TAXI Road Rally

Moses Avalon

A meeting of 2300 of the country’s most determined songwriters took place in an undisclosed location this weekend in LA.

For the thousands of struggling songwriters all over the continent, getting heard by any legitimate A&R person can be about as difficult as hailing a cab in downtown Manhattan at five o’clock.  But, the LA based company, TAXI, tries to level the playing field a bit by creating a more direct channel from songwriter to artist or music buyer through solicitations and their annual conference called the Taxi Road Rally.  The seventeen year-old company was met with some controversy in the beginning, but these shadows have faded in the recent past due to success stories involving Faith Hill and numerous network TV shows.

I’ve been to a few Taxi Road Rallies over the years, and I have to say that they keep getting better.  I might even go out on a limb and say that for the price (free) this might be the best music business conference on in the US.  Why? Host, Taxi CEO and Road Rally MC, Mike Laskow, has a personality that makes it feel like even though you’re in a room of about 2000 songwriters and only handful of record industry panelists and buyers, somehow we’re all sitting in a circle holding hands and sharing our feelings.  Nowhere else have I observed such a sense of accessibility to buyers and A&R as I do at the Road Rally.  Panelists hang out at the bar afterwards with members, instead of dashing to LAX to their next conference.  People take time to reconnect, year after year through Laskow’s extended family atmosphere.

To me this annual event is what justifies the price for Taxi’s service ($350 a year) if you’re a songwriter.  You will pay far more for SXSW and probably not make a personal connection as good as the one at Taxi.  Sure, you’ll hand out more CDs to people with linen business cards but you won’t get the sense that they will remember you in a week when you follow up.

And here’s a big secret that I know Mike will be mad at me for revealing, but I can’t help myself; even though Road Rally is roped off to Taxi members only, Mike doesn’t keep a tight lid on security.  Next year find out from a member where it’s going to be and get there. Then email and tell me if it wasn’t worth the effort.


6 responses to “TAXI Road Rally”

  1. Moses Avalon says:

    My bands experience with TAXI was a complete waste of time and money. It became an experiment at the end to prove our point. It seemed – and I only speak for myself – that it was nothing more then another money scam on the dreams of musicians. I’m completely open to the idea that we’re simply not good enough – however – here’s some of our most joked about experiments within the band.

    Song A – Taxi Review. Try to introduce some swing into your quantization of your drum machine to make your song have more of a live feel.
    Song A – NOTE: We record all our base tracks live to a click. So now we joke that our drummer has perfect timing – which he does not. ;o)

    Song B – Taxi Review. Try not to use a specific name of a person in a song. Make it more general so that others can identify with the song easily and make it their own.
    Song C (revised as suggested) – Taxi Review – Try not to be so general in your song writing! We got a kick out of this experiment and almost made the $350 worth it.

    My theory is this and it’s something I’ve come to learn from. When and industry person simply does not like your song – they feel compelled to offer you an explanation or a reason why it’s not a great song. They offer the cliche’ reasons found in the summary of most any “how to write a hit song” book. When in fact they have no concrete idea what makes a song likable. As a song writer and producer it would take a complete breakdown of chord structure, arrangement, melody line and lyrical analysis to truly give insight into what could “possibly” make a song better.

    With TAXI I felt like cattle running through the shoot with no care or attention that warranted the $350. I can get the very same advice garnishing opinions from other song writers I know how have never made it. It’s a craft that takes time, trial and error to hone.

    TAXI, like the Grammy organization (at least here in Philadelphia) has become for me just another organization who have the money to make more money from the dreams of thousands and thousands of music lovers and artists.


  2. Moses Avalon says:

    Thanks Mo. Glad that you got to see how many people get real value, not only from the Rally, but in moving forward with their craft and getting real deals that pay real $. It’s pretty humbling to know how many lives get changed because I had one good idea.

    BTW, we only charge $299.95/yr. and $199.95 for all renewal years.

    thanks again for the kind words,
    Mike Laskow

  3. Moses Avalon says:

    Hi Moses, thanks for the writeup; I totally agree. This was probably my fav seminar so far, and I’ve attended a ton of them. Of course, now I have a ton more work to, following up with peeps I met there, sending CDs, video editing. But it’s all good.

    ‘Twas cool hanging with you at the Rally. You’re a wise dude! Type to ya later,

    Tom Bishel
    Los Angeles, Ca.

  4. Moses Avalon says:

    Ah, Moses. I thought you were going to be more critical of the Road Rally –
    it’s not like you to gush!

    TAXI lost its credibility, IMHO, the instant they stopped passing along
    contact information for the “forwards”. It used to be that once a song made
    it past the TAXI screeners for forwarding to a client (hard enough in
    itself) you were told who the client was – which was comforting, because you
    could do research on the client and verify their legitimacy. At some point
    in 2007 TAXI stopped doing this so you had to take them at their word that
    your successful “forward” actually reached someone, without any objective
    proof. TAXI’s claim was they stopped doing this because TAXI members were
    harassing their clients, but if a few bad apples really spoiled the bunch,
    it sure took a lot of years for TAXI to take such an extreme measure.

