by Kenny Kerner

To become successful in any field of endeavor, you need equal parts of talent and luck, and a great big helping of what we call FOCUS. That's the stuff that keeps you on track; it keeps your mind from wandering. But this short, simple, five-letter word is pretty hard to come by. In fact, it is responsible for destroying more careers than anything else.

It's kinda easy to determine whether or not someone has his career in focus--just ask him. If his answer seems scattered--"I want to sell millions of records and posters and sell out the Forum and tour the world with hundreds of groupies and win a Grammy"--chances are there's a lack of focus somewhere. If, on the other hand, his answer is a decisive--"I want to be recognized as a great contemporary songwriter"--then you can bet this guy thought about his career and zeroed right in on what he does best. It's called FOCUS.

TAXI passenger Erik Andrews has career focus. He's been writing songs since he was in high school, but only recently (1994) began to seriously focus on pop songwriting. "Before that, I was pursuing a band situation and not just songwriting exclusively," Erik admits. "I was in several bands as a keyboard player and a trumpet player. But I gave that up to focus on what was most important to me. I enjoy being in bands, but songwriting is what I enjoy most."

Because Andrews understands the care and nurturing his career needs to fully develop, he has devised a daily routine to help the process along: "I made a schedule for myself whereby I would allot a certain amount of time each day for practicing piano, trumpet, composition and for taking care of business. The schedule varies, of course, depending on the amount of business that needs to be done. When I'm on a particular roll with songwriting, it alters the schedule. The regimentation--creating the schedule--helps keep me focused. Self-motivation is a tough thing for me, so if I don't create a specific schedule for myself, I find myself wandering around--and I can't allow that."

Name:
Age:
Residence:
Occupation:
Joined TAXI:
Songs Forwarded:
Deals Made:
Erik Andrews
35
Redondo Beach, CA
Arranger/Songwriter
1995
Over 50 Forwards
Single song publishing
deal with Rex
Benson Music.
Like most other TAXI members, Andrews also suffered through the rigors of trying to get his songs to the right people. Here's how he describes the very time consuming, somewhat futile process: "I did the basic research regarding who to send tapes to--like buying the Songwriters Market book. Once I got some songs on tape that I felt strongly about, I made dozens of calls and sent out packages. I kept a very detailed database about every contact I made. It was nothing difficult, but you just have to do it. It's little nickel and dime stuff that's very time consuming, but no one else is gonna do it for me. I got a few bites from publishers, managers and producers. It was enough to start a small network. I was able to get enough people interested because my material was good. That made it so they always listened to my songs when I sent them a tape."

Not satisfied with having kicked a little hole in the industry door on his own, Andrews kept exploring ways of further penetrating the business. "Some time in 1995, a fellow songwriter told me about TAXI, so I called and had them send me their free information package. Songwriters are always looking for new avenues to expose their material. The TAXI thing looked like a very cool idea. I was a little skeptical at first, but I'm skeptical of everything. I liked the idea, so I went for it."

Now that he's a TAXI member and is taking part in the tape submission procedures, Andrews has become aware of another minor hurdle he needs to overcome: "Since I don't write a lot of material that is hard core country or hard core R&B, I'm having a lot of trouble getting some of my material placed. The kinds of songs I write tend to be recorded by some of the more established artists and, of course, it's a lot harder to get songs to those artists. But if and when I do get the right songs to the right people, I feel it could be very lucrative."

One of the "right people" turned out to be publisher Rex Benson, who had a country listing with TAXI. "Rex called me and said he liked one of my songs called "My Heart," and he wanted to publish it. We spoke on the phone and I liked him quite a bit. I said, "yeah, I'm comfortable with you, so let's go for it." This was a few months ago. Rex calls me every now and again to tell me how things are going.

Having been forwarded over 50 times through TAXI alone, Andrews admits that the feeling is bittersweet. "It's frustrating to have so many songs forwarded on but nothing comes of it," he said. "For a while, I let my membership lapse because I wasn't sure it was worth the money. But after I thought about it, I decided it was still the best avenue around for exposing songs, so I got back into it. For those undecided about TAXI, I'd say it's definitely head and shoulders above getting involved in the myriad of tip sheets that are out there. Those things are notorious for being outdated and misleading. I think that in a lot of instances, TAXI will be the only way to get material to certain publishers and producers and managers. And as long as TAXI maintains and enhances its credibility, which I clearly see them doing now, then there should be no problem. I doubt if I'll ever let my TAXI membership lapse again!"









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