TAXI member Andy Gabrys
You seem comfortable writing in so many different genres of TV Cues, using a range of keyboards and stringed instruments. How long does it take you to become good at a new genre, and what’s your process for doing it?
Well I have a few things that are easier – guitar based stuff, Indie Folk, Rock. I have a few genres that are more difficult for me and I am still learning – say hybrid Orchestral where there is electric guitar crunching away underneath an epic orchestra. There are definitely genres that I don’t profess to have much skill in actually producing – but I have found that the more you listen to things, the more you can hear similarities and differences.
So for me, it starts with listening. If I can, I will make playlists and listen in my car and let the sound and vibe organically pour into my brain. If I have less time I will sit down with reference pieces and study the form, the instrumentation, and the mix sound and I usually write all of that down. Especially if it’s a vocal song used as a reference for an instrumental cue.
Like V1 – acoustic guitar / vocal
C1 – add drums / acoustic bass
V2 – add keys – wide stereo, ambient
So I can take three reference pieces and figure out what the similarities are, and that analysis forms the backbone of my first attempt. If I need more ideas to flesh out the piece, I listen to the differences in the reference pieces and figure out what other instruments or sounds might be appropriate to add.
Santa Fe looks like a great place to live, but not exactly LA, New York, or Nashville-like as far as the size of the music community goes. How much of what you do is by yourself vs. how much work do you collaborate on?
I do a fair amount of collaboration. Probably just less than half of what I write are collaborations with people that I have met via the TAXI Forum and the Road Rally.
A big difference between Santa Fe and those large centers is the relative lack of TV and commercial production companies. There is networking in the New Mexico film scene, but most of the opportunities for commercial work come through publishers on the East and West coasts.
Occasionally I have brought in local players to play parts to my productions – especially live horns.
Most of what I do in Santa Fe is play live. I still play Jazz, and have a couple of different Blues/Rock and Funk bands that I perform with. It helps keep my listening sharp and my fingers moving. There are an unnaturally large number of burning players here for such a small town -- maybe 60-75 thousand people in total. Most people who are here love the blend of art and the beautiful surroundings outdoors.
Have you met any of your long distance collaborators because of your TAXI membership?
Yes! I have collaborated with writers from Australia and Europe, the Bahamas, Canada, and of course, the United States. Some of these people I have never met face-to-face, but many do come to the Road Rally, so I get to meet them there.
Do you have any advice for people who are thinking about collaborating but haven’t taken the first step yet?
If you can make it to the TAXI Road Rally, you will have a long list of people to get to know. It helps to be active on the TAXI Forum as well – people love putting a face to a name they have seen a few times.
Find people who do things that you don’t. It’s fun to collaborate with somebody who plays the same instrument, but I mostly I collaborate with people who are experts at singing or other things that I don’t do.
There are some technical skills that you need to have together. They are easily learned, but if you are new to collaboration, ask lots of questions. Things like the following are some basics of collaboration:
- Are we working in the same DAW?
- Can I zip my session and just send it over?
- How do I send it over?
- Will it fit in an email?
- What is Dropbox?
- What sample rate and bit depth are you working at?
- How do you I get your track into my DAW to work with it?
- What format do I record in?
- Mono or Stereo?
- What do I need to edit out to save you time?
- Should I bypass the effects that I have on my track?
- How do I get the files out of my DAW?
The more easily you can give your mates quality material, the quicker they will able to work with what you do. Find out who the people are that use the same DAW as you do so you can ask questions. There are lots of Facebook groups for people who use Logic for example, that you might find useful – or at least humorous!!
You’re an active member, and well-networked within the TAXI community. We practically have to beg our members to take advantage of the TAXI Forum, our convention (the Road Rally), and TAXI TV. Do you have any words of wisdom that might encourage more members to use those tools?
I think the Forum is a great resource. You can ask any question and usually someone has some experience that they can relay to you – it might be with libraries or contracts, or specific production advise, or just have an objective ear to listen to something. It’s so easy to TOTALLY lose perspective after listening to the same track for three hours!
TAXI TV is great and fun – you can just have it on in the background, or actively participate in the chat discussion.
The Road Rally, I cannot recommend highly enough. It is fun, and informative. It’s free. Did I mention it is free (with your membership)? You should check how much similar industry events around the country cost. For somebody who lives in Santa Fe, or Peoria, as you often say, you might not have much of a chance to meet that many people who are making money from their music in the same place at the same time. And if you find an event like that, you’re probably spending something like $450 admission.
Often people that are writing and getting Forwards but no deals, don’t seem to know that the Rally is another way to get deals. You can have your pieces played and live critiqued in front of industry pros and they might ask to take home a copy of something they like.
The member-to-member networking is pretty huge as well. You might find a great fiddle player that will add the right thing to your Indie Folk tracks.
How quickly should new TAXI members expect to see success?
Wow, good question. There are so many people all over the Internet who are pretty negative about how quickly they can make money with production music. I think there is some idea that people make money overnight and if you don’t offer up all your contacts to them you are some kind of jerk.
It takes some time to learn how to write a certain genre. You need to learn how to mix well. And once you have Broadcast Quality material, you have to submit it and get some Forwards.
Then you have to do what so many successful TAXI members quote as their mantra: WRITE, SUBMIT, FORGET, and REPEAT. You just have to keep doing it until you get that email from a publisher expressing interest. I have gotten a deal within a day, within six months, and maybe there are Forwards that will take a year or two more until the publisher needs to get that material moving and then they will make contact.
For most people that means keeping their day job going while they write at night and on weekends. That’s not bad – sometimes that gives you extra motivation to keep on going.
People on the TAXI Forum like to refer to the five-year plan. I think that’s a good place to start. If you can give a really sustained effort for five years then you are likely to start seeing your pieces get signed and more often than not, get used in TV shows or in films. Then it builds from there. If you keep on working hard you are eventually going to have a sizeable catalog, and once your catalog has been in the hands of your publishers for some time, you will see more and more placements.
I have been a member for about 5 or 6 years. I had some music signed before I joined TAXI. At this point, I have placements in several hundred episodes of about 90 TV programs, and about 10% of my almost 900 titles in my BMI account have been used. Many of them have been used multiple times.
Do you have any recommendations as to things members can do to increase their odds of success and maybe even speed up the process?
- Collaborate – reach out.
- Go to the Road Rally.
- Don’t be afraid to make a mess.
- Keep trying.
- Find some ways to keep yourself healthy mentally and physically along the way. Being a full time composer is an awesome place to be, but maybe not if your health has suffered greatly because of it.
Don’t miss Part Three of this Profile in the September TAXI Transmitter!
Hear Andy’s music here: https://soundcloud.com/andy-gabrys-music