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How To Succeed As An Online Session Musician

Session Smarts By Jon Howells & Dan Hawkins
Published June 2021

Jon’s kit is permanently set up and miked, ready to record at the press of a button.Jon’s kit is permanently set up and miked, ready to record at the press of a button.

Two veterans of the online session world share their top tips for success.

We’ve been recording online for over 18 years, both individually and as a rhythm section. In that time, we’ve racked up thousands of credits for over 700 clients, ranging from bedroom artists to Hollywood film composers. We both played on the recent BBC/Netflix show The Serpent. In this article, we share five key tips to help ensure you stay busy as an online session musician.

Communication is key

Being easily contactable at all times gives the client peace of mind. It sounds obvious, but getting back to clients quickly is also vital. Because you can’t be with them in person, you need them to trust that you will be professional. Good timekeeping (in the non‑playing sense!) is perhaps the easiest way to show that you are someone to be taken seriously. You are also part of an important musical collaboration and, being remote, need to be especially aware of what the client wants from you and when they want it by.

Jon: I always switch the producer/composer’s contact details to ‘VIP’ on my iPhone during a project. This means that my phone will alert me the moment I get an email from them. I had a situation where the soundtrack to the film Momentum was being mixed in LA and the composer needed me to re‑send a few of the drum stems. My phone kindly alerted me at 3am and I managed to get the new drum and percussion stems to him within 45 minutes of his original email. 

Dan: I had an event where a producer was presenting a song to a record company in the afternoon and needed a very last‑minute bass line to add some life to a demo. I needed to record and send the bass line within an hour for him to be able to add it to his mix, and being easily contactable allowed me to do that.

Being easily contactable at all times gives the client peace...

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