Making a Living Doing
What He Loves: Music

Passenger Profile: Leon Ayers, Jr.


By Kenny Kerner
taxi member success rate ayers
Well, here comes another TAXI success story—a member in his mid-40s with more songs placed in television shows than you can shake a stick at. First a performer who later switched to composing and producing, Leon Ayers has a cool story to tell. So, let's listen...

When did you first begin playing music and what inspired you to do so?

LA: I started playing piano at Chandler Elementary School in Detroit. I was inspired by Mr.West, the music teacher, who started an after school program after recognizing my talent. I was amazed at how he could make the piano sound like an entire orchestra. I also had a lot of support and encouragement from my mother.

How did your schooling help in your career development?

LA: Schooling was very important in my career development. I went to school in a time when they actually had music in the public school system, so I was exposed to music at an early age. School has introduced me to the classics, theory, harmony, melody, two- and three-part inventions, atonal, improvisation, chord voicing, the list goes on and on. I rely on all of these elements when I write. Learning these things allows me to write in different genres. As a background instrumental composer you have to be versatile.

What would you consider to be your first professional success?

LA: My professional success is realizing that I can make a living doing what I love. In three years I've had more success with TAXI than I ever had trying to do this on my own.

What made you turn to composing and producing?

LA: I don't think I chose composing, I think composing chose me. Starting out wasn't anything conscious. Songs would come to me at any time. I can only describe it as a mental radio station. I could think of a style and hear an entire score. The trick was to record all the parts before I forgot it. Now if the track was any good is another story. I've probably deleted hundreds of songs.

What was your first big break as a professional?

LA: I haven't had any earth shattering "big breaks" yet. My success has come one step at a time, being persistent and setting goals. Although, I may have a song in a movie this summer. That would be big! My publisher says, "It's just a dream until you see it on the screen." In the meantime, hearing my music on TV is great.



How did you get your first song placed? Describe what happened.

LA: My first song placement was with a publishing company. I submitted a song to a TAXI listing which was forwarded. A few days later I received a call from the publisher asking for more material. Here is a tip for the musicians who are not happy with their TAXI reviews. When I see a listing that I want to submit to, I write maybe three or four songs. I submit what I consider to be my best two tracks. If one track is forwarded and the publisher contacts you, in my experience 10 times out of 10 they will ask, "What else you got?" I think I sent five songs to them. All five were licensed and have had airplay. Don't get upset with your reviews: You can't beat the price of submissions and a critique on how to make your song better. Did you know submission fees could possibly be a tax write-off?

Why did you join TAXI?

LA: At first I was skeptical about joining TAXI. Everyone I talked to gave me that look. The "you're gonna waste your money" look. The idea of joining stayed on my mind for at least a year. I decided to research TAXI to see what I could find. Basically, looking for dirt. But, every article I read was positive. I even called the Better Business Bureau. I think there was one complaint and that person's money was refunded. I joined in 2003 and I'm glad I did. My first royalty check was more than enough to cover the membership fee.

How has TAXI helped your career?

LA: TAXI has helped me to seriously analyze myself as a composer, which has helped me determine where I fit in the music industry. TAXI was sort of a wake-up call. Am I good enough? How do my songs compare to others? What are my strengths and weaknesses? The critiques guide you in the right direction for what the industry is looking for. Aside from the "Not on target for this listing" there's lots of useful information such as, structure, musicianship, marketability, etc.

When I first joined, my production and engineering scores were 4, 5, and sometimes 6 out of 10. Now, I'm in the 8-9 range. In the past if I let anyone hear my material it had to be on my stereo, or in my car where I knew exactly what the mix would sound like. With the help of the critiques I'm able to get a mix that sounds consistent on any system. The critique didn't tell me how to fix it, but it revealed what area I needed to work on.

TAXI is another one of my one-step-at-a-time processes; giving me the contacts I wouldn't normally have access to. TAXI gets me through the door; it's up to me to build a solid relationship with the publisher or music supervisor so they will come back for more. I currently have close to 300 songs licensed. Through recommended books and articles I've come across invaluable information. One example is a quote in an article that read, "Background music is not art it's a craft." I was a little offended at first until I really thought about it. Background music is not looking for anything fancy or acrobatic 32nd notes, it's looking for a particular mood. This is when the light bulb went on for me. It turns out this is what I'm good at. This is where I fit in.

TAXI does the legwork for you. I read an article that said you have to spend as much time on marketing as you do on writing/composing. If you spend four hours writing you have to spend four hours on marketing and promoting. Marketing can be a full time job in itself. I look at TAXI as the alternative. Instead of you looking for industry contacts, THEY go to TAXI to look for you.

So you see... TAXI is there—especially when you do start placing stuff. They give you even more opportunities to show off and earn more money. And money is good... TAXI is better!!! See ya next month!











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