A great set of session musicians around an amazing vocalist is a winning formula. When you’re trying to find session musicians to work with, it can initially seem like a challenge if you don’t know where to look.
You can find and hire session musicians online by seeking session musician agencies or by using session websites. Or you can network through your local music scene. The suitability of each method depends on your priorities as a singer.
When you’re ready to record a song, it may seem like session musicians are a rare breed, but the reality is they’re probably looking for as much work as possible. The trick is knowing the right places to search and the right people to ask to find a musician to match your distinctive sound.
Hiring session musicians
What is the best way to find session musicians?
There’s no universal ‘best’ way to find session musicians. It all depends on what your priorities are as a singer. There are essentially two main pathways you can take to find session musicians: online or in person.
When you’re looking for local musicians to gig and practice with, you’re better off tracking them down and speaking to them in person and building a relationship. If you’re looking for a quick turn-around on a recording, or if what you’re looking for is particularly niche, then finding musicians for hire online might be preferable.
If you’re still a way off from recording using session musicians, then great. Putting in the time now to integrate organically into your local music scene is a great investment in your future music career and will save you time in the long-run.
Session musician salary – how much do session musicians cost?
When it comes to payment, many people can begin to feel anxious. There isn’t a clearly defined rate, but there’s no need to worry. The important thing is that you’re able to start to conversation and are aware of your budget.
It depends on the type of project, location and calibre of musician you are looking for, amongst other things. Sometimes unions organise rates for musicians, but other artists may set their own.
Think about how much you can offer, if anything, and bear this in mind in your search for a session musician. You could think about how much you would pay for an hour of instrument lessons and use that as a basis for an hour of recording.
If you don’t know where to start with rates, check out session musician websites and see how much the musicians you are looking for charge.
The most important thing is to keep an open dialogue from the start of potential collaborations so that both parties are on the same page.
9 ways to find session musicians
#1 Online session musicians
You’re not alone in your struggle to find session musicians. A relatively new and incredibly convenient way to find session musicians online is through dedicated session websites or apps.
What is a session website? Well, it’s an online platform that allows musicians and singers to advertise their portfolio and services.
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Sites such as:
Allow musicians and vocals from all over the world to post a profile, complete with samples and rates.
Along with the app Bandr, these are some of the best resources to get talking straight away with session musicians, whilst cutting out the middle man. Another huge benefit to this method is that it allows you to take a pick from a broader range of musicians. You might even find musicians to collaborate with across the world.
#2 Check out a session musician agency
If you’re in a rut trying to find a musician, why not find your local session musician agency through a quick internet search. Though not the most popular choice for musicians starting out, they can offer a level of safety when it comes to money, security and professionalism.
#3 Advertise at a local music store
Sometimes the best musicians are just too old-school for the internet. Most music stores have a notice board up for music teachers to advertise their services, bands to advertise their gigs and so on.
It’s worth sticking up a wanted ad for session musicians to attract a different kind of musician. Be sure to be detailed about what you are looking for, including your sound and style, what instrument(s) you’re looking for and how you can be contacted.
Whilst you’re in there, speak to the staff. They often have a great rapport with local musicians and may be able to put you in touch with someone. You might even bump into a talented player whilst you are there, if you’re lucky.
Local musicians for hire near me
#4 Advertise in online classifieds
Widen your search by advertising online to reach a wider audience. Online classifieds like Gumtree, or music specific classifieds like:
Can help you find musicians in your area to gig with.
So often in the music scene, people want to connect with other musicians in the hope of starting a project, creating a ‘wanted’ ad for potential session musicians allows you to ‘put the feelers out’ further afield.
#5 Go to local gigs and ask the musicians
Sometimes it’s best to cut out the middle man and go directly to the source. Look for flyers or websites that advertise local gig listings and attend. Remember to be courteous and watch the gig, it’s a great opportunity to see if they’re the sound you are after.
Approach afterwards and strike up a conversation, even if they’re not currently taking on new work, they might be able to put you in touch with someone who is.
#6 Ask recording studio staff for referrals
The best session players will have studio experience. This means that staff at recording studios will be familiar with the best musicians that have been dropping by for sessions.
Recording studios are so immersed in the day-to-day of the trade that they are often the first to know about industry happenings. It’s certainly worth dropping by or calling in to ask if they know of anyone looking for singers, or to let them know you are looking.
#7 Ask local music teachers
Perhaps the largest source of untapped knowledge with regards to the local music scene are music tutors. If you know of any, or can get in touch with any in your local area by doing a bit of research, why not drop them a line to ask if any of their clients are looking to branch into session music?
This is especially useful to target specific instruments, particularly if you need a niche instrument.
#8 Uncover your existing connections
You may already have more connections than you think! Check through old contacts from school on social media channels to see if they are still practicing. It might be mutually beneficial for you to work together.
#9 Be smart with social media
Follow hashtags like:
And local bands feeds to keep an eye out for any opportunities, you’d be surprised how often they crop up. Also, seek out local music community pages and forums, on platforms such as Facebook and Reddit.
Session musicians for hire
Most session musicians seem to agree that the best work they get is through organic connections made within the industry. This is either from accepting any opportunities that may arise, or through referral from friends and former collaborators.
The best thing to do is get out there playing with as many people as you can. Go to jam sessions and make a positive impression on other musicians. It’s essential to build up a positive reputation in your local scene because a lot of opportunities can come from being recommended by others.
The takeaway from this being that the best way to get ahead in the music industry comes from networking and experience. You can’t rely on opportunities coming to you, so get out there and meet more musicians.
Give each interaction with your peers your all, and don’t waste any opportunities. Forge strong relationships, practice with others often and learn from them. If you’ve ever wondered about the industry from a session musicians point-of-view, or you’re just looking for an ice-breaker for future networking, why not check out the session musician documentary ‘Hired Gun?’
Session musicians wanted
What to include in a ‘musician wanted’ ad
Many of the methods of getting in touch with session musicians discussed above involve marketing your act to potential collaborators. Whether you’re going old-school cool with posters, or embracing the internet, be sure to consider these few crucial things when appealing to potential musicians to make the right impression and attract the kinds of artist you want.
Does it stand out?
Whether a physical poster or an online ad, you need to stand out in a crowd. Take stock of other ads and what you find appealing in them. You don’t want to be another listing that just reads, ‘guitarist wanted.’
To make the main title text of your ad more interesting, state who you are instead of simply what you are looking for, for example instead of ‘guitarist wanted’, write something like ‘Indie Singer seeks Acoustic Guitarist’
Does it pinpoint your style?
Potential musicians are far more likely to be invested in joining you if you let them in on the detail. Write in a tone that conveys your passion for the project and make it clear what kind of style you want to work on. This way musicians can decide if the collaboration is right for them before getting in contact, saving you from wasting either party’s time.
Start off on the same page with your intentions
Be sure to include in your ad what your goals and ambitions are, whether it’s a regular gig, competitions or ad-hoc work. This saves from any potential disappointment when schedules or foresight don’t quite match further down the road.
Have you included contact details?
It goes without saying that ads should include contact details but try to include more than one way for people to get in touch if possible. Some people might not use email or be comfortable calling someone they don’t know of the blue, so it’s always best to offer choices when possible.
So, now you are armed with a range of ways to track down your fellow session musicians, it’s time to employ the method that’s right for you to find your perfect bandmates. If you aren’t quite at that stage, why not get networking and build up your contacts now through local jam nights, open mics and getting to know your local music venues!
What are your favourite places and events to meet other musicians? Let us know in the comments below!