Musicians Need Many 'Hats'
to Survive and Thrive

Passenger Profile: Robert Porembski


By Kenny Kerner
taxi member success rate porembski
While most of his other friends were working odd day jobs, Bob was out gigging for a living—making money making music at the age of 11! It's been success after success since then. Realizing that working at a job you hate is "slow death" as he calls it, Bob Porembski devoted his life to a career in the music business. Check out his story and learn how TAXI helped him open some industry doors:

When did you first get started in the music business?

I did my first paying gig when I was about 11 years old, playing a private party with one of my first Rock bands. It was as early as then that I realized, hey, what a fun way to make money! I continued to play Rock 'n' Roll all through high school with my good buddies from PHAM! (We remain friends to this day and continue to record—the first song on our latest CD, ac-ro-nym..., was in a TV show thanks to TAXI — visit myspace.com/phamband to hear it.)

While all our other friends were working fast food type jobs we were gigging two or more times a week and made a small circuit out of high schools and teen clubs where there had previously been none. All the while writing songs and adding them to the huge repertoire of covers we did. By the time I was a teenager, I was hooked up with a manager and producer who helped me take the recordings of my songs to the next level.

When did you first realize that music could be a career and not just a hobby?

When I was making more money just playing on weekends than friends who were working all week at something they didn't particularly care to be doing. Anyway, it was never just a hobby for me. I realized early on that while there is dignity in all work, working a job that you don't love (or worse—hate) is a kind of slow death.

Were you formally trained? Did you learn music in school?

I started out wanting to play guitar, so my parents bought me an accordion and gave me lessons on it! Back then it wasn't cool, but it sure is cool to play accordion now. I know a hell of a lot of polkas! I always considered myself a Rock 'n' Roll musician/guitarist. When I was an undergraduate, there were no music business courses or technology courses like there are now. As a matter of fact, they were just getting Jazz programs off the ground and Rock guys were anathema to most music departments. So, out of necessity, I pretended to be a straight-ahead Classical-type musician. I also had two great academic mentors: Dr. Dinu Ghezzo and Dr. Ken Peacock at NYU. I have a BA in Music from New York University and a Master's Degree in Music Technology, also from NYU. You don't need any degrees to play Chuck Berry, but they sure don't hurt either. I hope my music business students from Mercy College are listening.



Describe your first professional experience in the music business.

As I mentioned, I'd been playing gigs from a relatively young age but around the age of 17 I had a trunk load of what many considered good Pop tunes. I was fortunate enough to be taken under the wing of a manager named Lou Piccardi (an artist in his own right with a few major label deals) and a producer named Joe Rene (one of his claims to fame was the Bobby Lewis hit, "Tossin' and Turnin'"). Those were my first experiences with the NYC recording studio scene. I learned a lot from all the recording sessions I did with them as well as my experiences with the different publishers and record companies we had to deal with.

Your bio says that you are a songwriter/composer/recording artist/performer/producer/music educator. Which of these professions gives you the most satisfaction? If you could only choose one, which would it be and why?

That certainly is a lot of hats, isn't it? That's a tough one, since each one of these things are an essential part of my career, especially in this DIY time we live in where musicians need to be able to wear as many hats as possible to not only thrive but to survive.

Somewhere along the journey I had to go from a guy who just wanted to play Rock 'n' Roll guitar in clubs to being DaVinci. My teaching is important because when you think about it, what's more important than educating young minds for the positive, especially since you don't really learn about the music business from a book but from people in the business? Performing has, of course, always been fun and continues to be (if it's a good gig, that is). And there is nothing like creating a great recording of one's work or producing one for somebody else.

However, if I had to choose one, it would have to be songwriting. I've always found something noble and romantic about the epic nature of this three-minute Pop art form. My original goal as a musician was to be the best songwriter I could be and to try and create the definitive "great" song. So, despite having to learn to love the word "no" (song-pluggers hear that a lot), once you've developed a thick enough skin to truly function in the business, there is something extremely satisfying about writing a great song. If you are lucky enough to have some success with your songs, well, that's the ultimate. Whether they are hits or not, I take great pride in my songs. And I'll be darned, when they actually get heard, people like them!

How does it feel to have a song on one of television's longest running daytime soap operas—The Young and the Restless?

While it was not a life-changing experience, having my song, "Feelin' More Like Christmas," on TV certainly is cool. Every song I have on TV is a cool thing. Let's face it, for the most part, success in the music business is nothing more than a series of what I like to call, "little victories." Sure, as songwriters we all want to have that one big "lottery" type score of a hit, but those moments are rare, if they ever happen at all. So, the working songwriter plugs away to get as many great placements as he/she can, savoring every success along the journey. Gee, sometimes just getting a song forwarded by TAXI seems like a "little victory"!



How did you first hear about TAXI and why did you become a member?

I make it a practice to read almost every industry related magazine I can get my hands on so I must have seen advertising for it. I became a member because it seemed like a very, very good idea whose time had come. Having gotten tired of the "I'm sorry we don't accept unsolicited material" mantra that the industry was chanting, TAXI just made sense. TAXI makes the songwriter's life easier and I always recommend it to my students who are struggling to make contacts in the industry.

How has your membership in TAXI helped your career?

TAXI acts as the great facilitating middle man. When I don't particularly feel like manning the phones and making contacts on my own I know my music is going to get listened to without the hassle of me having to be on the constant hustle. Networking is important, but sometimes you just want to know that the song will be listened to and placed without a lot of the nonsense that sometimes accompanies song plugging. While the screening process is not perfect (what is?), TAXI is still one of the best ways to get your music heard. TAXI also has opened up some areas for me that I may not have previously had access to. In short, TAXI works. You have to just be willing to work TAXI.

What one important thing has the music business taught you so far?

Humility and perseverance. The importance of tenacity in the face of what can seem like insurmountable obstacles and that no matter how successful you are you can always take your art to another level.

What a great way to close out the Passenger Profile section for the year. During the past 12 months I tried to bring you stories of people just like yourselves—do-it-yourself musicians who are up against tremendous odds—all attempting to get your music heard by the Big Wigs.

I also tried to tell you that TAXI can help if you help TAXI by reading the listings carefully and following the instructions to the letter. I have been affiliated with TAXI since the very first day it opened its doors and I have not come across a more sincere, hard working, honest organization anywhere! No—they did not pay me to say that.

So, until 2007, I wish you health, happiness and hits! And please, don't ever give up.











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