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Friday, April 30, 2010 

ASCAP Expo 2010 Highlights

Guest post by LA Recording Artist, Songwriter, and Fashion Designer Kathleen Blackwell

Greetings from sunny Los Angeles, where the 2010 ASCAP Expo wrapped-up last week in the heart of Hollywood at The Renaissance Hotel, just across from the famous “Walk of Fame” and Kodak Theater where “American Idol” is currently filming, for those of you who watch the show. Speaking of “American Idol,” do you remember who placed third in last year’s show? Well, it was cool rocker-chick Allison Iraheta, who happened to be in attendance at this year’s ASCAP Expo. I saw her (and her peeps) walk by me in “sponsor lane,” on the eve of her performance at the Expo. I love her voice and her style! Alas, onto business:

Wow, the ASCAP Expo was one fantastic event and I thank Madalyn Sklar (“Sklar the Rock Star” in her newest Facebook profile photo) for the opportunity to attend on behalf of GoGirls Music! I am excited to share some news and information from the ASCAP Expo and I hope that you learn something new to help your artist career! As always, if you have any questions, ask away, and if we don’t know the answer, we’ll find someone who does!


First, one of the biggest and most consistent pieces of advice across all panels was this: BUILD YOUR LOCAL NETWORK. Sometimes we have the idea that in order to succeed the first thing we need to do is “climb” that ladder and we imagine that to be an “upward” motion. Well, the suggestion in one specific panel, “The Nuts & Bolts of the Music Business,” lead by Eric Bealle (VP, A&R – Shapiro Bernstein & Co.; Author – “The Billboard Guide to Writing and Producing songs That Sell: How To Create Hits in Today’s Music Industry) was not to think “upward,” rather to think “outward and lateral.”

Bealle felt it was so important to start by establishing your local network of peers. He suggested you get to know your fellow songwriters and artists so that you can form your base of support. Then continuing on a local level to establish relationships with your local engineers, recording studios, clubs… local booking agents, managers, songwriting organizations and when you have built your support base, your family so to speak, launching towards climbing that ladder becomes all that much easier to do! And just think, you’ve already started to build your network by being a member of GoGirls Music!

The next rule of thumb Bealle gave to network building was to do the best you can to not burn bridges. Bealle said, “The music business is small.” And I couldn’t agree more! I have worked on and off in the music business for years… upon re-entering the music business a few years ago… there were many of the same faces I had already known, albeit many were in different positions. That said, establishing professionalism and common courtesy early on goes a long way. Most of us are in this business because we share one common trait: We adore music!

"A song a day keeps the IRS away." ASCAP Expo Hit Songwriter Panel

Second, across the panels that featured top, hit songwriters, the general consensus was to: MASTER YOUR CRAFT! In the “Hit Songwriters” panel, Jane’t A. Sewell-Ulepic (“Empire State of Mind,” “When I See You,” “Up, Up & Away,” “Photographs”) said, “Most of my hits were written in 5 minutes” and were based upon “in the moment” experiences. For example, Sewell-Ulepic told a fun story about how “Empire State of Mind” came about. She and a friend were in London and missing NYC, one day when they walked outside, it hit her… she still had NYC in her blood, she had an “Empire State of Mind.” And BOOM… the hook was written on the spot, just like that… simply living, loving and observing.

So, what are some ways you can master your craft? Well according to the hit songwriters, building your craft takes time, years in fact. In the “We Create Music” Panel, Songwriter and Performer Jason Mraz said (paraphrase), “I lived out of my car, traveling up and down the California coast. It wasn’t until I made up my mind that I was ready to make a new connection work… that’s when the magic started to happen… literally got my first break while living in my car.” These songwriters went on to suggest diligent practice, daily writing… and most importantly… learn to accept feedback as a form of positive interference. Most also agreed with the following statement: When a hit song is written, you know it on the spot and you feel it. Other hit songwriters panelists said they know when a song is done when it finally feels done, when it’s played and everybody in the room goes, “Ah, that’s it!”

What did most of these hit songwriters have to say about collaborative efforts? Well, in the “We Create Music Panel,” it was said by one of the panelists (paraphrase), “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been with my writing partner, sitting for hours… bouncing ideas off each other… and just as we’re about to throw in the towel, the giddiness kicks in and we’ve found our lyrical, or melodic concept. You have to find a partner that you really trust to be yourself with.” As well, C. Tricky Stewart (Producer, Songwriter – “Single Ladies,” “Umbrella,” “Touch My Body,” “Just Fine”) said (paraphrase), “It was just after the holiday break, when I decided I wanted to go into the studio alone to write and work on learning a new music software program, when sure enough… I wasn’t the only one who had the same idea. When you love what you do, and the people around you love what they do… nothing stops you… that morning ‘Umbrella’ was born via a collaborative effort of two people who showed up to work out of an inner drive and love.”


