I am blessed to be invited to co-teach a class at the 2011 Taxi Road Rally with my dear friends Matt Hirt and Dave Walton. This will be the third year we have taught this class, which was born out of a thread on the Taxi Forum.

My presentation will contain material from this blog post and my hope is that folks will be inspired to come here and post comments on their own experiences with their own 5 Year (or whatever is their time frame) Plan.

I should mention that I am in year 7 of my 5 year plan, having started seriously pursuing a career in composing for media in 2004 after many years of gigging and producing and being semi-retired but always musically active while working in a corporate day gig at a bio-pharmecutical company.

The 5 Year Plan is a map not a GPS

A map is an overview of the territory, and if it’s a road map, shows the various routes and gives the lay of the land. A GPS gives turn by turn directions which don’t necessarily take into account the terrain.

A 5 year plan is a journey that has many twists and turns in it and cannot be planned out to the very last detail because inevitably something will change along the way. A 5 year plan cannot be fixed because it involves so many variables and outside influences. Course corrections and route changes are the norm in a 5 year plan. Stopping to check the map is a common occurrence on the 5 year plan journey and sometimes stopping for weeks months or years in one interesting place is not unusual.

A 5 year plan by nature starts with a very high level overview of the territory and as one begins the journey, one begins to learn and the more one learns, the more adjustments must be made in order to stay headed in the general direction. As one gets further along the path, things that are learned along the way, if applied well and consciously, can begin to straighten the path and help the traveler to make better decisions.

What the process of a 5 year plan and a GPS have in common are that when one diverges from the GPS’ proscribed route (try turning left when the GPS says to turn right), the system must re-calculate the route by taking into consideration where you are now as opposed to where you want to go and issue a new set of instructions. This happens often on the 5 year plan.

A 5 year plan is not really a 5 year plan, but rather a life long journey. It’s convenient and easier to manage 5 year intervals, but really this road is full of twists and turns and the clock is reset every time a new milestone is reached.

A 5 year plan is an individual journey. Each person has their own pace and rhythm. Don’t be distracted by someone else seemingly moving faster or slower. In fact, spending too much energy on them means that you aren’t focused on your journey. If you were, you probably wouldn’t notice their pace and if you did, it would be an inspiration rather than a source of self doubt.

Things to keep in mind before starting on the journey:

(Reminder to myself: You teach what you need to learn the most which is why I am thankful to be sharing this material!!)


This can also be Vision Statement or Company Motto. Ask, “what is my vision for my business and career?”


Long and short term goals crucial. Make them achievable but have them stretch a bit too. Goals should be flexible, not held rigidly. Be willing to change, be agile in thinking and actions. Goals are directional signs, not fixed objects. Example: X songs per year = x per month = per week. The first year I set this goal, I didn’t make it, but the fact that I set it made me write more than I would have if I didn’t have the goal. What I learned by working toward that goal was valuable.


Possibly the most important skill to be developed. The gift that keeps on giving. Life is so much fuller when interacting with supportive friends and colleagues. The key is to be yourself. Some of the best advice I ever heard was from Ron Jones, composer of Family Guy and Star Trek Next Generation: (paraphrasing): Become friends with people first, without an agenda and let the business grow from there. Dan Kimpel’s book and Road Rally class were a big turning point for me in my development.

Relationships: The true wealth of a composer. Don’t underestimate the support system of fellow composers. Friends help friends, and referrals are a gift from the heart. A referral from a friend is an honor because they are putting their reputation with their client on the line, so a bond of trust has to be there before a recommendation is given.

Collaboration is another side benefit of relationships as well as having composer friends that are players as well. Someone that plays an instrument that I don’t and is also a composer means that we can collaborate and also trade session work.


Self assessment: Are you a glass half full person? A glass half empty person? Are you easy to work with? Collaborative? Deliver on time? Low maintenance? Do you value others and respect their feelings? Can you receive feedback? Can you say yes? Can you say no? Are you willing to learn?


Know the business. Know thyself. Continual learning. Do you know where you stand in the business? Are you willing to learn where you are in the business?


Writing. Playing. Production. Business. Networking. Relationship. Chops are developed through practice, Developing chops is a process of repetition while staying open to learning.


Doing what you I say I am going to do. Delivering quality 100% of the time.

Efficiency and productivity:

A process of constantly refining the work flow.

Examples: templates, taking notes throughout the day when ideas come in, defining the form of a piece ahead of time (ie: placing a marker at the time limit that the client is asking for), limiting the palette, deciding on the palette ahead of time and sticking to it, learning key shortcuts for often used tasks……….

Business organization:

Have commonly used contracts ready (work for hire, co-writing, etc.). Have a system for managing finances and writing invoices, etc. Develop a time management system (one that works for you). Have a system to manage contacts and the all important follow up.

My Long Term Goals and LIfe Lessons:

I’m probably not as good as I think I am: For me this is about staying humble and open to learning. Beginner’s Mind attitude (Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, a book by Suzuki). Cultivate and maintain a childlike wonder and openness. Keeping an open mind.

Balanced Life: This is a big challenge for me as I tend to work much more than I play. Health and family nurturance must be a priority.

Diversify: Attempt new styles and genres, grow through collaboration.

Live Players: The new “black” in production music and other types of media music. Every seminar I attend, whether it be game music or production music, the theme seems to be “live players add that extra something to a production”. Even one live player on the melody will bring a piece to life, even if everything else on the production is MIDI and/or samples.

Thanks for reading and if you attended the class at the Rally, thanks so much for that. Feel free to comment and share your own journey and let’s support each other. We need the support in this crazy business in these times we live in. Love and Blessings and all the best on your journey!!


Class Agenda handout:


Dave Walton’s notes from the class:
Taxi Rally 2011 Royalty Presentation

Great article in Electronic Musician by friend and fellow journeyer Katilin McGaw: social_networking/master_class_launch_company/

The ever inspiring and fabulous Dan Kimpel: http://www.dankimpel.com/

Must read music business book written by an attorney in layman’s terms:


Great book on publishing:

The Plain and Simple Guide to Music Publishing

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, a classic:

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind