Tuesday, November 13, 2012

How TAXI works

TAXI was started by a former music producer/engineer named Micahel Laskow.

Michael's vision was to provide opportunities to songwriters, developing artists, and producers who may not otherwise have an opportunity to submit or expose their music to industry professionals.

In short, TAXI is set up as an independent A&R company. But if you're familiar with how A&R really works in 2012, you'll quickly realize TAXI is far more than traditional A&R.

Let me explain:

If you're fortunate enough to get your music in the hands of a legitimate A&R person currently looking for music in the exact genre you write/produce in, most A&R people today will give you 10 seconds. And that's if all the stars align properly for you. They might (and often do) just toss out your CD/e-mail/voicemail, etc. You have 10 seconds (or less) to FORCE them to listen. The song has to be such an overwhelmingly, undeniably STRONG HIT in the initial onset, otherwise it's done. (Now, go look at your songs - do they have long intros? Cut them.)

Here's an important insider music tip:
Most A&R people are not looking for unsolicited submissions. The chance of your song being exactly what they need is so improbable that it's literally not worth their time. 

But all hope is not lost.


Because if you're music is great. I mean HIT SONG CALIBER great. Consistently great. Well, you'll get noticed. You'll have to do a LOT of work (networking, building and cultivating relationships, traveling, etc.) but it can, and does happen.

But again, not often.

Here's how it usually happens:
A top A&R guy is looking for songs for XYZ artist. Top A&R guy (T.a.r.g.) tells a few of his top writers and producers he needs a hit, now. Those top writers and producers get cracking, tailoring a song for said artist. Then the word leaks out a little, and more writers and producers are gunning for said placement.

Then T.a.r.g. is at a party and he gets an email from his other industry friends, who are sending along mp3's of what they consider to be hits for said artist.

And as T.a.r.g. is at his daughter's dance recital, he runs in to a friend who has a smash for said artist. The friend vouches for the writer/producer and hands T.a.r.g. a CD.

Repeat scenario endlessly.

Now imagine trying to get your song, recorded in your home studio, often with a sound that is dated (not as good as radio quality), with a song that is average (not BETTER than the current #1).

Here's the problems:

1. T.a.r.g. doesn't want to hear your song. Don't take it personally. There was a time when he did. It's just that he's playing the %'s, and the overwhelming %  of songs he hears from unsigned writers or producers is not great. And saying 'not great' is being really nice.

2. Even if you get your song to T.a.r.g., it's likely not:
           a) a hit
           b) what he's looking for
So even though it seems like a bummer you can't get your song to T.a.r.g, it's for the best (for him) and for you! (Why? you don't want to make a bad 1st impression with t.a.r.g, because that will likely be his first AND last impression of you!)

3. You don't know how to get your song to T.a.r.g. You don't really know anyone (except great-aunt-Mildred, who once saw Wayne Newton sing live in Vegas) who knows anyone like T.a.r.g.

4. You have no idea if you're song is a hit (even though it feels like it to you, plus all your family and friends LOVE it and are convinced that if Josh Groban only heard it, he'd insist on recording it!), nor do you really know how it stacks up against the best of TODAY.

As I'm sure you can imagine, there's far more than 4 problems; but I feel sure you get the point.

Enter TAXI.

TAXI solves ALL the problems, and a ton more. Here's how:

T.a.r.g. may not know you now (or ever). That's ok, because t.a.r.g. switches careers, gets promoted/fired at break-neck speed! You want to know someone who knows t.a.r.g, t.a.r.g's boss, and the label owners.

Meet Michael Laskow.

He's spent his life in the industry developing and cultivating relationships with the top music industry professionals. He knows labels, t.a.r.g.'s, film/TV supervisors, and Madison Avenue (advertising) executives.

Let's be honest here - we could spend our lives networking and not know who Michael knows. So, let's do the smarter thing - let's get to know MICHAEL!

How? TAXI. He runs it, he oversees it, he is vested in it and passionately cares about its members.

Here's the nuts and bolts:

TAXI costs a couple hundred bucks.