Soooo… What was by far the biggest and most consistent question asked by audience members at the panels across the board? Drum roll please! The question was: “How can I get my music heard?” Ta-dum! Yes, that question came up in every single panel with some audience members repeating the question, others begging, and some self-promoting to the extent of “whisking” their cards and CD’s up to the panel participants. (Okay, I didn’t see anybody really whisk a CD up on stage, lol, but I’m sure the desire was there! After all, this type of opportunity doesn’t come along everyday.)

Would you like to know what the answers were? Well, there were three answers that I heard from the panelists in “how to get your music heard”:

  1. Believe it or not, most publishing, music library companies, and many key personnel in these companies WANT to hear YOUR music! One of the best ways to get your music in front of some of these folks is to simply send them an email with what you feel are your best songs. For example, there is a local music library here in L.A. (Marina Del Rey) called Riptide Music. They do accept submissions! They have a listing of what they are looking for on their website (http://www.riptidemusic.com/) and they made a point to say they DO LISTEN. But, please make sure you do your due diligence as well in asking yourself if your music fits what a certain company might be looking for, etc. ALSO… I heard the following phrase more than once, too… “You got 15 seconds to impress somebody with your music.” This is a “click and click” business first impressions count. So, put your best stuff first! To recap point #1: Use your email, pick up your phone and be persistent, you got 15 seconds!
  2. Know somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody (in a key position). Literally. This is a business of connections. And this goes back to building your network! When you find somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody in a key position… ASK for a favor. Politely. And remember, your ASCAP representatives can help you!
  3. Write incredible music! Across all panels, another point I heard consistently was that eventually, “Great music rises to the top naturally.”
***And hey, if you get any leads, let Madalyn know! It’s great to hear success stories!

One last thing before talking about a few of the ASCAP Expo 2010 Sponsors, when it comes to getting your music placed into Film, TV, etc., one of the latest trends (although it’s been around) that was frowned upon by the big music libraries and studios was something called, “Re-titling.” What is “re-titling?” Well, it’s when you take an existing pre-recorded song which has an original title and the song gets re-named, or “re-titled” for legal reasons so that it can be used “free and clear” of any existing contract. In essence, by renaming a song that allows the song to be taken and used in a variety of other ways.

Why are the big studios and music libraries frowning upon this trend? To sum this up quickly, it’s embarrassing if two companies are pitching the same song with a different name to a big studio, it’s a nightmare in financial negotiations and it causes the big studios a bunch of “legal paperwork” headaches. So, the new trend is to tend to take on exclusive artists and songs.


What did panel contributors at the ASCAP Expo suggest is the biggest threat to our livelihood as independent artists? COPYRIGHT issues. Protecting your Intellectual Property Copyrights. The panelists said (paraphrase), “It is imperative as creators of music, that we do what we can to make sure we get paid for our creations, that giving away music for free to studios for use in Film & TV sets the precedent that ‘all music should be free.’” The panel folks went on to say that while getting your music placed for free appears to be a small victory for you because you can add that to your resume, in the long-term it potentially does you and your peers more of a disservice than good. They also said that most of the people in music publishing business know who takes music for free and when they see this on your resume, it doesn’t mean a whole lot to them… even though they know that also means your music is good enough… that’s the extent of it. Yes, a bit of a trick-bag!

In the end, the music business is akin to good friendships and establishing fantastic working relationships with your peers, then building from there. With a good product in hand and diligent work… you CAN live your dream!

Cheers, Beers and Best Wishes!

Kathleen Blackwell

http://www.kathleenblackwell.com/ -OR- http://www.myspace.com/kathleenblackwell


ASCAP Expo: Hands-down the coolest direct-to-fan site + merchant    fullfillment! http://www.nimbit.com

WOW, there were a ton of really cool sponsors! Sponsor name and website listed after their name. A few have business descriptions. If you do not see a website listed, that means one was not listed in the ASCAP Expo Program Guide.

ADAM Professional Audio – http://www.adam-audio.com/

AIMP Association Of Independent Music Publishers – http://www.aimp.org/ – Established in 1977 to serve independent music publishers by providing education, a form for discussion, and a collective voice for advocacy.

Apogee Electronics – http://www.apogeedigital.com/

Audio-Technica – http://www.auralex.com/

Avid –

BANDZOOGLE – http://www.bandzoogle.com/   Provides online tools for musicians to build a professional website, promote their music, and sell directly to fans.

Billboard – http://www.billboard.com/

Blue Microphones – http://www.bluemic.com/

Broadjam – http://www.broadjam.com/

Cakewalk – http://www.cakewalk.com/

City National Bank – http://www.cnb.com/

Course Technology – http://tinyurl.com/cengage-safir


Disc Makers – http://www.discmakers.com/

Etymotic Research –

Focusrite –

Furman Sound –

GENZ-BENZ – http://www.genzbenz.com/

Hal Leonard –

Hello Music – http://www.hellomusic.com/ - If you’re an independent musician, Hello Music is looking to discover your music and help you develop your musical career.

