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« Not happy with existing venues? Make a new one. | Main | Drive and determination are far from enough. »
Tuesday
Oct062009

12 years with Taxi

taxi

Taxi is an independent A&R company, connecting musicians with labels, publishers, and music supervisors. On the 1st and 15th of every month, they provide a list of industry opportunities for members to submit songs to. Screeners forward the most suitable material for each listing to the person who requested it. I’ve been a member since 1997.

Recently, two of my songs were featured on a large cable network, and I signed an exclusive publishing deal. All thanks to Taxi? Nope. The music supervisor found me on thesixtyone and I connected with the publisher through Sonicbids.

Over the course of twelve years and 100+ forwarded submissions, with $3525 spent on membership and submission fees alone, I haven’t made a single deal through Taxi. In fact, I haven’t received so much as a phone call or e-mail from an interested party (cue the crickets).

The obvious counterargument is that my music simply sucks. Perhaps it does, but it still managed to get forwarded many, many times. They thought it was good enough.

In the course of promoting my new album, I asked a handful of publishers and music supervisors about Taxi. Their impressions were lukewarm to negative. Two described it as “worthless.” They had both used the service and felt that the quality of submissions was lacking. The overall consensus among those I spoke with was that Taxi is for amateurs.

Before I go any further, let me emphatically state that Taxi is not a scam. Michael Laskow and his team work tirelessly on behalf of their members. I’ve seen it firsthand at the conventions. They are good people running an honest business, and this article is not meant to disparage them or the company in any way. Their track record is impressive, and they deliver what they promise. They can get your songs into the decision-maker’s hands, but they don’t make the decision.

I suspect that many of you are in the same boat as I am. You want to pursue every possible opportunity for the songs you’ve already recorded, but you aren’t willing to record new material targeted at a specific listing, or even rewrite or re-record a song to make it a better fit. You simply want to get as much mileage as you can out of what you’ve already got. If that’s the case, maybe Taxi isn’t for you.

You might consider joining Taxi if:

  1. You want to sign with a label. If you’re young and attractive with a radio-friendly sound, a large following, verifiable sales, and touring experience, Taxi might be able to hook you up with a label. But with all that going for you, do you need one?
  2. You write songs solely to pitch to other artists. Taxi provides opportunities you won’t find on other “tip sheets,” and they seem particularly well-connected in the country music industry.
  3. You want to earn a living through film and TV placements. If you’re disciplined enough to write cues to spec, day in and day out, and treat it as a job, you can make a lot of money after a few years. Check out their video series on the topic. You’ll want to sign up for Taxi’s Dispatch service to receive daily last-minute requests from music supervisors.
  4. You want to get better. The cost of membership might be justified purely as an educational expense. The conventions, called Road Rallies in keeping with the automotive theme, are top notch. Song critiques are a mixed bag. I’ve had the same song get 9’s and 10’s on one critique, and 5’s and 6’s on another. That’s the subjective nature of music. I don’t take any particular criticism seriously until I see it more than once.

If you’re thinking about signing up, be sure to check the listings first to make sure the industry wants what you’ve got.

Brian Hazard is a recording artist with fifteen years of experience promoting his seven Color Theory albums. His Passive Promotion blog emphasizes “set it and forget it” methods of music promotion. Brian is also the head mastering engineer and owner of Resonance Mastering in Huntington Beach, California.

References (1)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.

Reader Comments (16)

This isn't worthy of the body of the article, but I have to share my favorite Taxi critique. "Stare Out the Window" is about acting on your dreams rather than watching life pass you by. The chorus is:

I don't want to stare out the window
I don't want to stare all of my life
Don't want to be afraid to remember
What I might have dared
What could be mine
I don't want to stare out the window
I don't want to stare all of my life
All of my life...

The screener rejected the song because, "I think I would like to be told (as a listener) what is out the window."

October 6 | Registered CommenterBrian Hazard

Thanks Brian. For more than a few years I've been waiting to hear someone sound off on Taxi. I think your critique is, as they say, Fair and Balanced. Taxi is a service organization, not a record label. They have their flaws.

Whats outside of that confounded window???!!

October 6 | Registered CommenterJustin Schmidt

Brian,

I'm sorry that we've been forwarding your music to all those companies and nobody has taken the bait. I wish I could force them to sign you, but all we can do is get you on the desk with a recommendation.

as somebody on my staff pointed out to me, our forum is filled with stories from members who got deal offers a year or more AFTER we forwarded them. I just looked at this page myself, and can't believe how many people have been picked up a year or TWO after being connected by TAXI. Check it out: http://taxi.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=success

October 6 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Laskow

This was a good honest piece and exactly what makes MTT such a great site. Thanks for speaking your truth.

October 6 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

Strong post Brian. Thank you. One question...What made you continue to pay Taxi for all these years w/o receiving any ROI?

October 7 | Unregistered CommenterKevin English

Michael, I do appreciate all you and Taxi have done for me over the years, even if it hasn't yet borne fruit in the form of a deal. The Road Rallies, critiques, and inspiration have been worth the price of admission for me. Granted, I usually pick up a referral or two between renewals, so the price of admission isn't that high! Alright, I'll do the math... it's come to less than $300 per year including submissions - a small percentage of what I've spent on promotion.

