ASCAP's 12th annual "I Create Music" Expo took place last week in Los Angeles.The national conference dedicated to songwriting and composing provides a unique opportunity for songwriters, composers, artists, producers, publishers - and those in the industry that support them - to come together to share their knowledge and expertise. The programming offered to attendees includes celebrity Q&A's, master classes, songwriting and composing workshops, publisher and business panels, one-on-one sessions, DIY career building workshops, showcases and performances, song feedback panels, state-of-the-art technology demos as well as leading music industry exhibitors.
On the opening day of this year's conference, Billboard senior writer Melinda Newman moderated the "We Create Music" panel, featuring five of today's most successful songwriters, Sam Hollander, Dave Pirner, Ashley Gorley, Jeff Cardoni, and James Fauntleroy who offered insight to the aspiring songwriters in attendance. Hollander, who has written hits for acts such as Fitz and the Tantrums, Train, and Pentatonix gave the following advice: "Dare to suck. You have to start somewhere and you have to be fearless."
On another panel, "Getting Credit Where Credit is Due," songwriters Desmond Child, Aloe Blacc, Alex Shapiro, and founder of independent song data web platform/app Auddly Niclas Molinder discussed the importance of crediting songwriters and producers in the age of streaming. Blacc said, "If I fall in love with a songwriter, I should be able to type that name into a service and listen to those songs regardless of who the singers are. The story behind the song is just as important.” Molinder stressed the responsibility of creators to take charge of their data and know their splits. Not only is this important for creators to receive their well-deserved public credit, but also for them to be able to properly collect their rightfully earned royalties.
On the topic of songwriter royalties, congressional legislator Congressmen Doug Collins (R-GA) and Representative Karen Bass (D-CA) joined the "Music Licensing Reform: Fight For Your Rights" panel to discuss the issue of reforming the U.S. music licensing system. The two legislators, though from opposing political parties, both agreed that the current system, anchored in 76-year-old consent decrees, is antiquated, inefficient, and stifling free market competition. The panelists discussed the Department of Justice's denial to review the consent decrees, and how songwriters need to continue to be involved, meeting with legislators to educate them about the impact reviewing these decrees could have on their ability to make a living as songwriters.
Finally, at the Expo's closing keynote session, Stevie Wonder was presented with ASCAP's first Key of Life Award. For two hours, Wonder reflected on his 50-plus year music career, what inspires his songwriting, and the stories behind some of his classic songs. On staying committed to music, Wonder said, “You have to put work into that which you love. Then you’ve got to listen objectively. It’s fun to get to a place where you can challenge. When I was doing Songs in the Key of Life, I had this little transmitter that I hooked up and would listen, listen and listen. It’s all about the feeling every time.” At the end of the keynote conversation, Wonder offered the opportunity for ASCAP to select emerging songwriters to collaborate with him on four songs he’s been developing.