by Kenny Kerner

Ben Bohm and wife, Silvia Ryder, are a writing team--he writes the music and she, the lyrics. Having moved here together from Austria about seven years ago, it is a partnership they feel very comfortable with. But Silvia, this month's Passenger Profile subject, wasn't always into music. She spent years studying psychology and working as a fashion editor. It was Ben, who, since age 20, had been in many popular signed rock bands in Europe.

In 1991, the couple moved to America, and Silvia immediately began taking classes at UCLA (including a class that I taught) to learn how the music business works on this side of the Atlantic. One of her assignments was to record a song. Here's how Silvia remembers it: "I was very nervous at first because my husband was already a star in Europe and previously, we had only written for other artists. This was going to be a song we wrote and recorded for ourselves. We did it with our band called the Worry Dolls but we weren't really happy with their sound so we broke up."

Like most artists, it usually takes a while to find the right mix, the right chemistry of people with which you can make music. So Silvia and Ben continued to hone their writing craft while searching for the right formula. Enter Sugarplum Fairies. "We started playing out as Sugarplum Fairies in April of this year. We have two band set-ups: one as an acoustic band with electric guitar, vocals and cello for coffeehouses and another as a full band for bigger venues." Though satisfied with the new personnel and musical output, Silvia still encountered her share of industry closed doors.

i i
Name: Silvia Ryder
Residence: Topanga, California
Age: 36
Occupation: Fashion Stylist
Joined TAXI: 1997
Songs Forwarded:  64
Deals Made: One song sold to
"Brooklyn South"
TV Series and five major
label contacts.
"I sent out all of my packages unsolicited because we had no connections at all in the music business. We didn't know anybody. Surprisingly, everyone listened to the packages but nothing came of it at all. I sent out about 100 tapes and this went on for almost three months. Out of the 100 packages I'd say I got a positive response from only six or seven people, but not positive enough to do any kind of demo deal or anything like that. It was frustrating."

As it turned out, two of the interested parties were producers who wanted to record a track or two with the band, so, after an in-person meeting, Silvia agreed to give one of them a shot. "When we started working, this producer decided that he wanted to record the band like Portishead, with all kinds of drum loops and samples, and that wasn't what we were doing. It wasn't the right direction for us so we didn't do it." What Silvia did do, however, was to join TAXI.

Ever frustrated with the music business yet more determined than ever to succeed, Silvia started her own record label called Starfish Records and was able to control her own music, her own songs and her own destiny. The band took its time and finished an 11-song CD called Flake, which they released in May of this year. "I hired one person to help promote the CD and also sent it out to TAXI," Silvia recalled. "We sent out close to 400 copies and concentrated on radio promotion. We got about 60 college stations to add it and it charted on 10 of them.

"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."

The combination of radio play and TAXI's help gave Sugarplum Fairies the momentum they needed to forge ahead with their careers. "The word slowly started to spread and we got calls from Dreamworks Records, EPU Records' Mike Morrison, Sony Work Group, SIRE (Bud Scoppa), and Triple XXX. These calls were all a result of our membership with TAXI." Silvia readily admits that, if not for TAXI, not a single industry door would have opened for her or her band. "Right now, I'm still in touch with these companies. I let them know when we're playing, when I have new material and they always take my telephone calls immediately. When I call, they know my name; they know who I am and I don't even have to go through their secretaries."

Silvia Ryder is quick to sing the praises of TAXI and suggests that others in a similar career-stand-still, hook up with the Indie A&R company: "I think it's a brilliant idea. But I would suggest that when you join, you keep sending in a lot of tapes. Some people join and then get lazy and stop sending in material. You need to be disciplined to keep at it. The more material you submit, the better your chances of getting a song forwarded. I circle the listing dates on my calendar and when they come in, I set aside an entire day to do a mailing."

Coming to America from Europe, with no connections at all, overcoming both language and cultural problems , Silvia Ryder has managed, in only a few short years, to get her career on track--with plenty of talent, a drizzle of determination, a pinch of aggressiveness and, oh, yes, her friends at TAXI.


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