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The TAXI Road Rally

Creating music for Film and TV is challenging at best. You have to write quality music and get yourself connected with the right publishers and music supervisors to get your music placed. Add to that equation a full-time job and maybe a family, and it becomes even more challenging.

When trying to achieve success, that decision to power up the studio, rather than power down on the couch and call it a night is the most important decision you will make. The balance between living life and living in a studio is delicate to say the least. Add procrastination and the desire to chill out after a long, hard day, and you’ve got a recipe for a serious lack of progress – maybe even failure!

I’m not talking about composers that would be happy to hear their music in a TV show or two. I’m addressing the composers who’d like to add a significant, second income stream to their existing paycheck, or maybe even push hard enough to eventually become a full-time composer.

My Personal Ladder of Success

I remember feeling various levels of success when I first started composing for Film and TV.

The first rung on the ladder was, "Hey, I have a check for $14 because a show used my track.” I might have actually gotten a bit teary-eyed the first time I heard one of my pieces on a TV show. That was the second rung!

Receiving a royalty check that allowed me take my wife out to a nice dinner was next, earning enough to buy some new studio gear followed that, and yes, achieving each of those levels was very validating and powered my thirst to "level up" even more.

"I think the most important thing to have is the support of your significant other."

Communication With Your Significant Other Is Critical

If you’re married or in a relationship, I think the most important thing to have is the support of your significant other, no matter if that’s your wife, husband, girlfriend or boyfriend. Without that communication, you will definitely have an issue trying to move forward with music. Getting their “buy-in” and emotional support is important.

Communicate your success strategy and the plan you have to achieve it. There will be times where it seems that you’ve got to choose between "the studio" or your significant other, and that’s always a tough situation. So, if both of you are on the same page with what you are trying to accomplish, life will be easier (at least with your music!). But as they say, "If it were easy, everybody would be doing it.”

Looking back to my first two years with TAXI (I was married, but we didn’t have our daughter yet), I burned the candle at both ends. It had its pros and cons.



There are certainly tradeoffs to be made, and you have to pick and choose when each is the right decision for the right time and circumstance in your life.

Stefanie, Olivia, and Keith LuBrant just prior to dad’s descent into the studio ;-)
Stefanie, Olivia, and Keith LuBrant just prior to dad’s descent into the studio ;-)

In the years to come, I put a more balanced plan into place, especially with the addition of our daughter. I wanted to be a present father and create tons of memories with her, so things definitely had to change.

When my wife became pregnant, I had a "music panic" moment. How could I continue to compose? Would the publishers take me off their list of "go to" composers? Would my royalties drop by leaps and bounds?

I was happy to see that my royalty stream was staying consistent, and after the first six months or so, things definitely got easier. Indulge yourself with a realistic gut check and make sure you’ve developed an efficient recording process, and I think that you can have success. Here are some steps that can help:

Accountability and Efficiency

Keep your eye on the prize, which is building a significant catalog. I believe that the level of success is definitely connected to the quantity of quality tracks you create. If you feel overwhelmed, start by composing at least one track per week. This will get you in the practice of finishing a piece, which I feel is critically important.

Once you can do that on a regular basis, cut your "due date" down and try composing a piece in just three days! When you have accountability, it helps put you in the right headspace of what you need to do. Hold yourself to your goals.

Having 52 finished pieces of music at the end of your first year is much more likely to lead to your ultimate success than having 15 un-finished pieces in the same time frame. I think we’ve all been there, haven’t we?

"That decision to power up the studio, rather than power down on the couch... is the most important decision you will make."


You cannot obsess when mixing. Learn to lose the "new parent" trait that you have with the track, meaning you can’t let go of that beautiful piece of music. Also, with the actual mix process, learn to commit and move on (are you obsessing with that 80 Hz dip in kick?).

Remember, your audience will largely be hearing your music on TV speakers, laptops, iPads, and earbuds! There’s no need to get lost in the weeds with minutia they’ll never hear. Quality counts, but obsession is unproductive. Know where and when to draw the line!

Setting up templates for certain genres with instruments loaded and some general plugins ready-to-go will get you to the finish line faster when mixing. If you just finished up a Rock/Hip-Hop track, save it as a template, so the next time you need to do one, you can start with that template. That time you saved, multiplied by hundreds of tracks, and increased productivity is like money in the bank.

That’s not to say that you should never change the template. If you find yourself with forty Rock/Hip-Hop cues that sonically sound exactly the same, it may be time to change it up :)

Try to find holes in your day to record. For example: I get home first after work, before my wife comes home with our daughter. I fire up the studio and lay down some drums, but when my family comes home, we hang out, make dinner, and catch up on everyone's day. After dinner, I may lay down a bass track. It doesn't take long. I usually have the tone ready and everything is set to record. A couple of passes and done!

