International music and media industry professionals gathered for an eventful MUSEXPO 2023 from Sunday, March 19, to Wednesday, March 22.
This year, MUSEXPO took place at the Castaway restaurant and event venue in Burbank on Monday through Wednesday, along with evening networking receptions that were carried out at S.I.R. Studios in Hollywood on Sunday and Monday. The days-long conference is organized annually by A&R Worldwide, an artist discovery and development company whose president and founder is Sat Bisla. In 2005, Bisla created MUSEXPO in order to unite people throughout the world who are in the music, technology and media industries, coupled with delivering a space for talented up-and-coming artists to put their skills on display.
On Monday, the conference’s first-ever International Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to All Access Music Group President/Publisher Joel Denver. Denver was interviewed by radio personality Ellen K of the “Ellen K Morning Show” prior to being offered the award by Bisla and handed an official proclamation by Burbank Vice Mayor Nick Schultz at a congratulatory luncheon.
In addition, City of Burbank personnel dined at the luncheon as a new sister city partnership was established. This union was initiated when former Burbank Mayor Jess Talamantes and Mayor Alessandro Ghinelli of Arezzo, Italy, crossed paths at MUSEXPO 2022, formed a friendship and decided to make Burbank and Arezzo sister cities. One year later, Ghinelli and Schultz signed a sister city agreement on the MUSEXPO stage while being joined by Talamantes. Following the signing, which marked Burbank’s first sister city agreement in nearly 40 years, Ghinelli discussed his hope for productive collaborations between Burbank and Arezzo moving forward.
“For me, it feels very good in the sense that what we thought to do together finally was a reality. And I am confident that in the future the two cities can make really a lot of good events together,” Ghinelli said. He added, “It’s actually a very good merging of ideas and of business between the two cities.”
A Monday morning panel on the subject of “Building a ‘Clear Path’ for Artist Development & Breaking New Talent” was moderated by A&R executive, composer, songwriter and music producer Ron Fair and featured fellow industry leaders Aton Ben-Horin, Ben Maddahi, Ericka Coulter, Taylor Jones, Taylor Testa and Clinton Sparks.
California State University Northridge film student and musician Nick Huh left his spring break destination, Arizona, one day early to attend MUSEXPO. Huh detailed that he was eager to listen to insight from Sparks, a music producer, songwriter and DJ who has contributed to tracks by top artists like Lady Gaga, Pitbull, Beyoncé, and more.
“It was really inspiring,” Huh said of hearing Sparks’ advice. “What he was saying was, A: how to market yourself as an artist … That’s something that I really need to know, and it was so helpful. They went through different ways to promote through TikTok, all kinds of other stuff.”
Guests of MUSEXPO witnessed numerous other informative and celebratory panels. On Tuesday, producer, music publisher, singer, songwriter, and A&R executive Kara DioGuardi interviewed ATCO Records President/Atlantic Records President of A&R Pete Ganbarg, who was given the International Music Person of the Year award. Acclaimed performers and compositions, among them Icona Pop, Jason Mraz, Christina Perri, Matchbox Twenty, and the original “Hamilton” Broadway Cast Recording, have been signed and/or A&R’d by Ganbarg. In response to being named International Music Person of the Year and receiving a city proclamation recognizing this, Ganbarg voiced his enthusiasm over the accolade and his involvement in MUSEXPO.
“It’s exciting. This is an event that I’ve spent a lot of time at. Sat and his organization are friends [of mine] for a long time, and I was just honored to be asked last fall if this could happen,” Ganbarg said. “I’m glad it worked out.”
When reflecting on his journey, Ganbarg opened up about the “great mentors” he’s encountered along the way who have motivated him to “pay it forward and do the same” for others. He then advised emerging music professionals to remain driven while making connections with peers.
“Meet everyone you can,” Ganbarg said. “Chances are the people that you meet who are in your shoes today will be running whatever industry you’re in with you 20 years from now. So meet everybody. Introduce yourself. Don’t be shy. Go out there and really connect.”
Other seminars that were part of MUSEXPO were “Meet the Music Creative Team from Paramount,” “Market Focus India,” “The Power of Audio,” and “A Gateway to Signing & Sync Opportunities.”
Additionally, Fox Entertainment Music Head/Executive Vice President Mamie Coleman was announced as the MUSEXPO International Media Person of the Year during a keynote and gala dinner on Wednesday. Schultz and Burbank City Councilmembers Zizette Mullins and Tamala Takahashi appeared at the dinner and delivered official proclamations to Coleman, including one proclamation on behalf of the City of Burbank, in observance of the award.
Throughout the conference, several artists performed for the crowd, including Danny Baldursson, Waiting for Smith, Single By Sunday, Caity Baser, Noble, MASI MASI, Holly Riva, Jordan Anthony, and Sarah Reeves. Musicians likewise took the stage for “Play Us Your Hits,” a Tuesday evening showcase in which songs were introduced to music executives.
Due in part to City of Burbank and Visit Burbank staff members recommending that Bisla host MUSEXPO locally, the conference has been held in Burbank since 2019. Bisla, who scored his earliest music industry role in Burbank back in 1995, is familiar with the city and believes the area is well-suited for the goals of the music and media event.
“I feel Burbank has a more relaxed energy, cleanliness and feels safer to our U.S. and global delegates than Hollywood and West Hollywood in recent years,” Bisla said. “Burbank is also the ‘Media Capital of the World’ which ties in perfectly with our focus on music and its integration to pop culture and entertainment, and so much of that is created in Burbank.”
He added, “In addition, Visit Burbank and City of Burbank have made us feel very welcomed and have been extremely supportive, and see the bigger picture in the year-round business our event can bring to the local hotels, restaurants and other business establishments.”
In past years, Diane Warren, Jimmy Kimmel and Larry King are some luminaries who have participated in the networking function, while artists like Katy Perry, Jessie J, LMFAO, Robyn and Gavin James have sung at MUSEXPO talent showcases. Bisla says these performances have “either launched, or helped artists get signed to their global record, publishing, sync or booking agent deals.” Aside from supplying singers with chances to be heard, MUSEXPO has nurtured prosperous business ventures, built productive connections, and imparted attendees with vocational knowledge since its beginnings, Bisla went on to state.
“MUSEXPO has helped foster priceless opportunities for the global music business and helped forge new ideas and relationships that have helped with the creation of lifelong business relationships and beyond,” Bisla said. “It’s also inspired the launch of ideas that are now global multi-million, and in some cases multi-billion dollar, businesses. It’s opened people’s eyes and ears to the evolving global music business well before many were aware what was beginning to happen around the world — it’s become an essential platform for those who want to be in the know about the future of the music business.”