This Article Originally Published March 2001

by Nick Appleby

There's a nightmare that's familiar to all professional songwriters -- that the material they have sweated blood over will be rejected out of hand when it gets to the desk of the overworked A&R guy. You've heard the horror stories -- that nine out of ten demos submitted are never even listened to, but just go straight in the wastebasket. Of course, you can and should make your demo stand out with professional-looking packaging and cover art. But the ideal situation is when you have an "in" -- a buddy who has the A&R guy's ear, who has enough clout to say, "those demos over there are probably fine -- but here's a song that'll REALLY knock you out."

TAXI isn't cheap, but it gets results.

Enter TAXI, which bills itself as "the independent A&R vehicle." Since 1992, TAXI has been working for songwriters, screening and forwarding material to the A&R folks at the labels. It's not cheap, by the average musician's standards -- the first year's membership is $299, with a continuing annual fee of $199. Then you've got the submission fee of $5 per song. Altogether the costs can add up -- but it's a price many artists are willing to pay for the service TAXI offers.

You see, the A&R departments really do listen to submissions that come from TAXI. For one thing, the submission and membership fees are a form of screening, ensuring that only songwriters who really have confidence in the quality of their material sign up and submit demos to TAXI. TAXI also provides members every two weeks with a listing of all the types of songs that the various A&R departments are currently on the lookout for -- artists submit songs for specific listings, so submissions are targeted to exactly where they will be most likely to find a buyer.

But more important, not every song that TAXI receives is automatically forwarded. Every song is first reviewed and critiqued -- if it doesn't pass, it is returned to the author with suggestions and comments. When a submission from a TAXI member finally makes it to an A&R person's desk, he already knows that it has been very carefully checked over -- so he's far more likely to give it a listen than those other couple of dozen unsolicited tapes in the in-box.

If you're serious about selling your songs, you should check TAXI out. True, the $299 signup fee is hardly pocket change -- but if it can get even one of your songs past the A&R gatekeepers, you may find it's well worth the investment.

Nick Appleby writes a regular series of musician articles and tips for Neato, the leading company in CD, Cassette and VHS labeling and packaging.