Answered by Michael Laskow, TAXI CEO
I've been a member for about one year now and just signed up for another two years. Songwriting is a passion that truly comes from within. Here's my question. What would happen if you submitted the same song to three separate listings (under "Country," for example) and let's say one of your screeners thought the song was worthy of forwarding, but another had passed on it? Has this ever happened and what takes place if and when it does? Does each screener approach the song with unbiased ears or does he go into it knowing another screener turned it down already?

I go to Nashville a couple of times a year and have heard on more than one occasion from those I have met with that what one person thought was not up to par ended up being right on the money to someone else's ear.

Just wondering if the song already has two strikes against it once the next screener logs onto your data base and sees it was "passed" on once already. Not so sure I should be submitting to more than one listing at a time if this is the case.

— Sincerely, Brian D. Crawford

Great question Brian, and I hope a lot of people see this answer!

None of the screeners have any idea of what the other screeners have done with ANY of the songs in the database. It's all done blindly, all the time, and always has been.

But you're right in that it's VERY common for one of our A&R people to forward a song, then have another do the opposite a week later.

What many people fail to take in to consideration is what the listing asked for, and what information might be between the lines. More often than not, it's the pitch, not the song.

Example: If you pitch your song, "I Love My Pickup Truck" to a listing that asked for top-notch Country songs for Keith Urban and it gets forwarded, you'd be upset if it didn't get forwarded to another Country listing a week later. But if you consider that the second listing referenced an artist like Kenny Rogers, it would make sense that it probably wouldn't get forwarded, because it's unlikely the Kenny would cut a pickup truck song. It's just not his style.

You might ask, "Then why doesn't TAXI tell us that?" Because there's no way for us to anticipate all the possible ways for somebody to incorrectly pitch a song. Pro songwriters are SO in touch with who would cut what, that they make less of those errors, and it's my hope that over time, letters like this will go a long way toward educating our members so that they can compete on a totally level playing field with the pros.

When you think about it, that's exactly who you compete with when you join TAXI. You're no longer competing with another writer who lives down the street or belongs to your local songwriter organization. When forwarded by TAXI, your music ends up on the EXACT same desks as the music from the top songwriters in the business.

I often preach that all of our members should read Billboard and listen to TONS of radio, so they can know what the pros know, and compete on their level. Please be among the first to take me up on this! Please, please, please!!

— Thanks, Michael

I'm very excited to be a new member of TAXI. I read the submission opportunities routinely, but have yet to find one that "fits" my songs. Is this typical? I am a singer/songwriter who has yet to really define her "category." Friends and family have a hard time deciding who I sound like, but have referenced Sheryl Crow or Tori Amos or Sarah McLachlan, but I don't necessarily agree. My songs tend to be more relationship and life based, but not always about love, and are written with guitar (vs. piano or other).

I realize I won't really know until I start submitting songs, but I'd like to know if you have any recommendations on how one goes about deciding how to categorize one's style.

— Thanks for listening, Keady

Great question, and it's something that troubles a lot of our members, and a lot of artists and writers in general. The answer is that most artists don't wish to be categorized, and as artists, I can understand that. But from a record company, radio, and/or retail sales perspective, it matters a lot.

What kind of station would play your music? What radio format do you fit in to? That's a question that a record company would ask itself before signing you. They also need to know that they will be able to stock your CDs in the right bins in a record store, or under the right category on iTunes.

Sadly, if you don't easily fit in to a category, then it makes the label's work much harder. I know that flies in the face of true artistry, but if you want to earn your living making music, there often has to be that intersection of art and commerce in your life.

Of course, there are always artists who break new ground and create a brand new category, or start a new trend, but that's a long shot.

I'll bet that if you sit down with a Billboard, and look at who is on each of the charts and compare your music with the artists on those charts, you'll be able to figure it out pretty easily.

Knowing your genre will also make your membership in TAXI much more productive. Most of the listings we get look for something specific—often within a range. If you fit the bill, your chances of being forwarded by our A&R staff will go up considerably.

— Good luck, Michael

Let's say you are a songwriter and pay a very decent amount of money to make a full-length album. The sound/recording quality is great, and you feel the songs are where they need to be. Then you submit some songs to TAXI, and you receive critiques that are very good overall, but that have comments or suggestions on what to change or improve. What do you do with those suggestions? You've already finished the recordings, and are not in a position to spend more money altering the recordings for future submissions. Should you feel discouraged from sending those same songs in to more listings?

— Yvonne

If you had the ability to ask a few dozen hit songwriters, hit record producers, and some seasoned A&R vets to give you advice on which of your songs are the best, and what you could touch up to take them from good to great, you'd do it, right?

Well, that's exactly what we offer at TAXI, but so few people ever believe me about this or use us in that manner that I live in a constant state of frustration over it! I deeply believe that if more people used us as a sounding board BEFORE they made their CDs, they'd come out with a much better product on several different levels.

That being said, if you've already recorded and pressed your CD, and you think the advice coming from our A&R staff is what you already knew deep in your heart, then maybe you should just tweak some of the songs, and crank out some one-off copies of the new version, then drop them into the jewel boxes you already have.

Another related point: So many artists think that if they present their music in "finished" CD form, that labels will be much more interested in them because the CD is more "polished" looking. Not so much! They're FAR more interested in the quality of the songwriting, your voice, and if you have "star quality" than they will ever be about your package. Nobody ever believes me about that one either. It's kind of like talking to my kids. ;-)

— Warm regards, Michael

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