If you are great at playing an instrument or singing it will help when attempting to find a market for those skills. In fact any musical talent like songwriting, arranging, or engineering is going to give you an advantage in finding clients. However, the tough part is finding the jobs and the right people to work for! Here are a few tips for promoting yourself as a session musician.
What Is Your Job as a Session Artist?
First you need to find what skills and abilities people will pay you for. In most jobs you show up and they teach you exactly what they want you to do, but when you are selling expertise, the scenario changes. The responsibility is on you to show the client what you are capable of, it is important to play that role of the contractor and expert. And to reach that point of expertise, hopefully you have taken these steps.
- Practice, practice, practice. Session musicians are hired because they are excellent at their instrument(s), and this is not possible unless you practice. Be it guitar chords, scales, soloing, etc. If you think you have practiced enough, you probably haven’t! Keep going.
- Learn your music theory. Forget about all that “feeling the music” nonsense, clients want a musician that can transpose, arrange, compose, and know the foundations of the skill they provide.
- Know as many genres as possible. As you study music theory expand beyond what you normally play to diversify. A million students are out there shredding guitar right now, if you can do more than that you have your competition beat.
- Realize the spotlight is not on you. Your creativity and input are important, but always remember that this is a ghost gig for another artist or company. Follow their vision and play what they want, otherwise it will not be a pleasant experience.
Building a Portfolio as a Session Musician
It is necessary to build a portfolio of your work for clients to hear, that way they can be positive that you have the skills for their needs. This will involve recording and producing your own work or hiring an engineer to help mix and master. Whether you are writing your own music or playing with others, there must be some song examples for clients to access. Even if you are just learning how to sing or play an instrument, having a database of your material is a great way to see how far you’ve come!
- Stock audio sites and royalty free music are great places to submit your own tracks. Besides having an online example of your work, there is the chance the piece will sell and make some passive income.
- Major streaming platforms allow you to post any original music that you wish to showcase, it is just a matter of having the right production quality. And you again have the chance of potentially earning some streaming royalties.
- Creating your own website is also a great way to show the world what you can do as a session musician. Besides promoting yourself have an easy way to be contacted and hired
- If you plan on looking for work offline make sure you always have a way to share a song with a recording studio. Whether you carry physical copies or can transfer digital files, be certain the clients get to hear what you offer!
Finding Work as a Session Musician
Now comes the hard part of promoting yourself as a session musician, you must constantly be on the lookout for any job. There is no down time as a working musician, even if you have a gig, you must keep looking for the next one. To be honest it is not like playing some easy guitar songs, and those who succeed usually do after a lot of trial and error. Here are some potential places to market your music skills.
- Freelance and gig working sites are one of the best places, these sites often offer more services than just music. It is up to you to search for specific projects that suit you. Not all clients know exactly what they need when it comes to music so you need to approach them with the expertise that they require.
- Some freelancing sites are dedicated to bands and session musicians, these are easier to find jobs on, but also more competition. Besides your portfolio, find a unique way to make yourself stand out. Therefore learning theory and many genres helps, it provides more potential projects.
- Use social media to promote yourself! If you have some presence and can make clever videos try and turn that into likes and shares. Make it clear in your videos that not only are you a talented artist, but that your skills are also for sale. If possible, link to your portfolio on your social media page.
- If you live near a city it will be easier to find local studios that need session musicians. Not all studios exist in downtown areas, these days lots of nice home studios can be found. Introduce yourself in the least intrusive way and show them your portfolio. Rates will vary, but always get real pay and not exposure (of course the same principle applies to online work!).
- Besides local studios you can make connections with music stores and local bands. If you have a knack for teaching, do it! This gets you out there, builds a reputation, and even helps with income while waiting for session gigs.
Brick and mortar establishments like studios are more stable and easier to find, but they are harder to get the work. Online sites offer more projects, but they are always changing, you must constantly look for new places to work. It is best to approach all the angles you can to make it as a session musician. The more potential connections you make, the better chance of getting paid to play!
It isn’t easy to promote yourself as a session musician or make a living, if it was, more people would do it. Besides constant practice of your instrument or voice, it is essential to market and sell what you do. Look for local music businesses, freelance, gig sites, and anywhere that a client may need a session artist. Finally convince them that you are the right person for the job, you may not succeed the first few times, but keep trying and someone will hire you to play music!
About the Author
Shawn Leonhardt is a writer for Guitar Tricks and 30 Day Singer. He has produced songs, written T-shirt slogans, and provided voiceovers. He specializes in teaching songwriting, lyrics, and music theory.