On The Scene: 2018 ASCAP “I Create Music” EXPO

HOLLYWOOD, CA - MAY 08: (L-R) Singer/Songwriters Betty Who speaks onstage at the 'Renaissance Women in Music' panel at The 2018 ASCAP "I Create Music" EXPO at Loews Hollywood Hotel on May 8, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Lester Cohen/Getty Images for ASCAP)

2018’s ASCAP “I Create Music” EXPO lineup included an illustrious roster of Hall of Famers and chart-topping music creators from May 7-9 at the Loews Hollywood Hotel in Los Angeles. The country’s largest conference for music creators, now in its 13th year, featured three days of panels, workshops, master classes, keynotes and one-on-one sessions with the industry’s top hitmakers.


Festivities kicked off with opening remarks from ASCAP President (and Songwriters Hall of Fame member) Paul Williams and the Billboard-sponsored “We Create Music” panel, an event that has become a staple of EXPO’s opening day over the years. Multi-platinum recording artist Jason Mraz, ASCAP Latin Songwriter of the Year Claudia Brant, noted film composer Junkie XL (Mad Max: Fury Road, Deadpool, Batman v. Superman) and ASCAP Christian Music Songwriter of the Year /chart-topping songwriter David Garcia came together to discuss first breaks, overcoming self-doubt, the art of songwriting and so much more.

HOLLYWOOD, CA – MAY 07: St. Vincent speaks on stage at ‘St. Vincent in Conversation with King Princess’ during The 2018 ASCAP “I Create Music” EXPO at Loews Hollywood Hotel on May 7, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Lester Cohen/Getty Images for ASCAP)

Indie icon St. Vincent and 19-year-old Mark Ronson-signee King Princess joined forces for a conversation between two of today’s most riveting musicians. The pair exchanged vivid stories from their songwriting pasts: their earliest musical memories, finding their identities as artists and penning their first breakthroughs.

Jermaine Dupri walked EXPO attendees through his storied career, including 20 #1 hits on the Billboard charts and his iconic work with Usher (the Diamond-certified Confessions), Mariah Carey (“We Belong Together,” Billboard’s highest-charting single of the 2000s), Jay-Z and Beyonce.

A team of Nashville power players from William Morris, Warner/Chappell, Red Light Management and Spotify tackled “Making It In Music City” in a conversation with #1 songwriter Adam Sanders, whose decade-long rise was also used as a case study by the group. Among other insights, Sanders and team discussed how playing a 2:30PM show on a Tuesday and befriending a pre-fame merch salesman named Cole Swindell changed his life forever.


Ne-Yo treated EXPO attendees to a morning Master Session, pulling back the curtain on a career that’s delivered five #1 albums, a dozen Top 10 singles, multiple Grammy awards and success across genres as a singer, songwriter and producer (…and dancer…and actor).

Renaissance Women in Music brought together some of the most influential women in songwriting – chart-topping artists JoJo and Betty Who, multi-genre standout Priscilla Renea (Rihanna, Kesha, Carrie Underwood), Forbes 30 Under 30 selection Lindsey Stirling and Kanye West collaborator Gizzle – to share inspirational stories of busting through boundaries to become some of the most successful music creators in the world today.

ASCAP Board Members Desmond Child, Michelle Lewis and Alex Shapiro – as well as Rihanna producer Deputy – employed sing-alongs, improv skits, animation and audience participation to take EXPO attendees to “Splitsville USA,” a lively, informative discussion on songwriting splits.

Billie Eilish was joined by Finneas O’Connell – her collaborator, producer and older brother – to discuss her breakthrough 2017 EP and ascent to “Pop’s Next

HOLLYWOOD, CA – MAY 08: Singer/Songwriter Billie Eilish speaks onstage at the ‘Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell in Conversation’ panel at The 2018 ASCAP “I Create Music” EXPO at Loews Hollywood Hotel on May 8, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Lester Cohen/Getty Images for ASCAP)

It Girl” (Vogue) status. O’Connell returns to EXPO as a panelist after first attending in 2014 – shortly before the now 20-year-old music creator wrote “Ocean Eyes,” a viral hit for his younger sister with more than 50 million streams.

Jazz legend Marcus Miller joined three of the industry’s most in-demand music directors for a look at the ins and outs of that world. Highlights included “The Voice” music director Paul Mirkovich’s insights on building trust between a musical director and an artist, composer Kevin Teasley on what makes a great leader in the field and Greg Phillinganes explaining how to write arrangements for the stage while doing his best impression of (his longtime client) Michael Jackson’s moonwalk.

GRAMMY-award winner Darrell Brown spent more than four hours helping music creators get the best of their song ideas. With #1 Billboard hits on the country, dance and pop charts, Brown is uniquely qualified to give hands-on advice to writers in a wide range of genres.


The final day of ASCAP‘s 13th annual “I Create Music” EXPO was a fitting culmination to three days of star-studded events and informative discussions on songwriter advocacy. Day Three began with ASCAP‘s Annual Membership Meeting and continued with the EXPO’s keynote conversation, between pop icon Meghan Trainor and her chart-topping collaborator J Kash. A wide-ranging group of panels and performances took place in between.

Meghan Trainor’s return to EXPO brought an abundance of star power to the event’s final day. After first attending ASCAP EXPO in 2010 as a 16-year-old unsigned artist, the superstar appeared on stage with her frequent collaborator J Kash – the songwriter behind some of the past year’s biggest hits: Charlie Puth’s “We Don’t Talk Anymore,” Maroon 5’s “Don’t Wanna Know” and Jason Derulo’s “Swalla.”

ASCAP‘s Annual Membership Meeting saw Paul Williams and Executive Vice President of Membership John Titta speak upon the organization’s incredible growth this year, the vast majority of which was channeled directly back to ASCAP songwriters. In a year that saw ASCAP members reach new heights with Diamond-selling hits like “Despacito” and a host of Grammy wins, the organization continued their fight on behalf of songwriters, composers and music publishers everywhere. Performances included Dave Bassett (Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song” & Elle King’s “Ex’s & Oh’s”) and up-and-coming ASCAP member Sam DeRosa.

Dan Wilson was on hand to perform some of the modern day classics he’s penned from collaborations with Adele, Taylor Swift, the Dixie Chicks and more. The multi-time Grammy winner also shared personal advice to aspiring musicians, tips on navigating the songwriting process and a look into his popular tour and Instagram series “Words & Music.”

A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad and composer/producer Adrian Younge came together to discuss the soundtrack for the Emmy-winning Netflix series Luke Cage. The duo, who previously collaborated as producers on Kendrick Lamar’s Untitled Unmastered, discussed the unique challenges and opportunities that the medium of film/TV scoring presents.

Finally, as is tradition, Day Three wrapped up with the Writers Jam, featuring some of EXPO’s most beloved music creators performing and collaborating in a loose, celebratory environment. #1 country artist Cassadee Pope was joined by Grammy-winning producer Prince Charlez, multi-time chart-topping songwriter Andrea Martin, Ru Pauls Drag Race composer Leland and Kelly Clarkson-collaborator Amy Kuney.

HOLLYWOOD, CA – MAY 08: Singer/songwriter producer Ne-Yo speaks onstage during the ‘Good Man: Master Session with Ne-Yo’ panel at The 2018 ASCAP “I Create Music” EXPO at Loews Hollywood Hotel on May 8, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Lester Cohen/Getty Images for ASCAP)