This Article Originally Published July 1998

by Michael Laskow

It's Sunday night, May 24th. I've got, and I'm assuming most of you have tomorrow off to celebrate Memorial Day. Thank goodness for that, because I'm wiped out and could use another day off to recharge my batteries.

My family is upstairs sleeping. After I tucked everybody in, I drove to the neighborhood Starbucks for a little "inspiration." Tonight, it came in the form of a Venti, Mocha Frappuccino with a double shot of caffeine. Cool and refreshing, and it packs quite a wallop.

My inspiration for this column comes not only from the buzz I'm getting from the frosty libation, but from something that was said at a wedding I attended today. It wasn't the part about a marriage being the union of two souls. It wasn't the part where the happy couple committed themselves to each other in good times and in bad. Nope, my inspiration came when a half-drunk man at our table said to his wife, "Look at him. All it took was one good idea, and now he's a success." He was talking about me. Well, at least he was pointing at me when he said it. His index finger!

My ego should have been pumped, but it wasn't. I don't know how he measures success, but there's a pretty good chance his gradient scale isn't the same as mine.

If anything, his comment only served to tick me off. Why? Because he was minimizing what he perceived as my success by boiling it down to just one good idea. TAXI is where it is today because of hundreds of good ideas (many of which have come from TAXI's staff), and years of hard work.

But I'm not here to tell you about TAXI or myself. I'm here to tell you about you. A formidable task when you consider that I've only had the pleasure of meeting several hundred of you. That leaves several thousand more of you to go.

What I want to say to you is that it takes a hell of a lot more than just a good idea. It will take more than just one good idea for you to write a hit song. A good idea is a dandy starting place, but it's definitely not the whole enchilada. Songwriting is a craft—one that you develop over time. Slow and steady will most likely win the race.

Thomas Edison put an unbelievable amount of work into creating the light bulb. Thousands of man-hours were spent before the first practical model was realized. Much more than just a good idea. The same is true for the automobile, the atom bomb, the airplane, and putting a man on the moon. A lot more than a good idea was behind each these historic inventions.

And that's what it's going to take for you to achieve your musical goals. Don't be so hard on yourself. Don't think that you should be able to write that one in a million song every time you try. Even Diane Warren can't do that!

Don't lose hope or determination when you send in a submission and it doesn't get forwarded. Wait till you cool off from the shock, then climb back on your horse and write another song and send it in.

Think of TAXI and songwriting the same as you would a membership to a gym, and the desire to get your body in shape. Having the idea that you'd like to lose those love handles is one thing. To have them drop off during your first visit to the gym is another.

You would be richer than Bill Gates if you could find a way to shed those unsightly pounds (without liposuction) in just one visit to the gym. And I'd be on a permanent fishing vacation if I could teach you how to write a hit song every time you had a good idea.

Remember troops, TAXI is just a vehicle to help you get your music to the right people. It's also a tool to help you improve your material if it's not quite ready to land on a VIP's desk.

But, TAXI's not a miracle cure for bad songwriting. Not to worry though, you already have one in your head—it's called your brain. But you have to exercise it to make it work for you. And that means more than just having good ideas. You need to develop those ideas, refine them, then make them speak in a language so simple, so direct, that anyone who hears them will know what they mean and will be touched by them.

An irate member once told me that the responsibility for good communication sits squarely on the shoulders of the person communicating. In case I didn't communicate that well enough... what it means is that it's up to you to make your songs so easily understood that everybody who hears it will "get it." I think when you look at everything you write from that perspective, you'll quickly see that my inebriated friend at the wedding was wrong. It takes much, much more than just a good idea to be successful at anything! It takes knowledge and hard work. Now there's a theme I rarely touch on!