This seems to be the most major point of contention for people. Truthfully, before I joined I was hesitant to spend the money, too. I was afraid of being ripped off. But then I sat down and reasoned it out. My thought process went like this:
1. I want to get my music cut (recorded by) major label artists and hear it on the radio.
2. I want to get my music in major films and TV shows.
3. I want to get my music on national TV spots.
4. I don't want to spend the money.
5. I spend waaaaay more than that on entertainment, which does nothing for my music career (NFL tickets, NBA tickets, dinners, movies, vacations...) and think NOTHING of it.
6. I have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.
7. Calling 1-800-451-2111 to join!

There's also some people who think Michael Laskow is some snake-oil scam artist who is ripping off unsuspecting musicians. I will craft a post at a later date offering my perspective on the most common complaints, but I can tell you from my personal experiences that Michael Laskow is a genuine, sensitive, and incredibly generous man of the highest integrity.

He's a family man that cares deeply for his community and often extends (and overextends) himself to others because that's just who he is. He creates opportunities and celebrates the successes. Yet he also understands the frustrations and hurt, and is willing to listen. I cannot think of another CEO who is more involved or in touch with his company and clients than Michael. In summary, this guy is a true champion.

After you join, here's what you get:
1. A free webpage to host your music (50 mp3's), bio, and pictures. You use this artist page to upload your music and then electronically submit songs. You can do it via snail-mail, but why?

2. Access to the forums. The forums alone are worth the membership fee. Again, I will create a future post just on the forums and specifically how to use the forums. For now I will just say that the forums helped me get FORWARDS and LAND DEALS.

3. Access to TAXI TV via Ustream. Michael hosts a weekly show on Monday evenings called, "TAXI TV." He brings in TOP industry people and peppers them with questions. He asks them questions for the members' sake. MICHAEL USUALLY already knows the answers - he's doing it to HELP!
Again, just imagine Steve Jobs having a weekly show, taking questions from Mac owners and interviewing people relevant to the community. How likely is a scenario like that?!?
The sad fact is that usually only around a couple hundred people show up on Monday nights. Of the THOUSANDS of members, only a couple hundred are using this indespensible tool!

4. A FREE CONFERENCE in L.A. It's called the "Road Rally." It's career-changing. Industry executives in all genres (music) and sectors (label, management, consulting, distribution, education, film/TV, advertising) speak and LISTEN to music. There's even an opportunity to sign up for a FREE 15 minute 1-on-1 listening session with a top industry person. I can tell you that I was offered a MAJOR deal, on the spot at one of theses sessions.

5. A community of like-minded, passionate, and driven individuals who are rooting for your success. That includes the other members, the forum community, and most importantly, THE TAXI STAFF!

6. Bi-weekly tip sheets. TAXI releases an industry tip sheet every two weeks. This sheet is ALWAYS current, and covers music in EVERY genre. Now, TAXI does NOT tell you directly who the artists are - they will give an "a la." For example, it might say:

"R&B/SOUL songs with a POP feel needed ASAP for a major, iconic artist in the style of JENNIFER HUDSON, ALICIA KEYS,..." etc.

A current tip sheet can be found here (click me) go check it out for yourself!

7. The opportunity to get your music placed with artists, labels, films, TV shows (worldwide), advertisements, online, video games, and wherever else music is heard!

So then what?

That's up to you. 

Depending on where you are with your writing and production, you could either:
1. Write music for specific listings
2. Submit previously written music for submissions

The most successful members typically write for a specific submission. If you're not able to do that, that's ok - TAXI can still work for you. Read on!...


You're next step is submitting your material.

The way you do that (as previously mentioned) is electronically or via snail mail. I'd guess nearly everyone submits electronically, so I will overview that procedure:

The tip sheet is online, on your aforementioned artist page. There's a hyperlink for "submit music." You click it, and it brings you to a page that contains all the listings. They are grouped by genre. So you find your genre, and read the listing. At the end of the listing there is a link to click to submit songs to that specific opportunity.

After clicking it, it will bring up a list of all of your songs that you uploaded to your artist page. You select your song, and click it.

It costs $5 per song to submit.

That appears to be a contentious point for some folks, so I'll say it again:

IT COSTS 5 BUCKS TO SUBMIT A SONG!

