Words of wisdom from those who are at the top of their game in the industry. A selection of our favorite golden nuggets from ASCAP EXPO “I Create Music” 2018, including Meghan Trainor, J Kash, Greg Wells, Claudia Brant, Jeff Ellis, Ne-Yo, Amanda Berman-Hill, Priscilla Renae, Lindsey Stirling.

“My dad told me if you’re gonna do this, you can’t rely on anybody else. You have to know how to do it all yourself. He would buy me gear for Christmas. He would tell me to set it up. Then he’d tell me “Ok, record a song”, then he’d say “Ok, tear it down and put it back in the box!”

So I was this 16 year old girl going into the studio and I knew how to do everything and it kinda freaked people out a little.

He told me I need to write 200 songs. When I did, then he said write 500, then write 1000. He’s been a great supporter.
— Meghan Trainor

“If you’re good, people will know. It’s a small community. You might not think we know, but we know”
 — J Kash
(lyricist: Charlie Puth, Meghan Trainor, & more)

When I first started, I would do five sessions a day, and often two songs per session.
 — Priscilla Renae
(songwriter: Iggy Azalea, Train, Nick Jonas & more)

“My songs that did the best were all written from real life experiences.”
— Ne-Yo

When mixing, create a playlist of reference mixes. Every now and then, take a break from mixing and go listen to the playlist.”
— Greg Wells
(producer: The Greatest Showman, Adele, & more)

You’ll be surprised how many successful people let others control their life. Know what makes it fun for you, and respectfully say no to anything that isn’t worth it. I don’t care if it’s Drake or Kanye calling, I won’t be on call and I don’t work weekends unless it’s an absolute emergency, which it usually isn’t.
 — Jeff Ellis
(producer: Frank Ocean)

I don’t care if it’s fully produced or a guitar/vocal. It just needs to feel authentic” — Amanda Berman-Hill
(Publisher, Sony/ATV)

“When I translate lyrics I usually do my best to stick with the original meaning, but it’s not just that. You also have to match the vowel sounds, and that’s the hard part!”
 — Claudia Brant
(Multi Grammy winning songwriter: Alejandro Sanz, Camila Cabello, & many more)

I was told over and over that I was too different, but that’s the very thing that people liked about me on YouTube
 — Lindsey Stirling
(dancer/violinist/composer, YouTube sensation)

Recurrent themes

These are just a few quotes. However, the same themes keep showing up everywhere:

  • Write music that comes from the heart, that you truly believe in/feel, that you have a deep connection with. Those resonate the most with other people.
  • Work harder than everybody else.
  • Know what your goals are so that you can design your ideal job and set your own boundaries.
  • If you’re good, people will know/notice. The songwriting community is relatively small.
  • Hustle, hustle, hustle.

So, for all you songwriters and musicians, this is yet another reminder to treat your music like a business, and hustle like a startup! You are your own CEO and the decisions you make today will determine your value and how much people will want to invest in you in the future.

ASCAP EXPO 2018 was originally published in SmartMusicianGuide on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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