By Michael Anderson
A lot of people want to be songwriters—some people are songwriters. The difference between the two is an attitude that can determine how far you go in your career.

I often have TAXI members, students, or clients ask me very seriously if I think they "have what it takes" to succeed in the music business. I usually tell them it isn't what I think that matters—it is what they think. Sometimes I want to say, "If you have to ask that question chances are no, you don't have it."

But the fact is everyone has moments of reflection, doubt, and facing themselves and their choices in life honestly. Or they should.

In this business I am often reminded of the classic story of Elvis and his first audition for the Grand Ol' Opry—he was told he shouldn't quit his day job.

You have to remember that Elvis wasn't always ELVIS—at the time of the audition he was a shy momma's boy from Memphis. That comment at the audition had to hurt. Indeed, it became a foundational verse in the myth of the legend—probably retold many times by Elvis himself.

But if you think of that boy at that time and what it had to do to him emotionally it says something about him, and the nature of this business.

I am sure part of that kid from Memphis had to want to run out of the venerable old Ryman Auditorium and hide—go back to Memphis and never show his face in public again.

But something else wouldn't let him. Something else made him keep singing. Something made him keep trying.


I often have TAXI members, students, or clients ask me very seriously if I think they "have what it takes" to succeed in the music business. I usually tell them it isn't what I think that matters—it is what they think.

We think, wow, that guy who said that was really a fool—but who knows now—maybe Elvis really sucked that day.

However, Elvis went out and kept working, kept playing, kept singing, and eventually found the success that was the best revenge. What he did with it is another story—but for our purposes here, Elvis didn't quit.

The music business (and every other business for that matter) is full of success stories like that—to the point where it becomes a cliché—the early struggles, the hard work, the failures—then more work, and finally, the success—the payoff for all the work.

But we all know another reality—some people don't cut it—some people I am sure did go back to Memphis or wherever they were from after an incident like Elvis went through and we never heard from them again.

What made Elvis different?

Well, talent for one. Sometimes not immediately recognized because it isn't yet refined or the observer didn't recognize something new and different for what it was.

And, obviously, some of those people should have gone back to their hometown and kept their day job—not everybody is Elvis.

So maybe you don't suck—but you are not Elvis either—how can you objectively access your chances?

There is a commitment to this business—an allocation of resources—time, money, energy, effort—and choice to be made in lifestyle—is it worth it for you?

It is difficult to really see yourself accurately sometimes—you can be too easy on yourself, and you can be overly critical. Finding balance sometimes takes outside help.

I have been in Hollywood and Nashville (and Memphis) a long time. I have seen a lot of people aspire to success and some actually achieve it—and many not.


How you approach songwriting is very important—can you think critically and look at your work analytically? How do you solve problems? Do you have a curious nature? Can you have fun with it?

I have seen characteristics in those people who are successful and watched to see how those characteristics relate to the process of writing.

Now, understand that "success" in this business is relative, and the "success" you eventually find may not be the "success" you set out for.

So here, I offer a few observations that might help you look at your chances in this business (and to some extent, life in general).

There are specific characteristics and talents to songwriting—but there are also characteristics that transcend a category—universal characteristics if you will that indicate someone has potential.

How you approach songwriting is very important—can you think critically and look at your work analytically? How do you solve problems? Do you have a curious nature? Can you have fun with it?

Can you take advantage of your emotions and the events in your life for material in your songs?

Are you willing to accept critical feedback and adjust based on that feedback? Are you open to writing a bad song once in awhile? Are you willing to deal with those times when writing is difficult, or frustrating?

Can you express yourself through your lyric or musical idea? Can you hear the difference between a good idea and an idea that may not be as good? Can you think and work originally—do something new and different, and feel confident in it and your perspective?

Can you use the available resources and technology (Garageband / Logic / Pro Tools) and use it as a tool and not be overwhelmed by the technology?

Do you have a vision?

But mainly, what would you do if I told you to keep your day job?



You can contact Michael Anderson or buy Michael Anderson's Little Black Book of Songwriting at michaelanderson.com.

Wanna publish this article on your website?  Click here to find out how.











See How TAXI Works






















"I just want a shot, and I feel that TAXI has given that to me."
— Roger Yeardley,
TAXI Member





"TAXI provides opportunities to people who otherwise would have no access to the music industry."
— Tom Wasinger,
TAXI Member

"Just want to thank you again for the great Road Rally and for all the great work you guys do for us all year long."
— Hunter Payne,
TAXI Member


"You are making an incredible difference in the lives of musicians and artists trying to break into the business!"
— Rob Khurana,
TAXI Member

"We appreciate all that you do and try to do to help us struggling songwriters!"
— Pat Harris,
TAXI Member


"My only regret is that I didn't join TAXI years ago — but it's never too late to make up for lost time."
— Richard Scotti,
TAXI Member