It’s not unusual for me to cruise TAXI’s Forums on a Saturday morning. I’m really glad I did this morning, as I stumbled on an incredibly inspiring and instructive post from Andrew Jordan.
If you’re not a TAXI member yet, read this and you’ll see that it’s totally possible for an “average family guy” to accomplish what you’ve probably felt was out of your reach.
If you’re a TAXI member in your first year, let Andrew’s story inspire you to keep going.
Post by ResonantTone » Sat Jan 25, 2020 11:14 am
This February marks my 1-year journey with TAXI... and what a ride it has been! If nothing else were to ever come of it in terms of placements/royalties, I would say thank you to Michael Laskow and the whole TAXI team for such an amazing adventure and an incredibly fun process of growth and learning.
Here are some of my key highlights and timeline stuff:
February 2019 - Joined TAXI per recommendation of a personal friend. Never made a cue in my life. Didn’t know what they were, or how to create one. Bought Dean Krippaehne’s book, “Demystifying the Cue”, and started posting in the Peer To Peer section a lot. Got my first few forwards.
April 2019 - Got contacted by three different libraries all within the span of a week. Overwhelmed a bit, but super excited. Worked on a few albums and started cranking out songs as quickly as I could. Still didn’t know what the heck I was doing.
June 2019 - Got word from one of the libraries I work with that one of my cues got used over 10x on a CNN morning show. I was blown away to say the least!
July/August 2019 - Started working with a few new libraries, and tried to expand my catalog as much as possible. Pretty quiet on the usage side of things.
October/November 2019 - These were a great few months for me! Ended up getting multiple placements on E! and MTV, and got to attend my first ROAD RALLY! I had serious doubts about if this was a good idea or not (which I’ll explain below), but I’m so glad I did end up going!
December 2019/January 2020 - Placements on Cartoon Network, CNN, and FOX News, including my longest placement yet, which was over 1 minute of uninterrupted play. And I got my first international placement! My wife got a real kick out of hearing my song played under some French dialogue.
Over the last year, I was able to create around 120 instrumental cues, with the vast majority of them being signed to some really great libraries. I’ve done a few collaborations, all of which have been signed as well. My goal for 2020 is 200 instrumental cues and 20 vocal songs!
First off, I am a husband and a father of 4. (Yes, 4 kids!!!) All my kids are 10 and under, with my youngest being 2. I work full-time as a youth pastor (40-50 hrs. a week on normal weeks, much more for busy weeks), as well as teach a variety of music lessons on the side. My wife also works full-time, so scheduling everything and keeping the juggling act going is always a challenge! My life was insane before joining TAXI, and not much has changed. I have always loved music, but never considered myself a “producer” before joining TAXI. I grew up in garage bands and did some music in college and church, but never even entertained the idea of somehow getting my music out there, let alone getting paid for it.
I have an extremely humble setup including some Yamaha HS6s for monitors, a Scarlett 2i2 for an interface, an SM57, literally the cheapest M-audio keystudio midi controller out there, and my guitars/amp that I mic up. Tiny room...some sound absorption to help it out a bit, but nothing fancy by any means. I work in Logic Pro X on a 4-year old Macbook Pro with pretty average specs. I recently acquired some nice Beyer Dynamic DT990 Pros for headphone referencing, which has been a great addition.
Strictly from a financial standpoint, TAXI did not make much sense early on to me. It was the membership fee, then the submission fees (which really added up early on!). Then I realized I needed a decent synth plugin, etc. And [TAXI’s free convention] the Road Rally seemed completely out of reach, since it was in LA. At some point though, I remembered reading somewhere on the forum about how you’ll need to invest in your music as if it were a business. This was a much-needed piece of advice! I was able to transition out of “Whelp, there goes more money down the hole I’ll never see again,” to “I’m investing in this now, believing it will pay dividends down the road."
"I have always loved music, but never considered myself a ‘producer’ before joining TAXI."
