By Michael Laskow and Fett
I’m nearly certain that the most frequently asked question people ask before they decide to join TAXI is this, “How many fully produced, ready-to-go songs or instrumentals should I have in my catalog before I join TAXI?”
As I started writing my response for this month’s newsletter, I remembered that a producer friend of mine from Nashville named, Fett – yep, that’s his entire name – addressed this very issue in an interview we did with him about four years ago! When I read his answer, I thought, “I’ll never beat that, so I might as well just excerpt it, print what he said again.” Here it is. Thanks, Fett!
Michael: So many people think that they shouldn’t join TAXI until their songs are totally ready and fully produced. I’ve always contended that they should use TAXI to get their songs ready by using the feedback they get from our A&R team, TAXI TV, the Forums, and The Road Rally before they record them.
Fett: I totally agree with you! The other thing I’ll add here about having one’s songs “ready” before submitting to TAXI is this: if you have an existing catalog of songs “just looking for a home,” then you’re looking at your material from completely the wrong angle, and TAXI might not even be the right place for you. Let me explain… As a songwriter/composer, the one thing that TAXI has taught me above all else it that, if you want to make a living (or any money, for that matter) from your songwriting or composing, you have to have material that can actually be used in the marketplace! So, if you’ve got a bunch of “finished” recordings, but no one can use them for commercial purposes in the current market, where does that leave you?
The approach that TAXI has taught me is to listen to what the market is asking for, and then provide that market with the goods. This doesn’t mean you have to “sell out” or create and record shitty music that you absolutely hate, or only “write for The Man” or any of that. Quite the contrary! It simply means that, when you are creating and recording your material, you now have a backdrop to consider about how it might be maximized for exposure to the general public. And isn’t that really what we all want in the long run? To have our music heard by as many people as possible? And guess what? If we create and record it with that in mind, we’ll also have a much bigger shot at making money from it as well. What’s not to like?
With that as a backdrop, here’s what I tell people who are thinking about joining TAXI…
Oh God, please don’t turn this into a commercial. People are going to think I asked you to say this…
No, let me say it! I needs to be said, and you didn’t ask me to say anything!
First, if you don’t have an open mind and don’t want to learn and change, don’t sign up! Assuming you get past that first hurdle, then you should sign up and be prepared to listen—a lot! And for at least a year, do mostly listening and paying attention to what others are doing and saying. And nowhere is there a more valuable place for that than on the “Best Kept Secret of TAXI:” the TAXI online Forums. There is a community of literally hundreds—maybe thousands, I don’t know… of other friendly, supportive people with previous experience and a willingness to help you along in every imaginable aspect of the process, from creating the material, to performance, to which virtual instrument library to invest in, to production tricks – and it’s included in the price of your TAXI membership! You can even listen to – and join a discussion about – which songs did and didn’t get forwarded for a particular listing, and most importantly, why!
I find it very interesting that many of the most active members on the TAXI Forums are also the most successful members. They’re the ones who’ve been TAXI members for five, ten, even fifteen years and have made a lot of money through their association with TAXI—some of them to the point of it becoming their sole source of income. And interestingly, those people who have “gotten it,” and figured out all the “hidden secrets” of success are the ones who are the most willing to share their expertise and help their fellow members along. It is so NOT the stereotype of the back-stabbing, turf-protecting music industry ethic!
Now, take that vibe and environment, put it on steroids, multiply it by 2,500, and that’s what you get at the Road Rally (TAXI’s FREE convention) every year. I should know; this year will be my TWELVTH Road Rally in a row! I literally re-arrange my recording and teaching schedule every year to make absolutely sure I will be able to make it to the Road Rally – it’s that valuable an experience to me. As Nancy and I have always said, “The emotional and professional lift we get from three days at the Road Rally each November carries us through to at least March or April of the following year!” It’s that incredible of an experience.
And, just like the Forums, it’s included FREE with your TAXI membership!
Okay, you’re starting to sound like a commercial again.
Seriously Michael, I think it should be the duty of every TAXI member to do everything in their power to make the TAXI Road Rally their “music industry pilgrimage” every year, because entire, successful music careers have been built from the Road Rally alone. I have witnessed it personally; it’s not just a bunch of marketing hype.
Well, when you say it like that, I think people will see your emphatic endorsement as genuine.
Can I say more about TAXI, or are you going to edit it all out?
Maybe you should say something negative so people don’t think you’re shilling.
How about if I just tell the truth?
Yeah, truth is always good…
So, in addition to listening intently and with an open mind for the first year, my next piece of advice for newer TAXI members is to start submitting material to listings as soon as possible. And even if you’ve been at it professionally for decades, do not count on any “success” (i.e., forwards and placements of your material) for at least the first three years. Yes, three years! Now, the smart ones shorten that time span considerably, because they keep submitting, getting feedback from the TAXI screeners, taking it to heart, and incorporating it back into their future submissions. They’re the ones with the most open minds.
When people ask me what TAXI is, I often describe it as the “Safe Microcosm of the Music Industry At Large.” The TAXI screening process is a way for you to have industry professionals, often with decades of their own experience and success, personally screen and evaluate your material and provide directed, personalized feedback – all in a completely safe environment where there’s no risk of “blowing it” with potential end-users of your music by submitting sub-par or inappropriate material. What in the world could possibly be wrong with a model like that? I think it’s ingenious. I sure wish such a thing had existed when I was coming up, believe me!
I remember having a discussion a few years ago with a dear friend of mine, an experienced songwriter/musician/performer who joined TAXI for only a year, submitted a few songs she had written years before, got offended by the critiques, and didn’t renew her membership because, in her words “TAXI just doesn’t get me.” That is TOTALLY the wrong attitude!
What the TAXI screeners are doing is serving as a valuable buffer between you and a virtually unlimited world of potential users of your artistic creations! Those potential users expect the highest-quality material available, and even then, only use the best of that. You want to have someone in your court who will be incredibly honest and say “not good enough yet” on behalf of those potential users, so you don’t have to hear it directly from them and ruin your chances of ever getting to submit another song to them. I would put it this way: it’s not about “TAXI getting you” as much as it is “you getting TAXI,” and what it’s there to do for you!
Fett is not only an engineer/producer who is beloved by his clients, he’s also the author of the incredibly wonderful book, “Fett’s Mixing Roadmap: A Step-by-Step Guide To Mixing Music In The Studio”