What are session players?
Session players/session musician (also known as backing or studio musicians) are musicians hired for recording sessions or live gigs for a temporary period of time. Session musicians are not typically permanent members of the group or project hiring them.
The key point is temporary, and as such session players are always looking for gigs, or waiting for the next phone call.
The role of session players is changing
The role of session players has changed drastically, and for the better, in the last ten years. Because of advancements in technology, it is now possible for a talented session player to record their part of a “session” from home (remote session musicians) and then email it to the producer/mixer. This eliminates travel and makes it possible for those in demand to accomplish more in a shorter period of time.
Still, the traditional session player gig is to either go to a recording studio, or go to a performance, and supply the needed background music, or vocals, for another performer or band. And for those wondering, this is quite a normal way in the music industry. Few people know that many major performers have different band members “on the road” as opposed to “in the studio.” Some session players are actually better live than in a studio, and vice versa.
The really good session player blends into the song/music they are hired to accompany. They have a sense of what the main performers are trying to accomplish.
How do you find session players?
Not to worry if you are looking for a session player. The good ones are known by most performers in any city of decent size. Their reputations follow them wherever they go. Check the local music scene, ask around, and it won’t take long to find good session players for practically any instrument.
How do you become known as a good session player?
If you are looking to fill this niche and add to your resume, but you are just starting out, hang out in the local music scene. Talk to musicians. Get known. And above all, work on your talent. Star performers do not hire just anyone; they count on recommendations from musicians and music producer that they trust, or they hire session players they have heard. It takes time to establish oneself as a trusted session player. It is a highly competitive field in large cities, so you have to “pay your dues” and put in the time.
What do session players get paid?
It is impossible to answer this question. The really good ones can expect pay in the thousands. Ones just starting out can expect pay in the hundreds. You will get paid what your talent and reputation dictates, so don’t play on overnight riches. The music industry is a tough industry to become known in, so pack a lot of patience and work your craft. Once you are good, the gigs will arrive at your doorstep if the gods are smiling upon you.