That mindset change also led to a few really important turning points for me:
1) It caused me to have a serious conversation with my wife about how I wanted to treat this thing. It wasn’t just a hobby I’d do when I felt like it. I asked for her help in treating it like a business, and prioritizing it as such. That meant if I had a quota for what I was to be creating throughout the week that hadn’t been met, I’d start sacrificing things in order to meet those goals (things like social engagements, etc..). The guideline was to think of it as a part-time job and to prioritize it as such.
2) It caused me to start finding ways to invest in my endeavors! I have taken up a few additional music students to help fund things like the trip to LA for the rally, plugins, and other things that were pretty essential early on (decent headphones!). Even with the placements I’ve seen thus far, I have yet to receive my first royalty payment, which makes all the time, effort, and money invested seem pretty unnerving.. but I’m committed to be in it for the long haul. Pretty sure I passed the point of no return somewhere along the road, lol!
My main goal of writing this whole post is simply to be an encouragement. I enjoy teaching and encouraging others, and I’m hoping there might be a few things that I have learned along the way that might help you as well! Please remember that everyone’s path looks different, and that my timeline will probably look very different than your timeline for lots of reasons. If I can help someone out there that is in a similar spot to where I was a year ago, I feel like the time to write this stuff up is well worth it.
[Fellow TAXI member] Russell Landwher said this in a forum post a while back and it has stuck with me. “Control what you can control”. The more I thought about that, the more I realized how much I actually could control. So here goes:
PRIORITIZE and REPRIORITIZE
This is single-handedly the most important aspect I can convey, and I’m guessing it’s the one that is probably the major downfall of people that don’t get through their first year. For me, there are a few things that take precedence over music... mainly my family and my kids, and my full-time job. Sleep is important as well, but I can push the envelope on that one every now again. Same with fitness. If I’m really falling behind on getting some tracks out, that week’s gym time becomes music time.
The main trick I have found for prioritizing stuff correctly is to constantly reassess how you’re doing. Have you slacked off on family or household responsibilities to meet some deadlines? Fix it by figuring out what else can be scrapped instead. (Do you really need to watch another episode of Stranger Things?)
(Ok, that was a bad example. You really do need to watch another episode of Stranger Things because it’s that good. But what else can you cut out?)
Constantly evaluate and re-evaluate. Make small improvements, and keep taking small steps forward.
"Be ready to get better and let that be your main goal. Value criticism over validation!"
Make good use of your driving time.
If your schedule is insane like mine, you’ll need to be looking for any opportunity you can to work on your music. Listen to your stuff and reference tracks in your car! (Although, please don’t make mix decisions based solely off of it) I find that I can come up with creative ideas on things like arrangements, sound design, and other aspects by doing this on my way to or from work.
If you have a laptop, utilize it!
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had moments where I sat my 2-year-old son in the living room to watch his favorite show while I sat next to him with my laptop and headphones, tweaking songs, or laying down ideas/simple progressions/rhythms for when I can get in my studio space. Find creative ways to utilize time that is seemingly a wash to somehow help you out later on!
Be a constant learner
Become obsessed with learning. Ask questions, watch videos, listen to REFERENCE tracks, and critically evaluate your stuff. If you are stuck musically or are facing writer’s block of any kind, immediately transition into learning mode. Don’t waste time staring at the screen or beating your head against the wall because inspiration isn’t there. Go learn something...about the business, about production techniques, about musicianship or your instrument...TAXI TV and YouTube are insane resources just sitting there waiting for you to take the time to watch. Every second is valuable, so don’t waste it if nothing is coming from a creative standpoint.
Find your motivation and encouragement
Hang out on the forums, message people, build community... get creative! Start a hangout for producers in your local area. Find ways to stay in contact and focus on building others up instead of just taking. The more you help others in their journey, the more that help is gonna come back to you!
