Andrea Martin (left) and Melanie Fiona (right) treat the crowd to a rare duet of Fiona's hit single "It Kills Me." (Photo courtesy of ASCAP)
The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) rolled out the red carpet Tuesday October 8, for its 5th Annual Women Behind the Music Series. The series, which is designed to celebrate the achievements of women in the music industry, is a three-city production, kicking off this year at the Bardot Nightclub in Hollywood before it heads to New York (October 23rd) and wraps in Atlanta (October 29th).
Grammy Award-winning recording artist, Melanie Fiona, recording artist and actress, LeToya Luckett, singer-songwriter/producer, Andrea Martin and Title 9 Productions Founder and CEO Carmen Murray (whose production company manages all of the aforementioned talent) were the women honored at the Hollywood Soiree.
The affair drew a number of industry professionals. Singers, musicians, executives and all-around lovers of music came together to recognize the achievements and contributions the night’s honorees have made in the field of music.
After some mixing and mingling, Andrea Martin opened the night’s program with her magnetic voice. Martin gave a lively performance, covering songs like En Vogue’s “Don’t Let Go” and Leona Lewis’ “Better in Time.” Between songs Martin engaged the intimate crowd with humorous anecdotes about her journey to success in the often cutthroat music industry.
Next, Billboard Senior Editor, Gail Mitchell, moderated a question and answer time with the honorees. A relaxed air settled over the panel, as the women spoke of their individual journeys to success, each one bringing a unique perspective.
“Once a woman came up to me in the mall,” recalled Luckett, “and she was like, ‘your song helped me get out of an abusive relationship, and I thank you for that.’ And when she said that to me, everything made sense. I knew God had put me here to do this for a reason.”
On the panel, Murray instinctively switched between the hats of honoree and manager, frequently prodding the women good-naturedly to inform the crowd of their accomplishments and upcoming projects.
When Mitchell posed the question of what challenges the women have faced in getting things done in such a male-dominated industry, Martin spoke up as a producer.
“There have been times when I’ve done a song, not just written it but produced it as well, and executives have taken it and said, ‘well it needs a little bump on it, we’re going to hire Swizz Beatz or someone to put a little bump on it.’ And I’m not going to argue so I’m like, ‘ok.’ Then they bring it back and it’s not much different than what I did, it was just so they could say so-and-so was on it. That’s been a challenging moment,” Martin confessed.
“The way I get them back is I get one of the girls like Melanie Fiona,” said Martin with a nudge to her colleague’s arm, “to do a song, that gets ‘em back,” grinned Martin before belting lines from on of Fiona’s hits “give it to me right, or don’t give it to me at all.” “That’s how we get ‘em back,” she playfully told the crowd.
On the stage the women had an palpable camaraderie, something Murray proudly attributed to class and credited for their success.
In managing the women, Murray expressed there has never been a concern of “rank” or competition among them.
“As soon as Letoya came in, Melanie said ‘o wow, can I have her number? I’m going to be in Atlanta, I want to get to know her!’ That’s class,” explained Murray, “that’s welcoming between women, that’s lifting one another up.”
Following the Q and A, the women were presented with mementos to commemorate their achievements. Fiona closed the program by singing a few of her hit songs and even delivered a new piece.
The party continued to the beat of a DJ, and the honorees met and took photos with guests.
Grammy Award-winning producer, songwriter, drummer, and musical director Keith Harris was in attendance. Harris was grateful for the events recognition of women.
“I love this kind of event, it gives people a chance to appreciate how talented and influential women are in this field,” he voiced.
“We definitely need more nights like this. I think the next event should be a Women Producers Panel!” Offered Harris, “It’s long overdue and people need to see the women behind the making of hit songs.”