by Kenny Kerner

Imagine having all of your dreams for success fulfilled by the time you reach your fifteenth birthday! Well, in a nutshell, that's exactly what happened to this month's passenger, Diego Sandrin. Leading his Italian punk band called Ice & Be Iced, Diego secured a recording contract with Trux Records and, before he turned sixteen, had released several singles, went on tour and achieved notoriety as Italy's premier punkster.

"We were on top of the world," Diego recalls, "not having to struggle at all. But this only lasted about two years and then the punk scene just fizzled out. I was about seventeen when New Age started getting popular. I decided to do some traveling and songwriting so I came to America and while there, bought some Windham Hill albums which I brought back to Italy with me."

Tired of electronic music and clearly finished with punk, Diego embraced New Age and, in 1988, started a little boutique record label of his own called Sentemo Records through which he produced and released some 25 CDs. "Because New Age became so popular in Italy, my label was successful. We had a distribution deal with BMG and we also won several awards. We were making pretty good money. I learned to produce by going to studios all the time to put down some of my song ideas and to earn extra money by helping out. At this time, I was about 26."

It looked as though young Diego Sandrin could do no wrong. Everything he touched seemed to smack of success. So why did he still feel unfulfilled and Unsatisfied? Diego explains his desire for all things creative: "I got bored having to deal with all of the business aspects of running a label--the recording, the paper work, the royalties--so, in 1994, I went back to writing songs. That's when TAXI came into the picture."

i i
Name: Diego Sandrin
Age: 33
Residence: Tampa, Florida
Occupation: Record Producer
Joined TAXI: 1995
Songs Forwarded: Ten
Deals Made: Pending
Strange as it may seem, Diego was introduced to TAXI while taking care of some very private business: "I was in America trying to find a distribution deal for my label. I was in the bathroom at some airport and was leafing through a music magazine when I read their ad and it caught my attention. At first, I didn't think it was going to be very legitimate. I felt it could be a scam, but I liked the way it was presented because they immediately told me it wasn't going to be easy even if I joined."

Diego soon returned to Venice and began the songwriting process in earnest. When he had completed two songs that he felt were well-crafted, he remembered TAXI, found their web site on the internet, and requested their free information kit. "The free information package really convinced me that I made the right decision. It was no b.s. talk. It explained everything. I figured that if I had to play this game, I would play it to win and this was the right way to do it."

Sandrin had a plan. He had two well-crafted songs geared to the American music market. He would send them in to TAXI for a bunch of different listings and see what happened. Although only one in 30 submissions was forwarded, the accompanying critiques finally gave the writer a clue as to what TAXI is all about. "I started getting back the first critiques," Diego revealed, "and realized that I was dealing with professionals who really cared about me and my songs. I especially liked the fact that my songs were never invalidated by any of the screeners. They just pointed out the good and the bad."

Like most songwriters, Sandrin was discouraged at first, believing that his material was good. But eventually, it dawned on him to take a closer look at some of the critiques: "I decided to just keep an open mind and listen to some of their advice. It was a challenge for me. I spent an entire year working on these critiques, making some of the changes that they suggested. I made a list of all of the critiques that I agreed with and when I began writing my new songs, I followed that list of pointers. I was afraid that if I made these changes I would jeopardize my creative integrity, but I found that I was still able to keep my integrity and musical style."

Diego wrote and recorded five or six new songs, strictly adhering to the list of pointers suggested by the TAXI screeners. The results were amazing: "I began sending these new songs out to TAXI listings and noticed that my forwarding rate increased to about 80%. I was very proud when I started getting critiques that complimented my song structure. This was one of the things that the screeners used to criticize."

Diego Sandrin may have achieved some modicum of success at the age of fifteen, but it wasn't until he became a TAXI member that he learned about the actual craft of songwriting and the inner workings of the music industry. Here are some words to remember from a happy passenger: "For me, music is an art, but unless you're just playing for your girlfriend, once you start sending out tapes, it becomes a business. When you sit down to write songs, you have to put on your artist hat, and when you start mailing the tapes out, you need to change to your business hat. I am still a member of TAXI and I will continue to be one. My advice is for people to try TAXI and open their minds to the critiques just for a few minutes. Things look different on the other side of the table."


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"Just want to thank you again for the great Road Rally and for all the great work you guys do for us all year long."
— Hunter Payne,
TAXI Member

"TAXI is very helpful in getting new music to record execs. And they're probably the only legit source doing that for people who don't have an agent or manager."
— Brian Evans,
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