Interview by Jimi Heath

We all know that TAXI started as a vision you had for independent songwriters, artists and composers to get their music heard. Has there been anything that has surprised you about your Members over the years that you didn't anticipate when starting the company?

Yes, something that frankly freaks me out a little bit. A lot of people seem to want success, but aren't really willing to put the work into it. If you treat something as a hobby, you'll get a hobbyist result out of it. If you want to compete with the people you hear on the radio and hear on the charts then you're going to have to work harder at it than they did to knock them out of the box.

Maybe I was a little idealistic when I started the company, but I thought that there would be just tons of people who would be willing to work their butts off to have a shot at the brass ring. What I found out was that only a small percentage of the people who want the brass ring are really willing to do everything it takes to get it. If I could imbue every musician out there with a sense of personal responsibility that drove them to work their butts off to achieve their goal that would be one of my "genie in a bottle" wishes.

Has there been anything that's surprised you about the music industry since you started the company?

I guess the most surprising thing is that the industry has been so slow to adapt to the digital future. I realize its hard for an entire industry to turn on a dime, but the future couldn't be more obvious so it has to make one wonder what the hell their waiting for.

Inquiring minds want to know: Could you describe what a typical day at TAXI is like for the boss?

Somewhat chaotic. I try to be organized, but no matter how hard I try people are always walking into my office asking me for stuff. It's my own damned fault for having an open door policy, but that's the kind of company I'm trying to run here. We're not General Motors.

How much music do you listen to in any given day?

It's hard to quantify it on a daily basis but I probably average between six and ten different artists a week. Like most people who live in LA, I tend to listen in my car more than the office because the phone doesn't ring as much in my car. That being said, I think there's a misconception out there that if people can get their music on my desk, all their problems will be solved. When in truth, I'd be the last guy I'd want to send my music to at TAXI. My job is to run the company and oversee all aspects of this business, music being one of them. I have a wonderful staff of highly capable people who specialize in just listening to music who are better at it than I.

What has been your most rewarding experience since starting TAXI?

During TAXI's first week of business, I personally screened a demo from a member in Iowa. He lived in a very small farm town and had no access to the industry, so he joined TAXI. When I first heard his demo, I was ready to put a gun in my mouth and pull the trigger. It had no verses, it had no chorus, and it had no melody... it sucked. I was truly depressed and said to my wife, I have a feeling this business is not going to work. She said, "Michael, its your responsibility to give this guy 300 dollars worth of your knowledge, even if it takes you all afternoon to write the critique."

Of course she was right. And being a dutiful husband, I followed her instructions.

A week later, TAXI A&R Staffer, John Braheny came to me with a long face and the same guys demo in his hand. He suggested that it might be a wise move to give this person a refund because he showed no hope of ever becoming a competent songwriter. I passed along my wife's advice to Braheny, and in turn he gave the gentleman 300 dollars worth of great advice.

Eleven months later, I got a letter from the member in the soybean fields of Iowa telling me how much he loved TAXI because he had been operating in a vacuum his entire life and had no idea how to really write a song. But because of the advice we gave him he had gotten good enough that his music had begun to get forwarded through the TAXI system. That was all the proof I needed that my idea would work and that we could change peoples lives.

What has been your most exciting news/experience in the last year?

I'm starting to get calls and have meetings with companies like Starbucks and legal peer-to-peer networks about TAXI being used as their top level A&R company. In other words, they're interested in having TAXI do the coarse screening on their music and they'll do the final cut. That was part of my vision from the beginning of the company and I knew no matter how the industry morphed over time that TAXI would always be well positioned to be an arbiter of good taste.

What is your hope/vision for a new member when they first join TAXI?

It's very simple actually. I want each and every one of them to use this company to the fullest extent so that they can achieve their goals. I'd like to see every single TAXI member earn his or her living making music.

What benefits of TAXI, in your opinion do you think members under-utilize?

It saddens me to say, that 20% of our members never make a submission. While I think it's cool that they want to belong to TAXI because it's become fashionable, I'd be much happier if every member was using the service as much as they could. We have so much to offer, but we can't force people to participate. It's kind of like belonging to a gym and never using the membership.

What advice would you give a long-time TAXI member who may still be struggling to get their first deal?

Hang in there, and never give up. If I had given up every time the going got rough during the start up of this company, you wouldn't be reading this interview now. I can guarantee success for every person who is willing to hang in there longer than everybody else. This is the one time in life where being last will make you first. When everybody else around you quits and goes home, you're the last one left to get the prize.

TAXI's customer service is nearly legendary, can you tell us why that is?

Because nearly every other company that I come in contact with sucks. I'll never understand why other business owners don't take customer service seriously. It seems like a no-brainer to me. If you treat your staff and customers well, your business will flourish. I don't know about the rest of these jokers, but I'd like to see my company last for a very long time.

We've all heard about the Road Rally. Are their any misconceptions about the event that you commonly hear or is their anything that you'd like to stress about it that may not be clear to members who have never attended?

I don't think there are any misconceptions about the Road Rally; I just get frustrated that not everyone of our members takes advantage of this incredible opportunity. It is "free" after all. I don't know of another convention at any price that gives writers and artists such a smorgasbord of education and opportunity to meet top industry execs face to face.

Other conventions cost as much as 600 dollars per ticket, if you're a TAXI member you get two free tickets included with your membership. Why every member doesn't take advantage of this, I'll never know. We regularly see people strike deals at the Road Rally, and get hundreds of emails from attendees telling us that it changed their lives.

Why is this a members-only convention? Why not open it up to everyone like other large music conventions and charge for it?

Because we want to keep the quality level really high. I think if we turn it into a huge event that is public, not private, that it will start to feel like some of the other conventions that don't measure up to the Rally. Also, by having it for members only, I think it gives the whole event a sense of community that you don't find at other conventions. Other events leave you with the feeling that everybody is competing with each other. The Road Rally is such a wonderful example of musicians supporting each other that I'd be afraid to mess with the successful formula.

See How TAXI Works

"I would like to thank Taxi for helping me and my partner and become more polished writers."
— Liz Aday,
TAXI Member

"We came many thousands of miles to attend the Road Rally convention, and it was worth every inch of the journey."
— Peter Martin,
TAXI Member

"I received a giant BMI check from TV airplay that I probably wouldn't have earned without TAXI."
— Julie Ann Bailey,
TAXI Member

"You stand behind and assist your members with their songs' best interests at heart."
— Rob Belanger,
TAXI Member

"Thanks to TAXI I no longer have a day job! The membership fee was a drop in the bucket compared to what I have earned because of TAXI."
— George Nelson,
TAXI Member

"The best music I've ever heard has come from TAXI! We've used music from TAXI on ABC, NBC, CBS, HBO, Fox and many more."
— Suzan Bader,
DSM /All American Music Library