The Rally, and the Tally

For the last few years, I’ve spent the first weekend of November attending a music-industry event called the TAXI Road Rally. If you’ve read this blog since it started this summer, you’ve heard of TAXI; it’s the independent A&R company I use. As part of my membership, I get two tickets to the Road Rally, TAXI’s annual convention.

It’s… well, not to sound all fanboy about it, but it’s pretty incredible. Keynote speakers for the last few years have been hot tickets like Jeffrey Steele and Kara DioGuardi, and legends like Charles Fox and Lamont Dozier. Panelists include folks like Kevin Kiner (composer for CSI: Miami, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and the brand-new Hell on Wheels), seven-time Grammy-winning producer Rob Chiarelli, and on and on. It’s three jam-packed days of classes and panels on everything from current vocal processing techniques to how to use social media for your band, to how to get past writer’s block. This year, Kiner actually scored a scene from an upcoming CSI: Miami episode as a panel session. Pretty informative (and funny – Kiner’s a riot).

The Rally Hotel's lobby, after hours – spontaneous jams of all shapes, sizes, genres, ages and hair colors. I'm at far right, soaking up the love (and a little bourbon).

I suppose it’s just like anybody else’s convention: you come away exhausted and – depending on what you accomplished, or didn’t, in the last 12 months – some mixture of all fired up and inspired, and downright despondent that you aren’t progressing quickly enough. You get a million great ideas, but you also overhear a guy at the bar talking about having had 273 placements of his music so far just on one cable network. If you haven’t, that can sting no matter how far you’ve come toward your own goals.

I’ll interject here that the Rally consistently provides an undocumented, unscheduled perk: a huge dose of love and support from fellow TAXI members, who befriend and help one another online throughout the year and then have a massive hug and lemme-buy-you-a-drink-fest once we’re together in person. Without fail, newcomers each year are stunned by the support and encouragement they get from people who are, in some cases, the competition. I adore my TAXI friends. They make a famously solitary occupation feel practically communal.

But anyway, back to the hard stuff – if you’ve been following along here at Composing Kitchen, you can probably guess how I felt coming off the conference: I’m not doing enough, and I’m not doing it quickly enough.

That’s how it feels. But… really? Let’s take stock for a minute. Just since leaving my job in July, I’ve had three pieces of music used on TV and one in a Breaking Bad webisode. I’ve signed music with three more libraries and have been asked by an indie label for a genre-specific CD. I’ve produced about 50 unique pieces of music. Some of those are short show-theme bits, but most are song-length, and most have homes already (that is, they’ve been picked up by music libraries). One is sitting, as I type, with an ad agency, because I tackled the type of high-bar, quick-turn opportunity that used to scare me to death. I’ve started scoring a local documentary and am in discussions regarding a feature film for early 2012. This is when I’m not busy teaching two university courses, freelance writing and editing, serving on the board of the New Mexico Post-Production Alliance, and being a decent partner to my sweetie.

I started this adventure in mid-July. I knew that the risks probably had nothing to do with actually going broke and starving, but instead with taking on too much non-music work to cover the bills and winding up still short on composing time. That’s exactly what happened, and I have to make peace with that and honor my commitments.

So it’s not perfect, yet. It’s not 273 placements. But if I’m completely honest with myself – and I try really hard to be – I can say it’s working.

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About CK Barlow

I'm a composer and music-technology instructor. In the summer of 2011, I decided it was time to give full-time music-making a shot, so I left my corporate job (I've always had one). That's part of what inspired Composing Kitchen, the blog I publish with my incredible spouse, Karen Milling. View all posts by CK Barlow

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