The anti-TAXI people point to this as Michael's grand get-rich scheme. Truthfully, here's the real scoop:

After you submit a song, TAXI guarantees that they will listen to the song in its entirety. No matter how long your intro, they're committed to hearing it. Now, it's good form to keep that intro SHORT (see above 'T.A.R.G.'), but unlike T.A.R.G., TAXI will not turn off your song after :10.

Also, in nearly every listing TAXI WILL give you a critique. That's also worth the $5. And the few hundred. Why? It's a PROFESSIONAL, someone who achieved success in the industry that's listening to your songs(s). They KNOW what works and what doesn't. And they will offer advice. Directly to you. On how to get better. 

Finally, if the submission process were free, amateurs would submit EVERY SINGLE SONG they've ever written for EVERY listing. That's just bad business. 

After some time (TAXI says 10-30 days, it's usually around 2 weeks), TAXI sends out notices. At this point your song either got forwarded to the music company that placed the listing, or got returned to you because it wasn't the right fit. If you get a return, they do their best to let you know WHY (this is PRICELESS info).

Now, at this point you have a choice:
1. Listen. 
2. Get angry and think/say, "TAXI sucks. It's a rip. They're idiots, they are a bunch of $%@&#&@*&#*, etc."

Every return stings. Every one. In my nearly 2 years of membership I've had 50+ forwards. And a bunch of returns. I've had songs signed and placed by majors. I've had songs recorded and released. And still every return stings.

But here's a little known fact:

the TAXI screeners WANT to forward your music. It makes them happy. THEY KNOW it's hard to get a return, and they don't enjoy that part of their job. But they HAVE TO DO IT. To make you better.

So lets follow the song after you get the notice:

If the song was returned you SHOULD read the critique carefully and adjust accordingly. Not only will the screener offer specific song ideas, they will likely make book/resource suggestions. Buy them, read them, study them, apply the info - and get better! The next time you submit the song, re-label the mp3 as "XYZ re-write." It shows your willingness to get better. If you want to be regarded as a professional, it's imperative to treat your colleagues as professionals AND invest in your craft as well.

Let it sting for a moment, then use it as fuel to improve. Read the bios of EVERY GREAT artist/business person/inventor - they ALL had a TON of failures. Learn to move on. The quicker, the better.
  
 If the song was forwarded you should be happy. And move on. Wow, anticlimactic, right?!

Well, what happens is that your song, along with any others that were forwarded get sent to the company that submitted the listing. The great thing for you is, the song has ALREADY been screened, so the company KNOWS it's decent. They know TAXI is not gonna' send them subpar material.

But realize this: most companies do not exclusively use TAXI. They have other writers, producers, and artists submitting (see "t.a.r.g." above) so your song is in a BATCH of songs - at least one of which is going to land the placement.

YOU HAVE A CHANCE!

Anyway, here's a truth I had to come to grips with:
My songs might be good enough for the forward, but not good enough for the deal.

That was tough. But true. There's a saying on the forums that applies whether or not you've been forwarded:
"Write, submit, forget, repeat."

After getting multiple forwards, it is just a matter of time before you get a deal. Again, there are many variables, such as:
1. It's easier to get signed with a smaller, less active publisher.
2. It's easier to get a film/tv placement than an artist cut.
3. It's easier to get an instrumental cue signed and placed than a song with lyrics.

So if you're goal is to have Taylor Swift sing your new song with your production, well, that's a loooong shot. But anything's possible, and you CAN get your music to major artists and film/TV outlets.

Back to the forwarded song's journey...

It's been forwarded, and piqued the interest of (for example) an active film/tv music placement company (a/k/a music library). What happens then is that someone from "ABC Publsihers" reaches out to you expressing interest in your material. Now, this next step is very important:

Be nice.

Be genuine.

Be thankful.

Be humble.

Be easy to work with.

You know, all the stuff our mom's taught us.

This is business. It's their profession (even if it's not yours) and they don't want to work with a prima-donna who is some flaky nut-job. Would you? I mean, this is so basic, but be the kind of person YOU would want to work with. Be the kind of person YOU like to be around.

At this point (in my experience), the "ABC publisher" is developing a rapport with you and wants to hear more music. 

That's key. So send them what they want. And make sure it's as good as your prior forward (or better). Then, a 1-song deal can turn in to a 10+ song deal. Or a staff writing deal. (I'm speaking from experience here, this has happened to me) or, any number of other opportunities.

