ASCAP Pop Music Awards: Warner/Chappell, Walk the Moon Win Big, John Mellencamp Honored

John Mellencamp performs at the 2016 ASCAP Pop Awards
Credit: Getty Images for ASCAP

John Mellencamp performs at the 2016 ASCAP Pop Awards

Max Martin Nabs Songwriter Of The Year

Setting a new record, Max Martin was named songwriter of the year for a record ninth time on Wednesday night (27) at ASCAP’s 33rd Annual Pop Music Awards, held at the Dolby Ballroom in Los Angeles. Song of the year honors went to Walk the Moon for “Shut Up and Dance.” 

The Swedish Martin, who co-penned nine ASCAP pop hits this year, including Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space,”  and The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face,” broke the record previously held by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. James the Human performed a medley of Martin’s hits, past and present, including  “I Want It That Way,” “…Baby One More Time,” “I Kissed a Girl,” “Can’t Feel My Face” and “Blank Space.” 

“You guys must be sick of me,” Martin joked as he accepted his award from songwriter and acolyte Savan Kotecha. “I wouldn’t be standing here without my team…you guys really make me look good. I’m fortunate enough to wake up in the morning to work with all these people who help me move forward and all these amazing artists.”

ASCAP Taps John Mellencamp for Founders Award 

The Pop Awards recognize the songwriters and publishers of ASCAP’s most-performed songs of 2015.

Presented by ASCAP CEO Elizabeth Matthews, Warner/Chappell Music snagged the coveted Publisher of the Year honors for the third time in five years, following wins in 2014 and 2012. Warner/Chappell Music CEO Jon Platt praised the geographic breadth of Warner/Chappell’s winning writers, spanning Sweden, Canada, Australia and the U.S.

"We’re seeing great songwriters from all over the world create huge global songs and culturally significant moments in music,” Platt told Billboard in an exclusive comment. “If you’re a songwriter, we’re not hung up on where you are from or what type of music you write, all that matters is the quality of your songs. In the modern music business, especially in the streaming age, the idea that talent has no boundaries is finally true. I’m proud of all our Warner/Chappell songwriters and our talented worldwide team for together achieving this prestigious honor.”

Warner/Chappell, the third largest publisher in market share behind Sony/ATV and Universal Music Publishing, had 22 tunes among ASCAP’s Most Performed Songs in the past year, including “Shut Up and Dance,” which was written by the band and Warner/Chappell writers Ryan McMahon and Benjamin Berger of songwriting/producing trio Captain Cuts. Platt, who joined Warner/Chappell in 2012 as president, was promoted to CEO on Nov. 1.

Timbaland to Do Keynote Interview at ASCAP's 'I Create Music' Expo 

BMG and Songs Music Publishing tied for Independent Publisher of the Year, with President Zach Katz accepting for BMG Music Publishing and CEO Matt Pincus and President Ron Perry accepting for Songs. Both publishers were recognized by Poo Bear, co-writer of “Where Are Ü Now,” who performed the hit recorded by Jack Ü featuring Justin Bieber.

Walk the Moon also received ASCAP’s Vanguard Award, an honor given to songwriters shaping the future of American music. Past winners include St. Vincent, Arcade Fire, Beck, Bjork, .fun, Arcade Fire and the Killers

Lead singer Nicholas Petricca recalled a meeting he had with ASCAP’s senior director of pop/rock Jason Silberman shortly after the band had released its first EP: "[Jason] put on the CD and was listening to it for a few seconds and after maybe 20 seconds he started talking over it. ‘You know what you guys really need to do is play some more shows and write better songs.’ And now here we are! Thanks, Jason!” 

ASCAP’s highest honor, The Founders Award, went to John Mellencamp for his exceptional contributions to music. Past recipients include Joni Mitchell, Elvis Costello, Carly Simon, Kiss’s Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, James Taylor, Neil Young, and Paul McCartney. Talk show host Tavis Smiley, who presented the award, gave a moving introduction about Mellencamp’s “Authority Song” being the anthem that he and fellow students at Indiana University-- in Mellencamp's hometown of Bloomington -- adopted as they protested the death of a black student named Denver Smith, who was killed by white officers after they shot him six times in the back. 

In a passionate speech, Mellencamp talked about “growing up in public with my songwriting. It was a good thing for me back then, in the early ‘70s, that there was a thing called artist development, when artists could find themselves and their voice,” he said. “I think I made five or six albums before I sold five or six albums. Lucky for me I came along at that time. Now, today, there is no artist development and I’m not sure I’d want to become a songwriter today."

ASCAP Expo's 'We Create Music' Panel Adds Melissa Etheridge, Lady Antebellum's Charles Kelley, More

Mellencamp called for the industry to come together to stop free music on the Internet before more damage is done. “If not, then the quality of songwriting and the quality of music and the quality of the future of young songwriters is going to diminish down to nothing important and it’s just going to be no artist development and our business will shrink to “do you remember when.'" He then performed “Longest Days” from his 2008 album, Life, Death, Love and Freedom.

Other performers include OMI, who opened up the show with “Cheerleader”;  Audra Mae, who performed “Heartbeat Song,” recorded by Kelly Clarkson; and Dave Bassett, who performed “Ex’s & Oh’s,” a song he co-wrote with Elle KingPriscilla Renea sang an emotional version of Prince’s “Purple Rain” during an In Memoriam segment that also saluted Scott Weiland and David Bowie.

Walk the Moon closed the show with “Shut Up and Dance.” 

The Pop Awards officially open ASCAP’s “I Create Music Expo,” which runs April 28-30 at the adjacent Loews Hollywood Hotel. The three-day symposium, in its 11th year, features such song creators as Timbaland, Brett James, Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo, Chris DeStefano, Rob Thomas, Bassett and Poo Bear discussing the creative process, as well as master classes, panels and sessions. The Expo is open to songwriters, composers, artists and producers in all musical genres. 

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