Thursday, November 15, 2012

The forums - what, how, and why?!?

As outlined in the prior post "How TAXI works", the forums are an unrivaled tool that TAXI offers its members.

TAXI is a large, world-wide community of creative types primarily comprised of songwriters, but also including recording artists, music producers, and lyricists (and others). The members of the greater TAXI community don't typically interact with one another (the primary exception being the annual "Road Rally"music conference in L.A.).

The TAXI forums offer a place for all the people form the large community to congregate. It's a place for people to bounce ideas off of one another, ask questions, find collaborators, share their successes, and even vent their frustrations.

There is a TAXI staff moderator, and that's a good thing. I'll explain why later.

For now, lets take a look at the forums. Lets find out why the TAXI staff is regularly advocating its members take advantage of all the forums have to offer. And lastly, lets find out how to use them forums effectively!

The Layout
Any bulletin board type of forum is not technology's flashiest offspring. If you want interactive, holographic video streaming and projecting your TAXI screeners review of your song in realtime, well; that's not here. Or anywhere for that matter. Graphically speaking, forums look boring. TAXI isn't immune from that, but you don't go to the forums for glitz. You go to learn. To interact, to communicate, and to grow.

On all of those levels, TAXI's forum delivers!

To get to the forums, you need to sign in to your TAXI account. Upon sign in, you have a few options. You can go to personalized TAXI homepage that lists your mp3's, your photos, your bio, your videos, your gigs, and your interview. (You've uploaded & completed all this info - all free of charge)

Of course, if you're not serious about utilizing and maximizing your TAXI membership, you would likely see nothing on your artist page. But if you're here now, that's not don't worry.  :)

Underneath the header that contains all the hosting information, is an icon that says, "community." The first hyperlink under "community" reads, "Forums." That's it. That's where you want to go!

After selecting 'forums,' you're re-directed to a new page. Don't freak out, you're doing great - it looks a little different but you're in the right spot. Again, forums just have a more tech-y vibe.

A side note for anyone younger than me (which is getting to be a fair amount of people):
Just imagine, the whole INTERNET used to look that way. Wow. I remember it. And that 14.4 modem dial-up sound. Those were the...I digress...

To contribute (post/comment) in the forums, you'll need to create (via request) a username and password. The TAXI staff has to process this, and it's not an instantaneous process. I wish it were faster, but don't fret - they will get to ASAP. It's important to them as well!

Please know that you do NOT need to have a username or password to browse the forums. 

That being said, why aren't you going to check it It's ok, I won't get mad....just click here.

(cue snoring sound)

Dang, where have you been, stranger?? Only joking. But those forums are awesome, right? BTW, I'm jrkocian.

The forums are fairly self-explanatory. There are six major categories, with each grouping having it's own subs.

I was surprised by the SCREENER SHOUTOUTS section. Why? It's an opportunity to get a message to your screener. (Reminder: be nice. These are real people with real feelings, too).

The way the screeners operate is with a screener number. They don't use their names, and that's smart because some people get really, really angry with the reviews. I'll admit I've received some critiques that I thought were not always on the mark, but I'm not the most objective, critical reviewer of my own material!

Also, even if the review is totally off (rarely happens, if ever); so what? This is where I developed a skill that allowed me to break-through my self-limiting boundaries. It was a major catalyst in my development from an amateur to a professional. Here it is:

A professional critique is not a personal criticism. 

You may read that and think, 'yahhh, duhhhh.' But how do you FEEL when your e-mail bell goes "ding" and you see it's from TAXI, only to read:

"Dear James,
We listened carefully to your song(s) listed below, but unfortunately,
it wasn't right on target for listing....."

You feel like TAXI is judging you as a writer. You feel like TAXI doesn't like you, or your music. You feel like TAXI doesn't know what they're doing. You feel hurt. Maybe offended. Maybe more, maybe less. But I guarantee you feel something.

But before you go ballistic posting hateful slander about Michael Laskow and the TAXI staff in every cyber nook and cranny, remember this:

A professional critique is not a personal criticism. 

At some point you were willing to TRY. You joined (or will join) TAXI. You wanted to get better. To improve enough to get your music out to the world. So just take it for what they said...'it wasn't the right fit.'