I come upstairs from my studio and spend the night with my family. Later, while my wife is bathing our daughter, I record the rest of the track. Depending on how that plays out, I can either start mixing then or I'll finish the mix at the end of the night.

Although we can only see her back, our guess is that Keith’s biggest fan is his adorable daughter Olivia!
Although we can only see her back, our guess is that Keith’s biggest fan is his adorable daughter Olivia!

Know Your Tones and Sounds

Get to know the instruments in your sound libraries so you can minimize the time you spend searching for the right sounds while you’re recording. Searching for sounds is not only a time waster, it’s also a creativity killer. Avoid going down that rabbit hole by dedicating time outside of the time you spend creating cues to get to know your library. It will be time well spent.

Even down to the right "clap" samples. Do I need a group clap, single clap, a more electronic clap? Mark any sounds or articulations that you know you can definitely use in the future for certain genres. If you get a guitar amp simulator, figure out what style of music can be covered with the various tones.

Get to Know Your Own Music

Know your personal music library - know what cues you have available for contracts, compared to cues that are already signed. When a publisher contacts you and asks if you have something in a particular genre or style, you need to have an answer.

Know Your Strengths

If your bread and butter genre is Rock, set realistic expectations when you are writing a new genre, like EDM. It will take you longer to complete. You have to find authentic sounds, be familiar with the structure of that music, and have the ability to make it sound just like that genre. It’s always a great idea to do research by viewing shows that use the type of music that you’re trying to create.

Know Your Genres

There are certain tones that are connected to certain genres and time periods. If you’re doing Motown, that kick drum will be EQ'd much differently than your Rock or Metal kick. I know that sounds obvious, but sounding authentic might be more difficult than it sounds. I often research the instruments and models that were used to add authenticity to my recordings that require a certain style or are reflective a particular era.

Be Realistic With Your Timeline for Deliverables

When a publisher or music library requests something from you, be realistic with your turnaround time. If she needs it by the end of the night, can you pull all the elements together and do you have the time it takes to do a track from concept to final mix? It's better to take fewer requests and get the tracks back to them on time, than to take more requests and not hit the deadline for some of them.

Get Organized Early and Stay Organized

One of the tricks of making money with your tracks is staying organized. Know which tracks are signed. Know which ones are available to be signed. Some people keep a spreadsheet, some write it down, others may use software database programs. Use whatever feels right for you, but be sure to stay organized.

If you can log all your composition data, such as metadata, publisher deals, writer splits, etc. It will help you tremendously in the long run. If you keep putting it off, the day will quickly come when the task will loom too large, and that will become your excuse for never doing it! All the successful TV composers I know organize their music in one form or another, and you’d be smart to do the same.

Attitude + Quality + Efficiency = Income

People get upset when a track submitted to TAXI doesn’t get forwarded. They sometimes see it as rejection, but they could be looking at it as, "It’s ok, I’m building my catalog whether this gets forwarded or not," unless the cue just isn’t that good. It helps to know that everything you create isn’t going to be the bomb! Be honest with yourself, so you’ll know if you just added another usable track to your stash or not!

At the end of the day, the business of placing TV and film music is a numbers game. That doesn’t mean you have to give up your creativity. The goal is to be great, efficient, and highly productive if you want to succeed in creating significant income.

It is important to be efficient and build your catalog up. The more you have in "the system,” the more chances of placement. But most importantly, don’t forget the bigger picture things, such as quality of life and your family. Enjoy it. You are only given one life. Make the most memories!

"The business of placing TV and film music is a numbers game. That doesn’t mean you have to give up your creativity."

“But I want to be a full-time composer!”

Wouldn’t we all? Some of us are in a better place to do that. Maybe you’re younger, with no family and no mortgage. Your options are a little more open than the person who has a wife, two kids, and a house that needs to be paid off.

But I like to frame it this way: You don’t have to instantly become a full-time composer. Build your catalog until it begins to generate a certain level of income and you’ve established a nice pipeline of publishing connections, and it will be easier to transition from your day gig and compose full-time.

While one could argue that quitting your day gig before you build the catalog, and jumping in full-time now would allow much more time to compose. Hypothetically, your catalog would grow much more quickly. But don’t forget, the placements you get today won’t put money in the bank for nine months or more. Do you have the luxury of time on your side?

If you do, I know thousands of your fellow TAXI members who are genuinely envious!

Remember that part about balancing your music, your career, and your family? Now’s the time to give that some serious thought and map out a plan that works best for your personal situation.

Keith LuBrant is a long-time TAXI member and an experienced songwriter/composer that has music featured in over 570 television shows, on networks such as NBC, CBS, ABC, HBO, MTV, and VH1. He’s worked with Philips Lighting on music for their training media and wrote the theme song for the Mattel Hot Wheels Custom Motors commercial campaign. When he’s not doing all of the above, he can be found creating cool software that helps musicians organize and pitch their music. It’s called Composer Catalog!

Check out Keith’s Music!

Check out Composer Catalog!