by Kenny Kerner

As a member of the AAA band 53 Days, bassist/songwriter Tom Robinson is doing quite well, thank you. The band is playing out fairly regularly, has just released its second, completely original CD and is getting some local airplay.

Tom has had years to hone his musical and songwriting craft--he's been playing bass for some 14 years and learned viola in the second grade, soon graduating to piano. Actually, he "graduated" from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, with a degree in history and a minor in music. For Tom, those were the creative years: "When you're in college, you always have lots of people around you, so I did most of my songwriting during those years. I don't seem to write quite as much these days."

In 1996, after several stops around the country, Tom moved back to Buffalo and again hooked up with an old friend, songwriter John Moore, who invited him to join 53 Days. "John was very much into singer/songwriters--he loved Steve Earle and Mellencamp and Tom Cochran--writers with kind of a rootsy feel. When John and I first hooked up about eight years ago, I was writing about one song a month. Now, I write maybe one a year. We were all pretty young then and I was working in the record business (Tom had a job at MCA). When you're 22, you think you know everything, but you don't."

i i
Name: Tom Robinson
Residence: Buffalo, New York
Age: 29
Occupation: Audio Engineer
Joined TAXI: 1997
Songs Forwarded:  20-25
Deals/Contracts: Three
Robinson released a CD which did well locally, but did little else in terms of interfacing with the music business. Not wanting to "play that game," the band settled for some local attention and an opportunity to continue working on their collective songwriting craft.

In the fall of 1997, the band re-entered the recording studio, cut some more songs, and by early spring, had decided to begin shopping to management companies and smaller, indie labels. "Initially," as Tom recalled, "we were just trying to get some interest in a distribution deal for the new CD. But typically, what I kept running into was the fact that most of the indie labels thought our material was too mainstream for them. Our stuff sounded too radio-friendly for them."

During this time, Tom's friend had told him about this independent A&R company called TAXI: "I saw their ads in music magazines and it looked like something good, so I joined. My friend was fairly pleased with the forwards, but for him, the critiques really were the most important thing."

"Being a member of TAXI helped us within the industry. We were able to get one of our songs used in the Brooklyn South television series (for which they were paid about $1,000) and Doug Minnick (TAXI's vice president) also helped us a lot by telling people about our songs."

Over the next year, 53 Days finished recording enough good material to fill a brand new CD which they released in mid-1998. And much of what Tom and John learned from TAXI's A&R staff went into the studio with them. Here's how Tom remembers it: "When it came time to do that new CD, I'm positive that the critiques we got from TAXI helped both of us self-produce the record a lot better. We used those critiques to help arrange the songs and structure the songs better which, overall, made the entire record better."

But TAXI's value to Tom Robinson transcends song structure and critiques. In fact, like so many TAXI members, Tom is sorta using TAXI as his personal "connection" to the Biz. "Because so many of the industry people I knew are no longer in the music business, I don't have many connections to help us out. So I rely on the forwards from TAXI to get us connected to labels and publishers, etc."

And as is most often the case, TAXI came through with flying colors: "A couple of our tunes were forwarded to Marc Ferrari at Master Source Music. He liked them, made a deal and got one of them into ER and another, almost a full minute of the song, into a CBS-TV show called The Promised Land. This deal helped us get the door open and helped our music generate some income."

Tom's professional career is now taking slow, gradual steps forward thanks to what he's learned about songwriting from the TAXI staff. He's also earning money from his songs and is delighted by the fact that some of his original material has made it to the desks of executives at the major record companies. Here's how Tom sums up his experience with TAXI: "I definitely have a much better shot with TAXI than if I send demos out blindly. My tapes have already gone to MCA Publishing and Warner Bros. Records. I could not do that on my own. I can't get to those people. If you're a songwriter and you want honest critiques of your music by people who know what songs are about, then you should join TAXI. If you are in a band with material ready to be shopped, but you have no industry connections, then TAXI is definitely the vehicle for you."

There are many ways that TAXI's services can be helpful to writers and bands alike, and it looks as if Tom Robinson has discovered a couple of them. Another satisfied customer!


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