It’s inspiring that an event dedicated to female executives, producers and writers who’ve fought for their seat at the table in the music business was standing-room only. At the 11th annual American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers “Women Behind the Music” event Wednesday night in Hollywood, the audience was full of aspiring singers and songwriters who were anxious to meet their heroes and learn how they pushed through an industry that has closed the doors on women of color in years past.
Before honorees Victoria Monét, Roc Nation Co-President Shari Bryant and Capitol Music Group VP of Artist Relations, Marketing and Special Projects Britney Davis took the stage, attendees swapped Instagram handles like they’re “the new business cards” and sipped on special cocktails named after the women being celebrated: Shari B, Victoria’s #1 Hit and Britney’s VIP.
Per her drink, Monét has incredibly catchy chart-topping credits on the Billboard Hot 100: She co-wrote Ariana Grande’s career-first No. 1 hits: “thank u, next” from November 2018 and “7 rings” from February 2019. But the Sacramento native is a hitmaker with a laudable sense of humility: “I don’t take credit; it was teamwork,” she noted.
“I’m really honored and I don’t want to say undeserving, but just very surprised that they appreciate me this much to honor me ever,” she tells Billboard ahead of the event.
The 26-year-old honoree likens the rise of women in music to women’s suffrage — both indelible feats where women mobilized for their right to speak up. And with the women of color not only being honored but also throwing the event as part of ASCAP’s Rhythm & Soul Department, Monét especially felt thankful for their camaraderie.
“Sometimes in the media or movies even, they showcase black women against each other than supportive. And they make it very competitive and sometimes they make us feel like there can only be one at the top at one time,” she said. “So it’s just nice to be on the same appreciation level with other black women and being appreciated by black women.”
When she sat down with Bryant and Davis for the evening’s Q&A panel, moderated by ASCAP Rhythm & Soul associate director Cristina Chavez, the coincidentally coordinated gold outfits onstage made the honorees shimmer. Their predecessors and past honorees — including Motown Records President Ethiopia Habtemariam — were also in the room listening to how these three got into the recording, writing and executive rooms they occupy daily.
As Bryant discussed the universal lesson she learned in each of her positions — “Keep going and not to doubt yourself” — Monét talked about the pressure to create more Hot 100-topping records. “That’s good pressure. I think it makes diamonds happen,” she said.
The young hitmaker went on to explain how the sweet tune of “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music seamlessly chiming throughout Grande’s “7 rings” was inspired by her grandmother showing her the 1965 musical. The full-circle moments kept coming when Davis teased her mother for always requesting to be her plus-one at concerts after she constantly took Davis to shows as a kid. “She takes credit for my career in music,” she quipped.
But while speaking about pivotal career moments, Bryant stressed the importance of forging one’s own business path. “I left [Def Jam] at that moment, I was working like Nas, Jay[-Z], I had all the hot artists at that time, right? And I went to work at a label that was really just kind of building, and everyone was like, ‘What are you doing? Why would you leave this roster?’” she said. “And that was the moment I realized artists don’t make your career; you make your career.”
Chavez later asked all three women how they managed their own self-doubt or imposter syndrome, and Bryant’s blunt response — “I tell them to check the credits” — had the audience roaring with affirming applause. Starting out in the music industry at 16 as an intern at Roc-A-Fella Records, she brought the much-needed, unapologetic swagger to a venue filled to the brim with music creatives.
And Davis’ reminder to take a break and show yourself the kind of love poured into your work felt like another refreshing takeaway from the ASCAP event. “I do know things I’m trying to implement now, like boundaries so that hopefully I can have more of a personal life and a family,” she opened up. “Because we need something outside of this, especially women. We give so much of ourselves to this and I know the older women in this business have told me, ‘Don’t give everything to this. Because when we leave, this business don’t love you.’”
But the three women being recognized promised to continue showing their love to those just like them in the business. Monét vowed to teach younger black women how to use Pro Tools and other tips and tricks behind-the-scenes. “As a bisexual woman of color, I think that it would help in the next five years to see more of us. ‘Cause I know that we’re here,” she said.
Bryant also pledged to help enable more women of color to rise in the industry through her organization PinkestLuv. Helping women reach their full “pinktential,” PinkestLuv gives back to younger women, starting on the community level, with hopes to reach nationwide mentorship programs.
“[Younger women] don’t have the tools, right? And sometimes the tools are just having a conversation,” Bryant noted.