Figure out what inspires you, and immerse yourself in it whenever you can
When I joined TAXI, I had never made any EDM in my life really (I’m a guitar player! lol). I had never heard of future bass, and I didn’t honestly know what a drop was (don’t be ashamed, I know you’re out there too). The single most important part of getting my EDM stuff to where it needed to be in order for it to get signed/placed was to listen to it! I will play future bass playlists all the time now, simply for inspiration. Illenium, Flume, San Holo, Marshmello, and Chain Smokers specifically have all had a big impact on my sound in regards to this one particular genre.
Be easy to communicate and work with
When your moment comes to communicate directly with a library, be ready to respond courteously and quickly! I have found that it goes a long way to be able to provide what the library is asking for ASAP. Don’t wait a few days to write a response to that email. Realize that their mode of operation is dependent on working with a bunch of artists and composers and streamlining the process of getting new music while simultaneously getting all the behind the scenes taken care of. They have a lot on their plate, so make working and communicating with you as easy as possible.
Lose the artist ego, ASAP
Be confident enough in your stuff to not get offended if someone doesn’t like it or rejects it... be ready to get better and let that be your main goal. Value criticism over validation! Remember that every piece of criticism is not going to be accurate or valid, but if received in the right way, will give you specific items about your music that you can and should be assessing. As much as possible, use that criticism to objectively consider how your music/mixes could be better.
"One of the most fun things I’ve experienced along this road is the celebrating the little victories with my family."
Intentionally work on your musicianship
This isn’t talked about enough. Find ways to increase your musicianship, because musicianship = more creative tracks, a better ear, and overall improvement in your tracks. Listen for melodic hooks that create certain feelings or emotions. Let your ear start catching rhythmic ideas that you haven’t ever really considered before. Your ear is your most important piece of your music production. Make it a point to improve it!
Always look for efficiency improvements
This goes for everything...how you create, (templates, making sure your studio/music creation area is clean and ready to go...as well as plugins that make life easier...there is so much free stuff!) Come into your music creation area with a game plan! One neat little thing I added to help me with this is a wall in my tiny studio room almost completely covered in chalkboard wallpaper. I can keep track of my current projects and start marking off what I need to get done.
After doing all this and completely obsessing over this stuff, force yourself to take breaks every now and then
If you’re doing this right, it will feel weird to not be making music at every free moment you have. Usually every 2-3 weeks I take 1 or 2 nights off and let my brain reset, even though there is a tug to be making music. The benefits of it though are tremendous, as I get some clarity and come back at it with a fresh approach and renewed mindset.
And now for some tips and advice specifically for those with family/kids:
Don’t sacrifice family time for music
There will come a moment in time when you’ll have the chance to opt out of something special with your family in order to make some music. Don’t do it! Keep what’s most important at the top. Long-term, you may see the results you want with your music, but you’re not going to like who you became to get there.
Let your kids feel like they are just as invested in this thing as you are
I let my kids listen to my music all the time in the car and at home, and they now know exactly what I’m going to ask them (“What did it make you feel?” “What did you imagine while listening?”). I honestly take their feedback pretty seriously! My kids could care less about my musical ego...they just tell it to me straight. If something makes them happy and excited and immediately starts a dance party in the car, then I’m probably on the right track.
Let your family celebrate your successes with you
One of the most fun things I’ve experienced along this road is the celebrating the little victories with my family. Not only was it fun for all of them to learn about my placements, but it was a big deal for me to feel like they really were happy for me! So much time and effort goes into this thing, and those moments are really, really needed. No matter what sort of accomplishment it is (first cue completed, first forward, first deal, first placement, etc.) keep them informed and allow them to celebrate with you!
If you made it this far, thanks for taking the time to read all this! Feel free to ask me any questions about any of this stuff below [in the TAXI Forum], as I would love to chat about it or discuss any questions. In a really big way, I STILL don’t know what the heck I’m doing!!! But I’m loving the process, and I’m thankful for TAXI and all the opportunities that have come from it.
TAXI - You guys rock.
Everyone else - Control what you can control and work hard. You’ve got this!!!