TAXI member Russell Landwehr (left) meets Music Supervisor Jonathan Weiss in the foreground, while his friend and fellow member Pedro Costa (left, rear) meets Reality Show Editor David McCintosh in the background. Gotta love the connections that are made at the Road Rally!
Interviewed by Tomas Fordelsen for Musikkpraksis magazine in Norway
Who can benefit from attending The TAXI Road Rally?
Songwriters, film, TV, and commercial composers, and of course, artists and bands. Pretty much anybody who wants to find a way to get his or her music out there and make some income from it. Musicians who are cynical and think that it’s not possible to go from being an unknown entity to an income-earning musician can see the possibilities by looking at this popular section of the TAXI Forum. The Road Rally has become the place that brings the musicians and the industry people together in a very casual, yet super-productive way.
How should one prepare for the TAXI Road Rally?
The best way to prepare is to figure out what your goal is. What do you want to go home with after attending the conference? The more specific your goal is, the better.
If your goal is to meet publishers who specialize in TV and film placements, then you should look at the list of who will be there, and see which panels they’ll be on, and if you can meet them in a One-to-One Mentor session or possibly in the hallway after their panel wraps up. Countless relationships and deals have been started in those mentor sessions, so you’d be smart to have your questions prepared in advance.
And frankly, you’d be smart to have questions that are more specific than, “How do I get my music out there?” Ask for specific input on a particular piece of music, and it’s likely to lead to a request to hear more!
You would also be smart to have some music on a CD. It may be old school, but it’s still the best way to give it out, so people don’t have to worry about computer viruses from thumb drives. Pick the right music for each person you plan to give it to, and target it well. In other words, don’t give a heartbreak song to a music supervisor who frequently works on TV commercials. They’d be more interested in emotionally upbeat, light, feel-good music. Match your pitch to each target you’re trying to hit. It’s a little bit like hunting, but nobody gets hurt.
TAXI member F.M. Cossey came all the way from New Zealand to join us at the Rally, so we're really happy that she got to meet Publisher Bob Mair and ask him a question or two.
How does the TAXI Road Rally differ from other conventions, apart from being free for TAXI members?
Well, being FREE for each TAXI member and a guest of their choosing is a big differentiator, for sure. Other conventions of this scale cost at least $350 for just a single ticket! Getting two free tickets to a world-class event included in your TAXI membership is quite a bargain. $299 gets you a full year of TAXI’s opportunities, plus all the stuff we give musicians to help them be ready for those opportunities has tremendous value before you even arrive at the Rally.
Beyond that, the Rally is famous for people leaving at the end of the weekend saying, “Wow, now I get it! Now I know what I have to do, how to do it, and how long it will take me to accomplish my goals working at the pace that’s realistic for me.”
Other conventions don’t seem to be so musician centric. They concentrate on impressing attendees with how cool they are instead of giving people real, actionable information and tools they can start using immediately. And the networking at the Road Rally is incredibly good! There’s a sense of community that makes industry people feel comfortable hanging out with attendees. And our members build their own network of other musicians and collaborators that invariably helps move their careers forward at a much faster pace than if they were doing it alone in a vacuum.
What should one bring to the Rally?
Music to give out, business cards, press kits/EPK (especially if you’re an artist), a notebook with a lot of blank pages, a laptop or iPad, a camera/phone, a back up of your music (on your laptop, pad, or thumb drive). Go to the Road Rally section of the TAXI forum and some of our veteran members will share all kinds of helpful advice on how to prepare and what to bring as well.
"The Road Rally is pretty famous for being a place where even the most incredibly shy people make friends for life."
What should one wear at the Road Rally?
Clothes! We actually had a guy take his clothes off in the ballroom as a stunt to get noticed about 15 years ago. It worked for about 30 seconds, but not in a good way. Seriously, just bring every day casual clothes, nothing fancy. Nobody really gets dressed up. It’s more about comfort than fashion. Jeans, shirts, T-shirts, and definitely a sweatshirt or sweater. The grand ballroom can get chilly.
Do you have any advice on how to stand out at the Rally?
Blending in and being yourself is much more valuable than standing out. People who wear crazy outfits get noticed, but probably not for the right reasons. We don’t get a lot of the “rock star” types at the Rally. Not a lot of posers. Our attendees are typically pretty serious about their music. Crafting an image is more important for artists than songwriters and artists, but the quality of the music has to be there or the image doesn’t matter.
Just being yourself works best, even if you’re a bit shy! The Road Rally is pretty famous for being a place where even the most incredibly shy people make friends for life. It’s a “thing” that’s a big part of what makes the Rally so incredible. Even shy people tell us that they made friends in the registration line before the conference even starts. It’s almost guaranteed!
