Guest post by Evan Zwisler
Session work is one of the steadiest ways to earn a living as a musician. The work is often flexible, so you can schedule it around your other projects as you see fit.
Whether you’re a guitarist, drummer, singer, or play a different instrument, as a session musician you’ll be hired to play your instrument for studio sessions, live shows, and tours for either a percentage of the profits or a flat fee.
Here are some ways to help you find work as a session musician:
Have a website
First of all, you should have a website. Make sure you include a bio, what kind of session work you’re looking for, and list your previous work. If you can get isolated recordings of your specific parts from previous projects, that’s even better.
You should also have a clear call-to-action on your Homepage encouraging people to book you for a session, or to check out your resume of projects. And be sure to make it easy for people to get in touch with you for more information about your rates, and availability.
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“People who know you are far more likely to hire you”
Networking is a great way to find any type of work. People who know you are far more likely to hire you. Start off by reaching out to friends and family, and any other musicians you might know.
You should also reach out to your professional network. This includes recording studios, bookers you know, managers, press agents, or anyone who is connected to the music industry in a professional capacity.
If you’re not having any luck with your current network, grow it! Going to local shows is a great way to meet other musicians. No one’s going to be upset with you if you go to their show and strike up a conversation with them afterwards.
Social media is another great way to connect with potential clients. You can keep everyone up to date on what projects you’re working on, and your posts will can act like mini ads for your services as well.
These websites use crowdsourcing to connect people all over the globe. The pay tends not to be as good as being hired by a studio or a record label, but they’re a great way for you to build your portfolio.
Let me say that again: Be Professional! The sheer number of musicians who miss out on repeat work because of unprofessionalism is staggering. Session musicians aren’t rock stars, so leave all that BS at the door.
Being professional starts long before you walk into the studio. Once you book a job, get a good idea of what you’re going to have to do, and then prepare for it. Session musicians are one part of a larger operation, so if you walk in with no idea of what you’re going to play you’ll hold up the whole recording session.
If you’re playing something that’s already written, know your parts backwards and forwards. If you’re writing your own part, you should have a pretty good idea of what you’re going to play. Even if you’re just hired to, “come in and play some blues guitar,” make sure you have some pocket licks ready to go and know all your scales.
Join a musician's union
Unions are typically of most help if you’re playing music in a symphony or if you have to get a visa to work in another country. Symphony members are some of the very few musicians who work salaried positions. Most symphonies are paid and get their benefits through the union.
If you’re a musician who needs to tour internationally, a union can help you get a visa and deal with the bureaucratic red tape. Musician unions may not be for everyone, but for some they’re very helpful so it’s worth checking them out.
Evan Zwisler is a NYC-based musician who is most notably known for his work with The Values as a songwriter and guitarist, and is an active member of the Brooklyn music scene.
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