    Swapping notes with an ex-TAXI member (and now full-time Nashville
    songwriter) friend, we’re both of the opinion that:

    1) TAXI has an extremely high churn rate. A very high percentage don’t renew
    for their 2nd year, which is why TAXI spends such a gargantuan amount on
    magazine advertising.
    2) The high churn rate is because few entries (and this is to TAXI’s credit)
    get forwarded.
    3) Add #1 and #2 together and what we saw seemed to be a goodly percentage
    of “fake forwards” designed to keep customer morale up and increase renewal.
    Particularly telling was the TAXI mantra that “it often takes over a year to
    hear back from a client when you’ve been forwarded.” Over a year, huh?
    Better keep that renewal going…

    Anyway, I went to the TAXI Road Rally ‘2007 held at the Westin LAX. (Was it
    the same location this year?) They were asking for customer comments about
    the Road Rally, which were (of course) used as testimonial fodder
    extensively. Not a single critical comment about the Road Rally was posted,
    consistent with the Road Rally’s incredible amount of message discipline.

    This is the TAXI Feedback comment I sent that year. It was, of course, not
    among the list of testimonials – and, BTW, you’re mentioned!



    P.S. When I decided not to renew in 2008, after all the renewal appeals
    failed TAXI’s final appeal involved offering to sell me a Road Rally ticket
    for $100. Its true value?


    From: Dallas Hodgson []
    Sent: Monday, November 19, 2007 6:34 PM
    To: ‘’
    Subject: Road Rally Feedback ’07

    Dear Michael & Co:

    Enjoyed the TAXI Road Rally ‘2007, my first one – and thought I’d drop a few
    comments. It was quite a spectacle, almost like a tent revival – with all
    that implies. I saw a lot of sparkles in the eyes of the attendees, but for
    me it’s kind of a tough call whether I’d attend twice. Some of the
    improvements I’d like to see are:

    1) Mail out the tickets, and forget about the ID checking at the door.
    If a non-TAXI member shows up in someone else’s place, so what? There’s no
    good reason for it, unless the real purpose of the Rally is to preach to the
    converted, which leads to:

    2) Questions critical of TAXI were nowhere to be found. Either on
    purpose, or by design, there were very few opportunities for people in the
    audience to actually grab a mic and address unscripted questions to the
    panelists at any of the Grand Ballroom events. There seemed to be quite a
    bit of “message control” going on. (Sample: How do we know if TAXI’s
    forwards have any substance whatsoever, when their contact information is
    being withheld from the submitters?)

    3) Almost zero discussion with regards to Music Business/Music Law and
    only a little with regards to Music Recording/Production. Moses Avalon is
    right in your area – he should be speaking! And recording-wise, the only
    real engineering-type (Ronan Chris Murphy) seemed to be more about scaring
    people away from home recording and getting them into real recording studios
    – that’s not what we want to hear, nor is it useful.

    4) No statistics. What is the size of the membership base? What
    percentage of submissions get forwarded? What percentage of forwards
    actually result in returned calls? I’d like to see a few bell curves here.

    5) Too much singer-songwriter emphasis; lyrics, lyrics lyrics. As for
    the hip-hoppers, they seemed completely out of place. Wouldn’t mind seeing
    some real music theory, arrangement or practical “things you can use now”
    types of classes with handouts, etc. The celebrity writer types, while fun,
    are not themselves of much value when they’re limited to speaking in broad
    generalities about this or that – and for the most part, they’re not TAXI
    people, really. It’s a bit disingenuous (although greatly popular, I’m sure)
    to infect the crowd with guest hitwriters by association, even though they
    themselves really didn’t get to where they were because of TAXI.

    The Road Rally was, for me, an enjoyable, but rather fluffy, conference for
    all the reasons mentioned above. This is probably not what you were wanting
    to hear, and I’m probably greatly outnumbered in my opinion – but I’m not
    easily jaded! I’d love to see some of these issues addressed so it would be
    more worthwhile to attend future events.



  5. Moses Avalon says:


    This is good information and I will not only share this with some song writers I work with I will actually make it my business to encourage more song writers and producers to join TAXI in 2009. The playing field has
    changed so dramatically for everyone until we all need to support platforms like Taxi which really helps to strengthen and redirect the creative community.

    Ernie Singleton
    Singleton Entertainment Corp

  6. TIGER M says:

    A heart-warming article.

    I’ve been skeptical about what I’d call “Songwriting Shark” [play on “Song Shark”] organizations
    Such as Taxi, A&R Select and other “Independent A&R” funds that take a fee for a service that any
    Musician, Artist, Producer or otherwise can do themselves [for those in the “sticks” a call and a mailout
    Is Like… $2.00 vs. the $250-$500 these “Indie A&R Firms” charge]

    But this article actually has me thinking next year I may make an appearance
    (And pay whatever fees are for non-TAXI members)

    BTW Mo’…

    “Free” is not the word for the TAXI members huddling at this Road Rally…

    The $350 annual fee is more than enough to suffice. =)

    I’m told by some artists that besides a critic and call back, “Road Rally”is TAXI’s only
    “Saving Grace” as they never get placement in the “Obvious Opportunities”
    (e.g. Television spots, Record Deals, etc.)

    Of course.. this may just be a “Spoiled Grapes Syndrome”
    ‘Cause the company wouldn’t exist for as long as it has [3-Less-20 YEARS! ^_^ Go TAXI!]
    If they didn’t do “SOEMTHING” (besides the “Road Rally” of course) ^^.

    In brief, thanks for this update Mo’. =)

    You’ve shifted this one’s view of TAXI.

    Warmest & Most Honest Regards,
    -TIGER M [Tuesday]
    -4:16 PM (11/25/2008)

    Angel Arc & Company

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