Kevin, I keep at it because I've always believed that my next song will be my best yet. I'm competitive by nature, so I'm driven by other members' success stories, which Michael often includes in his e-mails. Like I said, he's an inspiring guy. :)

October 7 | Registered CommenterBrian Hazard

I'd agree that Taxi is for amateurs, but mainly for the ones that want to become professionals. Maybe one member in ten actually has the necessary skills to do the "job" they're applying for; another three out of those ten can acquire the skills through the forum and critiques, and if the rest only learn that the business isn't what they thought or what they want, they'll have learned something of value too, and it's a much cheaper education than Berklee.

October 8 | Unregistered CommenterMojo Bone

Thank you for speaking out.
I have been 10 months with TAXI, submitted 100+ songs, forwarded two to the same Publisher who are very small. Anything for Film or TV have never been good enough. I admit at first I went a little wild in my submissions, but I became very careful to submit only to listing that I believe my music would fit. I decided last week to give them one last shot. A listing came in for a very specific need, and I wrote a song that catered for the listing, the lyrics were direct to the detailed listing request. I received today a return.... no forward... that is it, I am done. I simply believe that none of my music would ever be forwarded by TAXI.

Is it me? Maybe I am fooling myself and my music actually sucks.
Or maybe TAXI is not the tool for me.
I am onto other placement tools.

Bye Bye TAXI. My ride stops here.....

October 8 | Unregistered CommenterPaul G

I just figured out what is out the window..... the TAXI cab is driving away down the driveway.
I am not going to stare my while life at that TAXI.
beep beep... next stop... the BUS !

October 8 | Unregistered CommenterPaul G

I signed my artist up for sixtyone's site and immediately have gotten responses. Thanx. Still tryin to figure out how to use it though, because the music is up there, but is that all there is too it?that and to wait for comments and hearts and stuff? or?

October 11 | Unregistered CommenterTheAnonymousDJ

I'm not sure if you read my article on thesixtyone, but there's also some great advice from other t61 users in the comments:

http://passivepromotion.com/thesixtyone

In short, it's important to have your strategy down going in, and there's a lot more you can do besides just waiting to be discovered.

October 12 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Hazard

I agree with Brian Hazard. If this company is run by professionals then how do they explain the laughable reviews the reviewers give out? Seriously, what's outside the window. That's a professional? That deserves a refund.
The sad part is there are a ton of them. You read the posts on people complaining about their reviews and if Taxi has no shame then they should. I just read one recently where the guy had a great line about a girl he missed and the walls of the house and the reviewer said what kind of wall.
Oh, I don't know, Jericho? Berlin? Plaster? Babylon? Double studded?
I joined once and started reading some reviews and concluded that those reviews are shite and an insult to our intelligence.
It's music by lego design. "Put some square ones over here, add a few blue ones over there, make this corner a little rounder..."

"My dear young man, don't take it too hard. Your work is ingenious. It's quality work. And there are simply too many notes, that's all. Just cut a few and it will be perfect. "
Amadeus

July 1 | Unregistered Commenteralan

Hey brian 1 question is Sonicbids better than taxi im a pop writer looking to get started writing today is Sonicbids a great start for me thanx .

October 24 | Unregistered Commenterj el

Fair article, Brian. Resonates with my own experience.

I might be lucky as my 'niche' is hard alternative rock and the TAXI's 'Rock' panel of screeners have given me thoughtful (despite mixed) feedback in their critiques.

Having been a TAXI member for just over two years, I've had several forwards (and a stack of rejections.) Only one Music Library contacted me last year following those forwards. I signed (non-exclusive) with them this year. We'll see what happens.

I'll always review my TAXI membership on an annual basis in context of my goals for that year and my potential return on value under the personal budget of education, training and some promotion.

TAXI rallies are good for the like-minded people you meet and the song-writing workshops which I found valuable. In 2009 I got to meet 1-to-1 the A&R guy who signed some of the rock bands I grew up listening too and had a personally game-changing conversation.

During 2007-2009 I invested in Sonic Bids whilst operating in a band environment for gigs and promotion. Got very mixed results and potentially some of those opportunities were scams because they weren't what they said they were when it came to engagement. We did, however, get some great gig and music feature opportunities and Sonic Bids were helpful.

November 16 | Unregistered CommenterRob

HI.

So if Taxi is for amateurs, what should the professionals be signing up to?

I have no axe to grind one way or another.

I've just signed up for Taxi. I'm a producer that's only recently started recording again after a long long break, so I'm willing to explore as many aveneus as possible.

Cheers
Darren

I've gotten to know Taxi's business model quite well and one thing I can say is...there is a lot of crap music out there, and a lot of "artists" who'll throw anything at a listing (even if they know damn good and well the stuff is outdated and less than stellar quality) and then get quite miffed when they get a rejection. I think we, as musicians, need to take a good look in the mirror, and realize if we really want to do this "thing", we need to put a little more into it than digging out an old ep on occasion.

That being said, I do feel for those people who have gotten forwards and never heard a thing again. Though I'm not so sure it's TAXI's fault. Label guys were flakey twenty years ago, I can't imagine things have changed much. The truth is TAXI is NOT RIGHT for everyone, no matter what their ads claim, they have helped some people, but I have yet to hear of any big names coming through because of them.

June 14 | Unregistered CommenterGeezbarb

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