Five days after I flew back to Los Angeles from my month-long tour in Japan, I drove over to the Hollywood Renaissance Hotel in the Hollywood and Highland shopping and theatre complex (above), to attend the Taxi Road Rally, a four-day songwriters convention put on by Taxi, an independent A&R (“Artist & Repertoire”) company.
Taxi solicits performing artists, and compositions and songs from its members on behalf of record, television, and film producers, as well as for digital download companies and for libraries that sell music for advertising, video games, ring tones, and so forth. Taxi screens the submitted material and sends on what it considers appropriate. Because it performs this valuable function, it attracts many music buying entities, and, because it attracts many music buying entities, it attracts many songwriters and composers. Once a year, Taxi puts on a convention for its members, free of charge, offering classes, panel discussions, mentoring, and an open mic each night.
I joined Taxi last summer after releasing What Living’s All About, because I thought I could license my songs for performance by other artists. I realized quickly that the types of music I have created and the types commonly requested by the commercial music industry don’t overlap much, although occasionally I see a listing requesting something “quirky,” “like Tom Waits,” or “50’s style jazz” that the WLAA songs might fit. When they say “singer-songwriter,” what they mean is someone playing acoustic guitar rock and roll style, and singing about weird circumstances in a breathy voice. There’s a big market for that these days.
I don’t know how many thousands of songwriters attended the conference. It looked like at least two thousand to me. I loved being surrounded by other people who hear voices in their heads and actually do something about it. There was a sort of oximoronic quality to an event with a corporate format, attended by the very fringes of bohemian society, a convention of the unconventional.
Nonetheless, the hords of songsmiths and nightingales stood in long lines to register for the conference, receive badges, purchase luncheon tickets and carry away bags of advertising. We are a market, supporting magazines, professional organizations, music stores, equipment manufacturers, software writers, life coaches, career advisors, music and business teachers, authors and publishers. These were all present at the conference, fishing. And we were there, fishing, too. Everyone looked hopeful.
After we registered for admission, mentoring sessions, and luncheons, we gathered in the Grand Ballroom, where Michael Laskow, founder and CEO of Taxi offered a heartfelt welcome, and his thanks to the many who worked hard to make this event possible. “Every year,” he told us, “I swear I will never do another one of these again.” It was an endearing remark. Certainly none of us would have even done the first one.