One more piece of advice: Play at one of the Open Mics! It’s amazing how much buzz you can create if you knock it out of the park with nothing more than an acoustic guitar or piano and a vocal. Word travels fast because our members take over the entire hotel for the whole weekend. If somebody gives a great performance at an open mic, people talk about it! Industry people hear about it. I’ve had calls from industry people after the Rally asking, “Who was that duo that played in the Open Mic on Saturday night?”
How can one make sure to give a great first impression when talking to an industry pro?
Be sincere, don’t be worried about appearing nervous (they’re regular people just like you), and don’t tell them why you’re so awesome. If you are awesome, they’ll figure that out in good time. Just get to know them a bit, and in many cases, they’ll ask you for a copy of your music. That’s what you want! Also, don’t come out of the gate too strong and try to convince them that you’re the best (whatever you are) in the world, and you do every genre of music imaginable. That’s a sure way to let them know you’re not very experienced. Figure out where you’re strongest, and let the conversation be about that, not how talented you are because you do rock, pop, country, jazz, EDM, etc. That’s a red flag, and it’s often hard for people to resist doing it because they think it’s a selling point, but it’s not. It’s probably more like a really bad first date!
While Stephen Baird created an EDM track from scratch, the audience got to see every compositional, arrangement, and production decision come to life on the big screen while they listened to his track being built in real time.
How many nationalities are usually present at the Rally?
Last time I checked, about 30 different countries are represented! People come from all over the world, and one of the nicest compliments we get is, “I flew here all the way from Singapore, and it was worth every penny and more!”
What ought to be the general focus or primary object when visiting the Rally (perhaps for the first time)?
That depends so much on the individual and what their goals are, that it’s hard for me to give good, across-the-board advice on that. One thing I often tell first-timers is; if you spend all your time in the bar trying to network and miss the panels and classes, you’ve made a big mistake. Making contacts is great, but blowing those relationships because you didn’t learn about how to make the best of them is a tragedy. I’ve seen it time and time again. People are so anxious to “get discovered” that they charge out of the gate too strongly and pitch the wrong music to the wrong person at the wrong time. The ballroom panels in particular are designed to help you maximize the relationships. Again, it’s kind of like dating. If you move too fast on the first date, you’ll likely scare the other person. Let nature take its course and move at its own speed. There will be many more opportunities to meet people if you’re “cool” about it. People will introduce you to the industry people they have relationships with if they think it’s a good match and you won’t embarrass them by being too in-their-face.
Do you have any advice on how a newbie should network at the Road Rally?
Figure out whom you need to network with early in the weekend, or just before you arrive. We provide you with bios for every speaker, teacher, and mentor beforehand, so it’s pretty easy to see who will be a good fit for what you’re trying to accomplish. It’s really easy to make friends at the Rally, but once again, it’s like dating! Don’t talk about how many kids you want to have on the first date. Look for commonality. “Do you use ProTools or Logic?” “Favorite plugins?” “Do you supervise more films or TV shows?” “How did you get into the business?” “What’s your biggest challenge?”
Everybody likes to talk about themselves. Let them, and they’ll likely get comfortable hanging out with you long enough for some sort of relationship to start!
"Don’t tell an industry person or potential collaborator your life story because people generally don’t want to hear it."
Are there any typical no-nos as to how one should conduct oneself?
Well, I’ve touched on that in the last two answers, but in short, don’t try to be somebody you’re not; be real, and don’t be pushy. Nobody likes anything being shoved in his or her face. And nobody wants to hear about your crazy ex-boyfriend who was the drummer in your band until he overdosed and drove his car over a cliff. Nobody will be impressed that you’ve been making music since you were 10 years old! Don’t tell an industry person or potential collaborator your life story because people generally don’t want to hear it. You’ll probably scare them off and waste the opportunity.
One more thing: Don’t hand somebody your CD while they’re standing at a urinal in the men’s room. I’m not kidding! It happens.
And finally, do you have any other advice on how to get the most out of a Rally?
Yes, please re-read this interview a second time when you’re on the airplane on your way to the Rally. Think really hard and drill down to figure out what it is that you’re trying to get from being at the Rally. If your goal is, “I just need somebody to hear how wonderful my music is so they’ll want to put it in their next blockbuster film,” that’s not specific enough. Maybe the real goal is to learn where and how to “bump into” that music supervisor, and having them feel comfortable enough to ask you for your music. Maybe your goal is to meet other TAXI members who are really strong with producing tracks that could compliment your melody and lyric writing skills.
The Rally can be incredibly fruitful if you take the time to think about why you’re coming and what it is you want to accomplish while you’re there. If you do that, the likelihood that you’ll get what you came for increases exponentially!