Hercules Stands – http://www.herculesstands.com/


IK Multimedia – http://www.ikmultimedia.com/


iStandard – http://www.istandardproducers.com/

JBL Professional – http://www.jblpro.com/

Killer Tracks – http://www.killertracks.com/

Kohn on Music Licensing – http://www.aspenpublishers.com/

KRK – http://www.krksys.com/

The Lanikai Way – http://www.lanikaiukes.com/

Lexicon – http://www.lexiconpro.com/

Liberty Mutual – http://www.libertymutual.com/ascap - Announcing the new Auto, Home and Renters Insurance Program – ASCAP members now qualify for competitive rates on auto, home and renters insurance through Groups Savings Plus.

Line 6 – http://www.line6.com/ - Is an amp-modeling pioneer and leading manufacturer of populr amplifiers, effects, effect processors, recording interfaces, software, and digital wireless systems.

Los Angeles Women In Music (LAWIM) – http://www.lawim.com/ - LAWIMM is a non-profit Public Benefit Corporation dedicated to fostering equal opportunity for women and men in the music industry and to promoting the advancement of women t hrough empowerment, support, education, encouragement and recognition of their achievements.

MasterWriter – http://www.masterwriter.com/ - Is the most powerful suite of songwriting tools ever assembled in one program.

Miller-Coors – (YES… BEER!) My favorite.

Music180 Break Through – http://www.music180.com/ - In every music success story you will find at least one life-changing, breakthrough connection with an industry pro who provides critical help and guidance.

The Music Business Registry, Inc. – http://www.recordxpress.net/ - Our customers are a veritable who’s who within the Industry.

Music Connection – http://www.musicconnection.com/ - A monthly trade publication catering to musicians, industry professionals, and support services.

Music Marketing – http://www.musicmarketing.ca/

Music Online Alive – http://www.musiconlinealive.com/

MusicPro Insurance – http://www.musicproinsurance.com/ - Your whole world revolves around music. That’s why there’s MusicPro.

Native Instruments – http://www.native-instruments.com/

The New York Times – http://www.nytimes.com/

Nimbit – http://www.nimbit.com/ - Founded 2002, Nimbit, Inc., is the music industry’s leading direct-to-fan platform for musicians, managers, and emerging labels.

Noisy Planet – http://www.noisyplanet.net/ - Is an online music community helping artists around the world connect with fans and colleagues.

Novation – http://us.novationmusic.com/

Ole – http://www.majorlyindie.com/

Ovation – http://www.ovationguitars.com/

Pick the Band – http://www.picktheband.com/

PMC – http://www.pmc-speakers.com/

PreSonus – http://www.presonus.com/

Prism Sound – http://www.prismsound.com/

ProMixes.com – maro@pro-mixes.com

Propellerhead Software –

QSC – http://www.qscaudio.com/

RODE – http://www.rode.com.au/region.php

Roland –

Sennheiser – http://www.senheserusa.com/

Shure Microphones – http://www.shure.com/

SKB – http://www.skbcases.com/

Sony Electronics – http://www.sony.com/proaudio

SoundExchange – http://www.soundexchange.com/

Takamine – http://www.takamine.com/

TAXI – http://www.taxi.com/ - Is the world’s leading Independent A&R Company.

Taylor Guitars – http://www.taylorguitars.com/

TuneCore – http://www.tunecore.com/ - Is the largest distributor and has one of the highest revenue generating music catalogs in the world.

USA Songwriting Competition – http://www.songwriting.net/

Variety – http://www.variety.com/

The Village Studios – http://www.villagestudios.com/

Voyage-Air Guitars –

West L.A. Music – http://www.westlamusic.com/

About Kathleen Blackwell

After earning two bachelor degrees from The University of Texas at Austin (Bachelor of Science in Radio-Television-Film with a focus in International Communications and Bachelor of Journalism in Public Relations) Kathleen made the move to Los Angeles to work for Sony Music Distribution as a Field Marketing Representative for Sony Classical, then working her way up to a Sales Representative, before jumping over to Sony Music to work as a Packaging Manager where she oversaw projects from artists like Korn, Slayer, “South Park,” and Heart.

While with Sony Music, Kathleen also wrote and produced a local radio show, “Silver Signings,” which focused on weaving modern day musical artists through a historical perspective—tapping into the roots of each musical genre. After years of working on other artist’s projects, she sat down at the piano and began to write her own music; 2009 saw the debut of her first CD “To Be Human.” She is currently developing and marketing her Cougar Rock concept, which combines fashion, merchandise & music.

You can find Kathleen Blackwell on the web at:
http://www.cougar-rock.com/ Coming Soon!

Twitter: @KatBlackwell
Facebook: Kathleen Victoria Blackwell

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    Madalyn Sklar is a music business coach & consultant, blogger, social networks expert and author. She has spent over 15 years helping independent musicians and music business professionals achieve greater success. Her motto is: working smarter not harder. She also founded GoGirlsMusic.com, the oldest + largest online community of indie women musicians.

    Madalyn's Sites:
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    * Social Networks for Musicians
    contact: madalynsklar(at)gmail.com


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