Insider tip:
Then at this point it's best to consider that song OFF THE TABLE. Meaning, it's good form NOT To submit that song any longer. Music supes are not happy when they see the same song re-titled 6 times with 6 different publishers. It reflects poorly on you, and it's not worth it!

Now the publisher will begin "pitching" the song and (hopefully) getting placements. The getting placements part is NOT up to the publisher! It's up to the label/artists/company/music supe that the song is being pitched to. Obviously the publisher wouldn't sign the song unless they thought it could be placed, but sometimes a song gets signed and not placed. Luckily, most deals are not forever.

The home stretch for the song...
The publisher pitches it and a very popular TV network's supervisor LOVES it. You get notification (on occasion) that the song is going to be in this week's episode of "the most popular show on planet earth" so you can celebrate with your friends and family. The show comes on, and you're waiting...until the character enters the obligatory bar scene  and you hear a familiar song in the background - BAM - that's you!!

Or the last scene of the show is playing, tying in 3 different story lines, all seamlessly fading together around the chorus of YOUR SONG!!

Or 1 of 100 other ways it can happen - and that's just ONE song in the film/TV market. The artist cut market is similar in some ways, totally different in others.

I feel sure you get the idea though.

TAXI creates the opportunity for your songs to get heard. To get placed. To get played. To make money. But for me, the most important thing TAXI offers is the opportunity To get better.

And THAT'S how TAXI works!


In conclusion, let me summarize by saying:
 
I don't work for TAXI, but TAXI works for me!







6 comments:

  1. Another insightful and inspiring one. Thanks for taking the time out to write about all this. I like the "rewrite" labelling idea and how you break down the various odds and processes a bit. I've had about equal forwards and returns so far, including some minor deal offers as a result but are aiming to get more music placed directly to music supes, directors or ad agencies through Taxi. Best, Jay

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  2. This article is gold! Thanks James for spelling this out- I am eager to join Taxi soon.

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  3. I was a Taxi member for three years and I was genuinley excited by the opportunities that were offered. I was totally absorbed by it. I put at least $3,000 into various submissions and despite what is written here, in my experience of submitting over 200 applications, YOU DO NOT GET A CRITIQUE every time you submit a song. You have to pay at least $20 for that privelege. $5 is the minimum fee but most of the time I was paying alot more per entry more like $20. I would suggest to TAXI that there is a better narrowing down process for example if you write acoustic songs you can still pay $100s submitting the wrong kind of music to the wrong kind of opportunity. Over the course of three years I only earnt about $250 back. This (of course) depends on the suitability of your music but knowing what I know now, there is no doubt it TAXI is a money making scheme it is not a charity. Submitting your music is a lottery although I do suspect the winners weren't always TAXI members.
    Having spent four years contracted to Warner Brothers publishing, I know that music gets used if it is beneficial to the people in the loop. My publishing deal was set up totally unrelated to any TAXI submissions. I knew a guy who knew a guy and if he was allowed to own half the rights to the music he would use my music. So I went with it and earnt enough to pay to make another album. The other thing to consider with TAXI that a lot of the opportunites don't go to TAXI members. The music is sourced internally, or by a brother who has a band or a cousin or a friend. the main reason I got my publishing deal is because I knew a guy who knew a guy. I've hired 100 musicians over the years and the best ones I used were from personal recommnedations or people I knew already, not advertisments. It's the same kind of process. I wish I could have known this without wasting $1000s of dollars, I probably should have been more selective but I was desperate.

    As a conclusion I would say if you have the money to loose and you are desperate to get your music used, go for it. Be very selective about what you submit, restrict what you spend.

    Before you join, try approaching a few film makers / managers yourself. Most business is built on personal relationships so try to do it yourself. You pay to be on their shelves of TAXI, Sonicbids, Band it (etc) they are only there to make money. They maybe nice people but these companies are not charity and there is no proof that all the opportunites go to genuine members.

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  5. as an outspoken feminist at a luncheon Steven attends. Both are better than the material that surrounds them. music

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  6. What is the difference between this article and a regular advertisement for TAXI?

    ReplyDelete

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