Answered by Michael Laskow, TAXI CEO
I have been enjoying your last several newsletters. I am a self-taught, new musician and I have a lot to learn. Could you suggest what is the best home studio equipment that is simple and good enough to produce CDs that I can submit?

— Thanks,

Sherry L. Nickerson


Hi Sherry,

There are so many great systems out there that it's hard to recommend just one. That being said, I've watched in amazement as my 10-year-old daughter has produced some songs using GarageBand, which comes free with every Apple Macintosh. It's a remarkably easy-to-use program, and has tons of great features.

If you don't have a Mac, then the basic (and free, I believe) Pro Tools system is also very popular and used by millions of people.

We also have a great thread going on our forum at http://forums.taxi.com//index.cgi?board=nick which is moderated by Nick Batzdorf, a true world-class expert on home recording. I think you'll learn a lot by visiting this thread and asking questions which will be answered by Nick and many of your fellow TAXI members who have similar questions and answers.

Home recording is actually much simpler than one might think, because today's home gear is so much easier to use than in the past, that I think anybody who is willing to invest a little time can achieve great results!

— Enjoy,

Michael




I've been a member for a couple of years now, and have gotten several deals with music libraries as a result of forwards, but there's something that I still can't come to terms with.

I've had several instances, including for songs that actually landed me deals, where one screener tells me the work is great, yet another screener suggests all kinds of changes to be made and doesn't forward. So now I'm left thinking "Well, on one hand this song has gotten good reviews and has even landed me a deal, but on the other hand, it's getting rejected equally as much and the screener is suggesting changes."

How do I know whether to leave the track alone or to try modifying it? If a track has gone so far as to land me a deal, is that enough proof that I should leave it how it is?


— Erik Haddad

Hi Erik,

First, let me congratulate you on getting your deals! Did you tell us? You'd be surprised how many members never do, so I'm hoping all the folks reading this, who HAVE gotten deals, but have not told us, WILL.

As to getting different opinions on the same material: we hear that pretty frequently, and I understand your frustration, but please consider this. If you and I were to view the Mona Lisa, and were then asked our opinions, chances are that one of us might LOVE her smile, while the other might not.

Ask any two people their opinion on ANYTHING, and you're likely to get two opinions. When TAXI's A&R staff is listening, they are each "seeing" the track through different eyes, depending on what the listing has asked for. In the end, I always tell people to look for the similarities in all of the critiques that you get on the same song or track, and use THOSE common suggestions as the basis for what you might want to consider changing or improving.

Frankly, I'd be suspicious of any service that gives you the same comments from different people. It might make me think that they're using "rubber stamps" in their responses... something you'll never get from TAXI. You may not always agree with our screeners, but you can always be assured that their comments are honest and meant to be helpful and constructive.

— Warm regards,

Michael




Alas, I have finally come forward. For many years I have locked myself away and worked at my art. I am now ready to bring forth the soul of my being for a jubilant celebration, or a painful execution. A self-pronounced singer/songwriter, I have scoured the depths of many books, articles, albums, CDs, musical partnerships, live performances, and every concocted vein of music to find success in some format. Only do I find myself back from wence I came, on the side of a door which poses no means of entry.

Like an interesting stranger I come forth with a box of mystical musical magic. Unheard but by the likes of very few, it exudes majestic abilities. Like a dust covered genuine artifact, it lacks attention. Like the reflection of a well worn looking glass, it seeks redemption.

As possibly the newest of TAXI members, I come forth with 11 songs in the simplest of formats. Not the overly polished, critically produced, or inwardly conceited concoction of the masses. But a lonely, humble, uncertain of it's destiny traveler awaiting its fate.

Finally, I come before the Guru with all I have to offer. All that is my being as an indescribable, and undefined, writer of songs. Seeking the answer to the eternal question, what is my place?

And so I ask with all my heart, what do I do with this box of roughly produced, yet beautifully created songs which have no home? What is the direction of fate now that I have entered the TAXI?


— Flakers

Dear Flakers,

I hope you don't mind my brutal honesty, but I think for starters, you should come back to the real world or start spending more time at Renaissance Fairs. You might have thought that wording your question in such a poetic manner would be considered "cute," but it really came across as kind of immature ... again, sorry for the brutal honesty, but I hate blowing smoke.

The music business is in fact a BUSINESS, and most people in business don't want to waste their time with people who are being too cute. I may be the only person in the ENTIRE music business who would take the time, and that's because you're a TAXI member, and I owe you my attention.

I think a better question might have been:

Dear Michael,

I recently joined TAXI, and now wonder how to best pitch my roughly produced songs.


— Regards,

Flakers


Dear Flakers,

#1) It's the writer's job to know which genre his or her songs best fit.

#2) You can get help with that by sending in your most commercial and best songs for TAXI's Custom Critiques and ask the person screening it to advise you as to which genre the song is best.

#3) Please remember that just because a song fits in to a genre, it doesn't mean that it's a hit. You have to write songs that are at LEAST as good as, if not much BETTER than what is already on the charts. I'm guessing that your songs might NOT be easy to match with a genre based on your letter. I could be wrong (and hope so;-)). If they do fit a genre AND are well constructed and commercial sounding, then you're in the game.

#4) If you're not in the ballpark, you'll find that the critiques you'll get from TAXI are great tools to move you in that direction. Members frequently tell us that after they learn to push aside the blow to their egos that we all experience from criticism, that using the TAXI feedback is like getting a quick and condensed Masters in songwriting.

#5) And finally, one of the biggest keys to success is to pitch your songs at the right targets. If you find yourself saying, "I know this might be a longshot, but I can see how this MIGHT fit," then don't waste the five bucks. When you pitch through TAXI, you are competing with the best songwriters in the world, and they know better than to take potshots. By doing taking potshots, you only identify yourself as an amateur, and that's not going to serve you well.

TAXI brings the "game" to your front door, but it's your responsibility to play it at the same level as the pros if you want to reap the same rewards that they get. To use one of my favorite sports analogies; if you were a pretty good weekend golfer and you wanted to compete for the title in the Masters this year, would you send the PGA a letter like the one you sent me? Could you get on the tour by hitting pop flies, and shooting your putts like billiard balls (even though YOU think it's fun and interesting that way)?

I hope I made my point. If not, you might want to rethink your strategy for succeeding at ANY level in the music business.

— All the best,

Michael




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