Is becoming a session musician right for me?

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What do session musicians do?
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What are session musicians like?

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How to become a Session Musician

Becoming a session musician requires a combination of musical talent, networking skills, versatility, and dedication. Here are steps you can take to pursue a career as a session musician:

  • Develop Exceptional Musical Skills: Hone your skills on your primary instrument(s) to a professional level. Session musicians are expected to showcase exceptional technical proficiency and musical versatility.
  • Diversify Your Musical Repertoire: Explore different genres and styles to broaden your musical palette. Being adaptable and comfortable playing various genres will increase your appeal to a wider range of clients.
  • Build a Strong Music Education: Consider pursuing formal music education through university or conservatory programs. This can enhance your technical knowledge, expose you to diverse musical styles, and provide opportunities to network with fellow musicians.
  • Participate in Local Music Scenes: Immerse yourself in the local music scene by attending gigs, open mics, and jam sessions. This will help you connect with other musicians, producers, and industry professionals.
  • Create a Professional Online Presence: Build a professional website showcasing your skills, experience, and a portfolio of your work. Utilize social media platforms to share videos, recordings, and engage with potential clients and collaborators.
  • Record a Demo or Showreel: Create a high-quality demo or showreel that highlights your musical abilities. This can serve as a powerful tool when reaching out to potential clients and collaborators.
  • Network with Producers and Artists: Attend industry events, music conferences, and networking mixers to connect with producers, recording artists, and other musicians. Personal connections often play a significant role in securing session work.
  • Join Musicians' Unions and Associations: Consider joining musicians' unions or associations such as the American Federation of Musicians (AFM). These organizations provide resources, support, and networking opportunities for session musicians.
  • Offer Your Services Locally: Start by offering your services as a session musician locally. Collaborate with independent artists, bands, or producers to gain experience and build your portfolio.
  • Seek Session Work Online: Explore online platforms where musicians and producers connect for collaboration. Websites like SoundBetter and AirGigs allow session musicians to offer their services and connect with clients globally.
  • Build a Reputation for Reliability: Establish a reputation for being reliable, professional, and easy to work with. Consistently delivering high-quality performances on time will contribute to your credibility in the industry.
  • Stay Versatile and Adaptable: Continuously work on expanding your musical abilities and staying versatile. The ability to adapt to different musical styles and meet the specific needs of each project is essential for a session musician.
  • Consider Music Production and Engineering Skills: Familiarize yourself with music production and engineering techniques. While not mandatory, having basic knowledge in these areas can be beneficial, especially in the studio environment.
  • Be Persistent and Patient: Building a career as a session musician takes time and persistence. Stay dedicated, continue improving your skills, and be patient as you navigate the competitive music industry.

Helpful Resources
There are numerous resources available to help session musicians enhance their skills, find opportunities, and navigate the music industry:

  • American Federation of Musicians (AFM): The AFM is a prominent musicians' union that provides support, networking opportunities, and resources for professional musicians, including session musicians.
  • SoundBetter: A platform that connects musicians, producers, and audio engineers. Session musicians can offer their services for remote collaboration.
  • AirGigs: An online marketplace where musicians offer their services, including session work, for remote collaboration.
  • Berklee Online: Berklee College of Music offers online courses covering various aspects of music, including performance, production, and business.
  • Coursera and Udemy: Platforms offering a wide range of online music courses, including instrument-specific courses and music production.
  • NAMM Show: The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) hosts an annual trade show that brings together professionals from the music industry.
  • SXSW (South by Southwest): An annual event that includes a music festival, conference, and trade show, providing networking opportunities for musicians.
  • Gearslutz: An online community and forum where audio professionals, including session musicians, discuss recording gear, techniques, and studio setups.
  • Recording Revolution: A website and YouTube channel offering tutorials on recording, mixing, and music production.
  • TalkBass: A community and forum dedicated to bass players, including session bassists.
  • Music Business Worldwide: A website providing news and insights into the global music industry, including trends, deals, and business developments.
  • Future of Music Coalition: A nonprofit organization offering resources and advocacy for musicians, including legal and contractual information.
  • MusiCares: A charitable organization by the Recording Academy that provides financial, health, and wellness resources for musicians.