There are many different approaches for a musician to make their way in the music industry; Playing in bands, producing music in a studio, managing a band on tour – the list goes on. One of the most popular choices for hard working, dedicated musicians is session work. High-quality session musicians are indispensable and, as always in the music industry, it’s often about whom you know, so if you make a good first impression as a session musician, you’ll never be out of work.
A session musician is a highly skilled and experienced musician who is hired to contribute to a song either in the studio or during a live performance. Occasionally session musicians join a band for an entire tour. This is particularly popular in pop music when a vocal group or artist needs backing music. It’s not uncommon however for session musicians to be drafted in on an album just to play for an afternoon. Whilst most notably used in pop music, session work is used in all genres of music to contribute musical compositions to adverts, film scores or in theatre productions.
Being able to play many different instruments is a vital key to session work. Naturally, it’s easier and cost effective to hire one musician to play multiple parts, so if you are a multi-instrumentalist this will definitely work in your favour. Players are often required to work quickly to learn new pieces, to be able to read music, and it will be assumed that any successful session musician will be able to play a variety of genres, learn parts by ear and transpose pieces quickly and easily.
As with any new venture it’s important to work hard on promoting yourself, just like you would with a new band or gig. Due to the growing number of session musicians it’s often hard to establish yourself so be willing to work that much harder, or have a slightly cheaper rate just to get your foot in the door.
Advertising is a big part to promoting yourself as a session musician. By putting up flyers at your local studio and music shops people will become aware of your presence, and through creating a simple website that is updated with useful information you can quickly and effectively reach a wider audience. By doing this, news will get round of your availability and you may soon find yourself acquiring work through word of mouth.
Establishing a career as a session musician takes years of hard work and networking but developing a portfolio of your previous work with producers and artists will help to further promote your services.
Networking is a big part of any job in the music industry and session work is no different. It’s important to be punctual, open-minded in your work style and willing to discuss any ideas that the producer or artist may have. Session work is about providing a service. Provide the right service and you’re well on the way to a successful career as a session musician.