This Article Originally Published October 1999

by Michael Laskow

I spent four days at the Durango Songwriters Expo, and it was inspirational for me. There were about a hundred songwriters and artists from all over the country, and many of them were TAXI members.

Several members came up to me after the panels to tell me how much they enjoyed belonging to TAXI. They also told me that they were glad to hear the industry people on the panels repeat many of the same things that I've been preaching to you for years.

The first sermon: Persistence pays off. Every panel that I was on, or sat in on, cited examples of artists or writers who succeeded because they never gave up. Hallelujah! It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out that hard work pays off. Why then, do some people think that success comes as easily as submitting a tape or two?

Let's take that logic out of the music realm for a minute, and apply it to Olympic figure skating. If the argument (or should I say fantasy) held any water, then someone who badly wants to go to the next Olympic games and win the gold medal would simply have to strap on a pair of skates every now and then, show up at the Olympics, and win.

Of course, we all know that's unrealistic. Actually, it sounds downright foolish. To win Olympic gold would most likely require that the skater follow a strict regimen of practicing long, hard hours, day in and day out for a number of years. And then, and only then, would the skater even have a shot at qualifying, let alone being allowed to compete or bringing home the gold.

Does that mean you have to quit your day job to become a hit songwriter? Not necessarily, although it's likely that could speed the process up considerably. But, I'm assuming most of TAXI's members aren't independently wealthy, and still need to earn a living at a day gig. That being the case, the smart thing to do would be to set aside a regular time each day for working on your material. It makes sense that the person who spends several hours a day working on their craft and their material is a more likely candidate for success than someone who doesn't.

The second part of my over-told sermon that was heartily agreed upon by the panelists is that you must have patience. Tons of it! I've said it many times before, and I'm sure I'll repeat myself in the future, but I've got to say it - Diane Warren spent nearly every waking hour of her life for twelve years working on her song craft and pitching her material anywhere she could before she got her first song cut. The investment paid off in spades. She is arguably the most successful songwriter of our time. At the very least, she's fabulously wealthy, and she's made her millions doing what she loves to do.

On my flight home from Durango, I had the pleasure of sitting next to Country songwriting legend, "Kostas." He's an extremely nice man, and he was very forthcoming as I grilled him for details about his career. I was shocked to find out that he didn't get his first cut on an album until he was forty years old, although he had been making music his entire adult life. Actually, he told me he started making music as soon as he could walk and talk. Forty years! Now that's patience!!

The other most often heard word to leave the mouths of the industry folks was "Passion." You got to have a real passion for making music, or you'll never succeed. And I'm extremely proud to say that each TAXI member who spent time talking to me at the conference exuded genuine passion.

But maybe the thing that made me most proud was the performance by TAXI member Sarah Hendricks. I first met Sarah at the Durango Songwriters Expo four years ago. She performed what I'll politely refer to as a poem that went on for a very long time with music under it.

I saw her perform again last year, and her progress was remarkable. It sounded like music! Very cool music. This year, Sara's performance was incredible. She's taken her music to new heights. It's melodic, original, quirky and captivating. A great combination. Several of the A&R people sitting with me commented that they liked her material and wanted a copy to take back to the office.

Sarah credits TAXI with helping her dramatically improve her music. Personally, I think it's her persistence and patience.

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