istandard] Producer & Rapper Showcase, 

Day 2 was also defined by inspiring females. The empowerment started early as Gizzle, Jojo, Priscilla Renea, Lindsey Stirling and Betty Who offered eloquent advice on making it in the music biz; Charlotte Caffey and Anna Waronker debuted music from their brave, important new musical Hit the Wall about the Stonewall riots. Celebrated director Hannah Lux Davis discussed the art of music videos with CLARA-NOVA and Jenny O., two independent singer-songwriters experimenting with the form. We fell in love with Billie Eilish’s refreshingly blunt candor, and heard some incredible stories from Leslie Ann Jones, a pioneering female sound engineer. And who could forget the rad women who performed at the She Rocks Showcase presented by the Women’s International Music Network? 

We started off DAY 3 with our Annual Membership Meeting (watch a video recap here), wherein Paul Williams revealed ASCAP’s record-breaking distributions last year and shared our optimism about the Music Modernization Act. After walking out while playing the guitar solo to “A Hard Day’s Night,” ASCAP EVP of Membership John Titta broke down the momentous last year of achievements by our members, from “Despacito”’s global domination and Cardi B’s historic chart success to Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy sweep. Up-and-coming singer-songwriter Sam DeRosa and “Ex’s & Oh’s” / “Fight Song” writer-producer Dave Bassett performed, and spoke about the importance of ASCAP’s ongoing support to their careers.

The panels and panelists were as diverse as ever on Day 3. We learned from Dan Wilson and The Futuristics, got insights into the worlds of gospel and video game music, and so much more. Whether you were considering signing with a label, finding out about brand new revenue streams or transitioning from beatmaking to film scoring, our panelists were there to help you out.

Our keynote conversation with Meghan Trainor and J Kash was worth the price of admission on its own - Trainor’s energy (and interaction with her family, who flew out from Nantucket to be there) was as infectious as her singles, and J Kash inspired with a ton of straight talk on how to make it as a songwriter.

Closing out the day was one of the most memorable Writers Jams in EXPO history. Andrea Martin slayed the audience with her vocal histrionics and the story behind En Vogue’s “Don’t Let Go;” Prince Charlez sang “Needed Me” a cappella, and performed a stunning new song about race relations in America, with the help of a sign language interpreter; Amy Kuney played an expertly crafted, gorgeous new song she wrote for her mother; Leland wowed us with the story of the unexpected success of Daya’s “Hideaway;” and Cassadee Pope reminded us why she was the first female winner of The Voice, with her incredible pipes and killer songs.

All in all, the 2018 ASCAP “I Create Music” EXPO was a mind-expanding, ear-opening, inspiring three days. So many of our panelists and performers this year (including Meghan Trainor, Finneas O’Connell, Leland and Sam DeRosa) attended EXPO before their careers took off. Who’ll be the next attendee to become a songwriting superstar? You’ll just have to come back in 2019 to find out….