8 Reasons You Might Not Be Getting Remote Session Work
This is a post by top rated session drummer Luke O’Kelley.
Like any new venture, starting to do remote session work can be a hard nut to crack. In the new era of pandemics and social distancing, more musicians than ever are interested in doing remote session work, and while recording gear keeps getting better and cheaper, and websites like AirGigs make it easier than ever to get a rig set up, it can be hard to cut through the noise and find clients. I started doing remote session work in 2016 through AirGigs, and in this post I’ll break down some of the ways that I’ve found success on the AirGigs platform.
1) Be Honest
There is a lot of false information out there, and a lot of people “faking it ’till they make it.” Even online, musicians can smell insincerity and dishonesty a mile away. Most people aren’t looking for the most insane claims, but for a real person, with real skill and work ethic, that they can work with on their music.
When you fill out your profile and service listing(s) on AirGigs, you want to give prospective clients the clearest and most accurate picture of who you are and what they can expect. Use your real name and provide as much verifiable information as you can. There are lots of people on AirGigs that seem like they don’t want people to know who they are. When describing my services I try and abide by the age old monicer: “Under promise and over deliver.” If you are positive you can get a job done in two days, give yourself three.
2) Tell Your Story
Don’t just bombard people with a list of true information; tell them your story: why do you want to work on their song? What genres are you most passionate about? What have you accomplished in music (if you haven’t yet, that’s ok! Don’t feel like you have to add fluff. See tip #1)? While your service listing can be a little more service specific, your profile is a great place to tell prospective clients your story.
3) Use High Quality Media
Images – There are two places on AirGigs that you can put images: your profile banner, and your service listing(s). You can add multiple images to each service listing. Make sure that you have high resolution images of you doing the service(s) you are selling in both places. If you don’t have any pictures like this, ask a friend to take some, or maybe even hire a photographer to do a shoot of you in your studio.
Try not to add text to your images unless you think it’s absolutely necessary. There are plenty of other places for text and you don’t want your images to look too cluttered.
Soundclips – You can add two audio files and a Soundcloud link to each service listing. It’s worth creating a Soundcloud profile with your up-to-date portfolio on it, and uploading two audio files to each of your service listings.
For your first audio file, you should download your the best songs you’ve worked on, pull them into your DAW, pick the best parts of each, and fade these sections together to create a highlight real of your portfolio so that listeners can quickly get a snapshot of your experience. If they don’t like the first song, 10ish seconds later they can hear another one.
For the second audio file, If you are a vocalist or instrumentalist, don’t just upload a song you were a part of, upload audio of your soloed instrument before it was mixed. This will give clients an example of what they should expect you to deliver as a finished product.
Youtube video – You have the opportunity to upload a youtube video to each service listing. It’s worth creating a youtube video directly aimed at AirGigs clients. Showcase your gear, show clips of you working on projects in different styles.
4) List Your Credits
Have you played on Grammy winning albums? Do you have a weekly gig at the local blues joint? Everyone is at different points in their careers, but wherever you are, don’t be afraid of being honest about your credits (again, see tip #1). There’s no hard and fast rules here. You don’t have to give an exhaustive list of everything dating back to your middle school talent show, especially if you have a longer list of credits, but people shouldn’t have to hire a private interweb investigator to find out who you’ve played with. I’ve found that people generally fall into a few categories:
Major label credits: If you’ve worked with major label artists, list them. If you had different roles with different projects, list what your roles were. Were you nominated for awards? Be specific about them (What award? What year? What artist, album, song, etc.?).
Indie credits: You don’t have to work with major label artists to matter. Some of the most successful sellers on AirGigs have mostly or completely indie credits. You can still be proud of your career. List whoever you’ve played with that has music that people can find online. Putting together a playlist of your credits on a platform like Spotify or Soundcloud that people can search, listen to, and subscribe to is a great way to showcase your work too.
Newer musicians/live musicians: If you are new to the session world, that is totally valid. There are world class musicians that happen to have relatively little or no recording credits. Are you a newer musician? That is valid too! Everyone was a beginner at some point. Tell people what experience you have: where/how did you learn to play? What live experience do you have? Reach out to friends of yours to collaborate on recording some music, or make your own music to kickstart your portfolio. Make sure to record video of the process too so that people can see you actually playing/creating.
5) Talk About Your Gear
Musicians love to talk gear. Even if you don’t have the best Neve preamps and vintage Telefunken mics, tell people what you DO have. I know some of the best remote session musicians in the world that don’t have the “best” gear. You might think that telling people about your gear will discourage them from hiring you and resort to nebulously stating you have “pro quality gear.” In my opinion, people can see through that kind of lingo, and providing people with detailed, honest information builds credibility. People know that you don’t HAVE to tell them that you are using cheaper preamps, but being upfront about it helps to build trust. If you’re working with cheaper gear, you probably don’t want to work with a Neve snob anyway.
6) Be Easy To Work With
At the end of the day, no matter what gear you have, or who you’ve played with; if you have a bad attitude, approach projects half-heartedly, deliver a bad end product, don’t communicate clearly, or take a long time to respond to clients, then you won’t do very well in the remote recording world.
Again, try and abide by the “under promise, over deliver” motto. Here are some ways you can make sure you don’t burn client relationships:
Have a good attitude: Even the most successful; sought after studio pros will tell you that they have worked on lots of projects that they didn’t love. That’s ok. You should still approach every project with a great attitude, and make sure your clients know that you are honored they hired you to work on their project. If you don’t honestly feel like that, then you might need to rethink you service(s): raise your price, be more selective on what projects you take, or maybe reconsider pursuing remote session work altogether. Because, no matter what project you’re working on or what level you are at, getting paid to work on music is an honor. I know some musicians that have no interest in working on other people’s music, and play music purely out a burning desire to make their own music. That is totally valid, but if that’s you, maybe focus your efforts on making your own music. Don’t do session work purely for the money, there are other ways to make cash.
There have been projects that I’m pretty sure I didn’t nail, but having a positive attitude helped the client know that I was trying my absolute best.
Communicate clearly and on time: If someone reaches out to you about working with you, make sure you answer as quickly as possible. AirGigs sends you a notification whenever someone sends you a message. Make sure you have AirGigs emails marked as important, or sent to a mailbox that you check frequently. You should respond to messages same day, and ideally within the hour. If a project is going to take you longer to complete, or you are too busy to take it on, communicate that quickly and clearly to your client.
In my 5 years on AirGigs I’ve had a great experience with clients overall. Most clients are excited to work with sellers. Being easy to work with will make it more likely that clients treat you well and leave you positive reviews. With that said, you don’t have to be a push over; if clients ask you for something not described in your service listing, don’t be afraid to ask for more money. AirGigs support is there for you if you feel like you are being taken advantage of, or to resolve any miscommunication. AirGigs support cares about their musicians, and is great at spotting bad clients.
8) Follow Up With Clients
Over time, you should start to close clients and start to get positive reviews. When you finish a project, thank your clients for including you in their project, and don’t be afraid to ask for a review. Make sure you leave a positive review of your client (unless of course they were terrible to work with). After a few months, reach out to past clients to see how the project is coming along, and if they have any feedback for you. This is a great way to show clients you care about their music, and also increases the probability that they will send you a link to the finished product for you to add to your portfolio.
Sometimes a client will rave about your service during the process, and then have a question or a problem with your files when they go to mix it. Whether or not these questions or problems are your fault, it can be eye opening to hear these questions and problems, to help you find ways to improve your process, tweak your service’s wording, or better manage expectations with clients in the future.