Maybe it was one little thing - like the intro was too long. Or maybe it was that the melody was dated. Or the mix was off. Or whatever.

Now, read the critique. It's like medicine. It's good for you. Learn to like it. 

Ok, so you're done crying and you're ready to learn how you can improve. You want to know what you SPECIFICALLY need to do next time around.....

That's the spirit! (cue back taps)

This is when you hit the forums.

TAXI sends out the notifications (forwards/returns) in a group for each listing. What I quickly realized is that people like to celebrate their forwards because it's exciting.

Here comes the hard part...

So lets say you got a return for a listing. What you need to do is log on to the forums, and click on the "forwards" hyperlink.

Shortly after notifications are sent out, people will start to post their forward notifications.

Pro tip:
What I noticed was that most people would give the song name for the song they wrote that got forwarded. CLICK IT. Listen to it. Study it. Analyze it.

Then go find another song that got forwarded. And keep clicking all of the forwards. You're not listening to judge their track, and how you deserved to get the forward but got screwed (you're over it, remember?!)

You're listening to find the common thread between each of the songs. You're analyzing the chord progressions, tempo, melody, song structure, mood, tone, instrumentation, production, etc.

(Just like you did for the "Alas's." You didn't do that?!? We'll go over that in a future post, too!)

Then you are contrasting that to your song. There should be some glaring differences. Make a note of them for future reference because....
Pro tip:
That listing is going to come back around again. Or one like it. And probably, relatively soon.

That's it.

You can use the forums to glean all sorts of great info. About gear, structure, form, style, rhyming patterns, song length, fade outs, deals, etc.

I've merely outlined my personal tenchnique that made an IMMEDIATE impact on that amount of forwards I was getting. And the amount of publishing and production deals.

I developed this technique on my own. And now I'm sharing it with you. Why? For one, I'm tired of all the negative TAXI misinformation floating around. Also, I want others to succeed. That's the TAXI spirit. The music industry is big enough for every great, ambitious, flexible, and teachable writer/producer in the world.

Here's some more forum benefits:

- Have a question about what gear people are using? There's a topic for that.
- Looking for a lyricist to collaborate with? There's a topic for that.
- Got a question about a specific listing and what you think TAXI is looking for? There's a topic for that.

Pretty much every topic you could imagine related to the TAXI experience can be found on the forums. It's a great place to hang out. There are some incredibly motivating and inspirational stories by regular people who are making great music daily, like Big Blue Berry, CherBer, Mazz, Seth, Peeyo, and so many more!

Before I close this post, as promised I want to tell you why having a moderator is a good thing:

It's true that TAXI helps writers become better, no matter what your current level. It's also true that there are many young writers who think shotgunning their material is the path of least resistance to success. (That couldn't be further from the truth)

On occasion,  a zealous member might post the name of the publisher/library/label/contact person they just connected/signed with. If left unmonitored or unedited, many people would inundate said music professional with unsolicited material.

That would be horrible.
And possibly catastrophic.
It would jeopardize TAXI's credibility. This is, after all called the music business, not the music hobby!
Think of it, the company lists with TAXI confidentially, for a reason! If that trust is breached, what would happen if that company's boss called another music publisher and told them how they just got 4,789 songs from TAXI, unsolicited??

(they would never list with TAXI again) - goodbye opportunity.

It hurts everyone - the writers (chances), TAXI, the publishers (they do want music, just the right music).

So the moderator has to edit those names out. For everyone's protection. That's an important (and thankless job). So on behalf of all those members who have used the forums and appreciate the enormity of the moderator's task I say - thank you!

In closing, let me encourage you to rise above the few conspiracy theorists who spew negative and unfounded statements such as, "People on the forum (success stories) are TAXI staff."

That is 100% false. I KNOW those people (from the RALLY), and they are not TAXI staff. They're Moms and Dads, pro writers, amateur writers, day jobbers and DJ's (and everything else you can imagine); but not TAXI staff. Nor am I. It would be a loooong commute every day from Green Bay to L.A.!

So, in review:
To get MORE forwards...
1. Go to the 'forwards' section after you get a return
2. Listen to the forwards. Analyze. Take notes. Implement.
3. Write new material when the listing re-runs (or similar listing appears)
Repeat endlessly.

(enjoy getting more forwards)

I don't work for TAXI, but TAXI works for me!


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