Passenger Profile: Ed Hartman

By Kenny Kerner
taxi member success rate hartman
The more I interview TAXI members, the more I realize that most of you are taking Michael Laskow's advice and getting off your collective asses and trying to make things happen for yourselves. This month's profile is yet another example of that. Forty-eight-year-old Ed Hartman had just about done it all, yet he wanted more. He wanted to continue with his success, so he became a TAXI member. Here's his story now:

At what age did you first begin to play an instrument?

EH: I was in first grade (around six years old) when I took a violin class. I was the only boy and couldn't take the pressure! One lesson of trumpet didn't work either—scary teacher! I started drum lessons in fourth grade (9-10 years old) from a great Jazz drummer in Chicago. I took seven years of lessons, and then added mallet lessons (vibes, marimba, etc.) in high school from a second teacher who studied with Clair Musser, and played with Xavier Cugat! I went to Indiana University in the '70s and received a Bachelor of Music in percussion. There were 65 percussion majors there at the time, including Kenny Aronoff and Peter Erskine! Indiana had (and has) a tremendous music department with more than 2,000 music students. The only thing that college never prepared me for was business. I believe that musicians should spend half their time studying music business along with their instrument. Music schools do not understand this at all. That is why I get a variety of recent graduates coming to me in June looking for a job!

When did you take music really seriously?

EH: I think I was always a musician. By the time I was a senior in high school, I was hanging around the music department most of the day. I didn't get into Eastman or Oberlin, but wormed my way into Indiana. There has never been anything else I've ever wanted to do (delivering pizzas in college was about it!). I was in Louisville for a few weeks after graduating, and called Jamey Abersold, a well-known Jazz musician and educator. I was at a phone booth, and he gave me a huge list of musicians to get to know. I had a tiny piece of paper and started to write names on top of names, until it was unreadable. The real lesson of that day was that Jamey was tremendously generous with information. I also learned that day, that if you are in the middle of the network, you will also be able to help everyone around you and get back everything you put out. When I came out to Seattle after college, I started to network with everyone around me. I started a musicians co-op, and new music series, an annual percussion festival (still going!), compilation CDs, etc. Every project that I've done has brought me in contact with many musicians and business-people (also music instrument manufacturers, distributors, etc.).

Did you ever entertain the idea of trying for a record deal?

EH: I've had my own label for quite a while, and made huge mistakes along the way. I consider it my graduate business degree. It cost about the same! I have pitched over the years to labels, but never with great success. I've worked with artists on labels that are very successful (Grammy winners!), and still may go that route. In fact, when I joined TAXI, I started to get much more involved in recording. I now have much better demos. Because, I'm going after such a wide variety of clients (movies, TV, new media, etc.), I'm not as concerned about getting a record deal. When you are older, with family, etc., the classic fantasy about a recording/touring artist is no longer as attractive. To me, a record deal is all about distribution, royalties, and sharing risk with someone else (a label). I've taken the risk of label ownership, and it is not easy. Some people are better than others. Because we are moving away from product (CDs) to service (downloading), record labels are changing by the minute. Risk can be much less. For me, a Jazz/New Age/World label is most appropriate, and those labels are very independent, in general. Marimba and vibes are very unusual instruments to play, so I do have a niche.

How did you first hear about TAXI?

EH: I first saw TAXI years ago, when it began. I received the listings and watched them for 10 years! It took that long for me to determine whether the risk of membership was worth it! What sold me about TAXI is that you could watch the listings without joining, and join when you thought enough pitches were available.

TAXI finds leads, and educates, though the Web site, convention, and the reviews of your material—it's extremely worth it. Until you know what to fix, you will be forever pitching the same junk! I was back on the TAXI Web site and started to read the interviews. There's great stuff there. Having the convention transcripts on there is incredible! That's very generous of TAXI to do.

You have some serious credentials in film, TV, radio, touring. Why stick with TAXI?

EH: I don't really have very serious credentials yet. I've just started. What it did teach me, was that if you create really quality stuff like my Christmas album, Marimbells of Christmas, eventually someone will want it. You have to really invest in it, and put it out there. I think I've had quality stuff sitting on my shelf for years. Putting my music on Broadjam, TAXI, and other places really shakes it up. You never know who's going to listen. I think that once you've joined the party, it's very difficult to leave.

How has TAXI helped you?

EH: Whether I've got any paid opportunities through TAXI is less important than the motivation it gave me. All of the pitches that have come through have motivated me to write music quickly. I get the TAXI dispatches, and can now get a piece done in hours, upload to Broadjam and pitch. My current record is two hours from creation to submission! It's crazy. I have more than 80 tunes residing on Broadjam, and most of them are newly created since joining TAXI.

The TAXI convention was great. I didn't consider the convention when I joined. I decided to go, and was blown away by the scope of the event. I've produced events like that, and know how extremely difficult it is. To go to an event like that for free is unheard of.

If you believe that music is your career, you have to invest in it like a small business. The music will take care of itself because you're going to spend way too much time on it. The business side is a pain, but is how you are going to make any money. You need to learn how to research, organize, and communicate to create a viable business. Organizations like TAXI are invaluable in learning and perfecting those skills. A small business can typically take $10,000-$100,000 to start up. In music, musicians will spend that on their instruments, and NOTHING on their business. They need to spend 50% on the business, and that means envelopes, Web sites, stamps, phones, etc. It is all investment and TAX DEDUCTABLE. (Remember TAX is in the word TAXI!) Memberships in organizations are part of those expenses. I am a member in a number of very good organizations, most of which give me great information but no real leads. TAXI gives me both.

Well here's a TAXI member who really takes advantage of our business comments as well as our musical critiques. And he's right, you know. This is the Music BUSINESS. Concentrating on just the music is doing half the job. Why not do it all? Why not join Ed as a satisfied TAXI member?

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