This Article Originally Published June 2000

by Michael Laskow

The inspiration for TAXI came to me as a direct result from my many years sitting behind a recording console. Between working with the "superstars," I frequently worked with local artists, bands, and songwriters. Many of them were exceptionally good, but they all had one problem in common—they couldn't get anybody in the industry to listen to their music.

In 1978, I decided that some day I would do something to solve that problem. In 1992, I finally took action. I wrote the business plan for TAXI, and set off on what has been an incredible journey. Starting this company has been the most rewarding experience of my life (other than raising my family, of course).

When I started TAXI, the only thing I knew for sure was that there were hits out there that weren't being heard. The A&R process just wasn't set up in a way that allowed for any sort of efficiency in finding new songs or artists.

I'm writing this column on May 13th, 2000—the same date that's on the top of the Billboard magazine sitting on my desk open to the Hot Country Singles Chart containing "Buy Me A Rose" as the #1 song. "Buy Me A Rose" was also the #1 song on the Gavin Country chart, the Radio and Records Country chart, and the #1 video on CMT. Not too bad for a couple of previously unknown, "amateur" songwriters who have never set foot in Nashville.

The success of unknown songwriters and TAXI members Erik Hickenlooper and Jim Funk is special in many ways. The first of course, is that the song deserved to go to #1 because it's a great song. The second reason is that Jim and Erik are incredibly nice guys who remain humble even after this major accomplishment. The third aspect of the song's success that makes it special is that it proves what TAXI V.P. Doug Minnick has always said—a hit can come from anywhere. The folks in Nashville might disagree, but you can't argue with a #1 hit.

The success of "Buy Me A Rose" is enjoyable for me because it proves that the music industry really needs TAXI. Without our service, it's likely that "Buy Me A Rose" would have remained undiscovered in Utah, and that without that song, Kenny Rogers' album might have not done so well.

And maybe the thing that excites me most about the whole deal is that the song was cut in a bedroom on an 8-track with one microphone. I know I sound like a broken record, but it's really not about the "quality" of the recording gang, it's about the quality of the song. The fact that this song that was demoed on an 8-track, made it on to Kenny's album, and ultimately resulted in a #1 hit, speaks volumes.

Knowing that, and now seeing the proof, I strongly urge you to concentrate your efforts on song craft. There simply isn't anything better you can do to increase your odds of having success in the music business.

What can you do to improve your craft? Easy! Study the masters—the people who are having hits. Become fanatical about diagramming their songs. Listen to the radio, and break them down. How many bars in the intro? How many lines in the verse? Does the melody resolve up or down in most cases? Is there a "B" section or pre-chorus in the song? What happens rhythmically to differentiate the chorus from the verse?

Find the patterns that are common to many of the hits, and you'll be way ahead of your competition. If you become obsessive about song analysis, then you'll become an expert. Once you become an expert, you'll know what the other experts know. and they're the people with the hits on the charts. They're your direct competition, not the other writers or artists in your home town.

When Jim and Erik's song ended up in front of Kenny Rogers, it was competing directly with the best songs from the best writers in Nashville, and it won. And the really cool part is that now Erik and Jim are among that elite club of writers who've had a #1 Country hit.

Now, they'll be considered experts. They've figured out the difference between writing a song, and writing a "hit" song. Will they write a hit every time they try? Nope. Nobody does—not even Diane Warren. But in all likelihood, they will at some point in the future. And that's a skill they can take all the way to the bank. Congratulations Erik and Jim.