What is a Session Musician?

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Written By Tanya

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Session musicians are still highly sought after in today’s music business. The need for a studio musician to stand in during recording sessions has declined over the past ten years. This is largely due to technological advances and the shift to sample-based productions.

However, the demand for session musicians for musical performances has increased which compensates for the decrease in studio session work. The overall growth projections for the next 10 year are just slightly below the average across all industries.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, opportunities for singers and musicians are expected to rise by approximately 6% by 2026. This is the expected growth rate for all occupations over this period of time, which is 7%.

Anyone who needs to record music can hire a session musician. This includes a band, music producer or contractor, as well as a videographer. Their duties will vary depending on the job they are being hired for but their skills are still in high demand.

This article will cover everything you need to know to be a session musician, or to hire one.

What is a session musician?

A session musician can be a singer, guitarist, or pianist hired by a band or producer to perform in a recording studio. Session musicians are often called “studio musicians” because they perform in studio recording sessions.

This job was extremely popular in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Nearly every local scene, especially in New York, Los Angeles and Nashville, had session musicians that they worked with regularly. Everyone wanted to be in these “A-list” circles. Their pay was consistent and high.

The music industry’s growth and globalization has meant that a session musician’s job expanded to include support artists on tours, as well as musical performances for live events and playing in a band.

What makes a good session musician?

The quality of musicianship, as well as the versatility of a session musician are what make them different. Every session musician must be able to produce professional-quality studio tracks quickly in a variety of settings.

Session musicians are only hired because they are better than other musicians and produce better quality music. Artists consider them an investment in their music.

While most musicians are skilled in one instrument, some can also play multiple instruments or take on different roles such as writing scores, arranging, and recording tracks.

“A list” session musicians must have the necessary musical skills. They also need to be able to communicate well with others and keep a professional attitude. It is important that you can be a person bands and recording studios would love to work with.

You should be friendly, approachable, and arrive on time for rehearsals. Although it may not seem important, people will appreciate trustworthy and friendly musicians. Professional behavior is important when time is money. Let’s dive deeper.

How do you become a session musician?

There is no exam that you can take to be a session musician, but there are programs at universities. You must be in the right place at right time and stand out among others to achieve this. As we’ll see, networking is a big deal.

To be a successful session musician, you must have a high level of musical expertise and a strong understanding of music theory. No certification is required.

You must be able to perform spontaneously and to adapt to any genre without difficulty. You must be able to perform any music style, be able to work with any musician and be open to different types of session work.

Networking is the next step to becoming a session player. Networking is the next step in becoming a session musician. Get to know other players, introduce yourself, and give your details. You can meet other players by attending gigs, watching bands and meeting them at shows. Reach out to local recording studios and offer your services online. (Check out Craiglist in New York City to see it in action).

You should also work on your self-advertising online using a music market plan. You can create your own website or be present on social media. You can create a profile on Youtube and Facebook to document everything you do as a musician, or as a hired gun.

It’s a way to create a portfolio online and prove your claims. This portfolio must be updated frequently. It’s a way to show potential employers that you are the person you say you are.

These tips will increase your chances of being the right person for the right job. More people will be aware of you and your skills. Omni-present marketing is a way to be everywhere at any time (business saying).

Session Musician Jobs & Salary

Although it’s a freelance gig, it’s possible to make a living as a session musician. Sessions musicians can charge a fixed rate, but they are more often hourly. This is dependent on the musicians’ expertise and experience.

The hourly rate can be anywhere from minimum wage to several hundred dollars an hour. The bottom line is that the more gigs booked, the more money you can make, especially if you have good relationships with your clients.

It becomes more important to show your worth to the studio and its clients than to risk having to build rapport with new studio musicians.

Data from the U.S. The following earnings are reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for session musicians:

  • Median Salary: $58,552 (28.15/hour).
  • Top 10% Annual Salary $152,547 (73.34/hour).
  • Lower 10% Annual Salary: $21,632 (or 10.40/hour).

Here’s a comparison chart of salaries for similar jobs:

  • Music director/composer: $49.630
  • Music teacher at high school: $60,000.
  • Music teacher at $58,600

If you decide to become a session musician, there is one thing you should know: The job often requires additional expenses such as the purchase and maintenance of instruments, licensing, travel, and other expenses.

Credits and Royalties for Session Musicians

Session musicians are well-respected and highly valued within the music industry, despite the fact they work behind the scenes. Some of them were also publicly recognized, such as The Wrecking Crew (there is also a documentary film about them), The Funk Brothers, and the legendary Toto.

Popularity can bring you more gigs but not necessarily income from royalties and credits.

Most session musicians get paid via a Work For Hire Agreement. This means they are providing a service, and don’t own the rights to the song. However, major record labels usually pay 1-2% royalty to session musicians who work on an entire album. Sometimes, even a single track.

A session musician is the owner of the copyright for live performances.

Co-ownership of copyright is the right to consent to the use of the recording, be it for radio play, commercials or film. Any royalties resulting from the recording’s use are yours. If you agreed to a flat fee for the recording and have signed a release from a session musician, then you will not be entitled. Music Industry Inside out.

Are you a good candidate to be a session musician?

You must work hard if you want to make this career path a success. Here are some tips to help you get started.

  1. As a musician, you can specialize in the work that you do.
  2. Open-mindedness is key when it comes to music genres. Be ready to adapt to new situations, musicians, studios, etc.
  3. You should be able to improvise easily.
  4. Be friendly, but professional.
  5. Make a portfolio online.
  6. Network!
  7. When signing a contract, be sure to know your rights.

It’s great that even though you will be working in your local studio, clients can still find you online from around the country and world. It’s easy to share project files online. Are you a session musician?

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