ASCAP I Create Music Expo

April 19-21 at Renaissance Hotel – Hollywood, CA

This year marked the sophomore exhibition of the American Society of Composers Authors and Publishers (ASCAP)’s I Create Music Expo, a conference specifically for songwriters and composers.  Held at the famous Hollywood Renaissance Hotel, this three-day event focused on the craft of songwriting, and the equally daunting task of trying to get the finished product to the world-at-large.  Hot topics at the expo included digital rights and publishing, composing for various genres, and the all-important topic of choosing your team.


Special appearances by such legendary figures as Jimmy Jam, Randy Newman, and Desmond Child provided attendees with first-hand accounts of the DOs and DON’Ts of the industry; and sponsor showcases introduced them to new products, such as Gibson’s new HD guitar.  The I Create Music Expo was truly an all-encompassing conference, crafted to help the active musician, songwriter, and producer alike, network and improve their place within the music industry.

ASCAP was formed in 1914 as the first performing rights organization, designed to protect the rights of its members by licensing the public performances of their works and distribute royalties accordingly. With membership exceeding 285,000, this is quite an overwhelming task. But after almost 100 years in the business, they seem to have it down to a science.

The greatest thing about ASCAP is their willingness to share knowledge.  Music, as with most entertainment facets in general, is a business where ignorance is coveted by the mass majority of its participants;  Musicians prefer not to know the particulars of the business end, save for the date that they get paid.  They’re musicians – their only requirement should be to excrete hit after hit from their ethereal pores.

Sadly, as this is the standard, most entertainers don’t know the royalty rate that their lawyer negotiated, the percentage that their manager takes from them, nor their break-even rate from the record label they signed the sixty-five page contract with.  This leaves many platinum selling artists wondering where all the money is going and why they have been reduced to voicing cartoon characters to make ends meet, or unsuccessfully suing their record labels for back-owed royalties.

To counteract this pandemic, ASCAP holds a series of discussions, workshops, and conferences (such as I Create) to help the working musician have a better understanding of the business that he is so desperate to dominate.  The friendly and (surprisingly) accessible staff is also very eager to assist its constituents with advice and guidance on how to succeed directly, through email and in person at their Los Angeles office.

Upon my entrance to the I Create Music Expo, I was immediately struck by the all-too-familiar feeling that permeates every gathering of musicians in Los Angeles-bullshit.  Every person was in full costume, dressed to impress (although it seemed as though they were trying to impress each other more so than the big wigs that were weaving their through the horde to the various panel discussions), a swarm of super-novices trying to be seen and be scene.


I made my way to the press check in, lost as usual. It’s amazing that, in such a cut-throat business, there are companies like ASCAP and Bobbi Marcus that not only give amazing service to their clients with professionalism and empathy, but they also maintain that rapport amidst a sea of ego-centric, megalomaniacal jerks, pushing and cursing, while the exceedingly patient staff maintain their composure (save for one gentleman that was playing the “too cool” card, but it’s LA so he was forgiven).

I was impressed at ASCAP’s list of events that had preceded the expo:  presentations of “Donny the Downloader”- an interactive school assembly program, the Annual ASCAP Film and Television Awards, ASCAP Pop Music Awards, and most notably the declaration of “ASCAP I Create Music Week” by the Los Angeles City Council- a busy week to say the least.  It is a testament to ASCAP’s work ethic and their “love of the game”; I honestly doubt that the Harry Fox Agency is as much a part of their client’s life, outside of collections, as ASCAP is.

Booths from Pump Audio, Notion, Cakewalk, and Roland provided hands-on product demonstrations and training.  Gibson demonstrated their new HD.6X-Pro guitar system, which sends a pure digital signal, creating immaculate tone and playability.  But the highlights of the conference were the various panel discussions that informed and discussed all aspects of the songwriting and publishing process.

All genres were addressed, including gospel, children’s, and comedy genres.  Unfortunately, attendees thought that the conferences were an opportune time to promote their act or solicit their demo tape.  So most of the panel discussions and Q & A turned into, “How do I get my music to a famous producer, and can you recommend anyone?” with the standard response, “Do your homework and don’t send them to us”.  It is a shame that most people are so intent to get in to the industry that they know nothing about, and they have no desire to put forth the effort to research it.  I would think that if you are going to dole out such a large amount of money to attend as prestigious an event as this, you would at least understand the focal point of the conference.  But that’s just me.

Every ASCAP event is an important one.  They provide the public with a wealth of knowledge that most companies are fearful to divulge.  It is mutually beneficial for the performer and for the royalty collector to know as much about their business as possible – the more you know the more access to money making opportunity you have.

The only recommendation that I can make to the attendees: Get more involved. Attend a workshop.  Read “This Business of Music”.  Understand why you’re attending a conference before you get there.

For the amount of work that the amazing people at ASCAP put into each workshop and event they hold, you owe it to yourself and to them to attend and really know why you’re there…and how lucky you are to be privy to such information in the first place.

Mark Johnston, a native Californian, has travelled the world with various circuses, sideshows, and arena rock tours. As a musical monkey he has delighted fans the world over. Upon his return, he has since founded the Atomsmashers Publishing Company, written 2 books in the company's Warm Horchata series, created a weekly comic strip based around LA's more "colorful" characters, written reviews, articles, and rantings under various pseudonyms; this has since culminated in Johnston being named Captain Fabulous by the Superhero Association of America.