So, how does one go about getting a job as a studio musician?
I'm not talking about the qualifications. I know you need the chops obviously. You should know your theory and how to read music. You also need to be professional--show up on time ready to work, be easy to work with, reliable, etc, etc.
I'm talking more about, how does one get their foot in the door? I mean, I wouldn't even really know where to look or who to contact. It's not like I ever see ads looking for studio musicians, except for people on sites like craigslist looking for someone, but they're not studios, and I don't really trust craigslist anyway.
There are studios around where I live, but I get the idea they're for people who already have a band and are ready to record, rather than having musicians actually working there. I really don't know how it works.
I'm not actively pursuing this or anything, and I'm not qualified at this point for it anyway. It's just something I've been interested in. I'll listen to something, and say "I can play that" or even in some cases "I can play a lot better than that". Now, I know this person is probably way better than me and has probably done a lot of great stuff, but you get the idea.
I'm not actively pursuing this or anything
Well, there's your mistake right there. Nobody is going to walk up to you and ask you to play in their studio. You have to make it happen for yourself.
You say you have lots of local studios? Go down and talk to them. Tell them you are interested in being a studio musician and ask them what you can do to attain this goal. They will probably give you the very information you seek.
If you know something better than Rock and Roll, I'd like to hear it - Jerry Lee Lewis
I've never been a studio musician, but I've been a lot of other things over the years and, as Wes says, the number one rule seems to be to make yourself known. Apart from being able to convince people that you have the necessary skills, most of the jobs that I've landed have been through knowing the right person, being in the right place at the right time, and being prepared to give related things a go even if it they don't always look like exactly what you're after at the time.
My guess is that many studios would be offering the jobs to people that they already know to be solid professionals. As they meet dozens of them every week through their work, I imagine that they'd be able to fill the studio slots from people who first came to their notice as clients, or who are known locally as teachers or reliable professionals or who are, one way or another, already friends.
Again, I'm guessing, but if you take Wes' suggestions and go and enquire, then I'd ask them if there were any spots that they find harder to fill. There might be some style of playing, some instrument, or some particular skill that's in short supply. If so â€“ work at being the guy who can supply it.
As Wes mentions, you have to make it happen. Two ways to get in - the studio gets you in or someone else involved with the recording gets you in.
And you don't have to be a top-notch player. If you have a friend who's using a studio to cut a demo and he gets you in to assist with the playing, you've become a studio musician. Granted, one with a limited resume, but you've got a start. So besides visiting all the studios and introducing yourself (and you don't have to introduce yourself as an aspiring studio musician, just being someone who's interested is more than enough to get a welcome from most folks), you also want to get to know as many musicians as you can. If you meet someone who's recording, ask if you can watch the recording session. Don't ask to play, ask to watch and observe because it's something you're very interested in. Help out in the little ways and you might find yourself asked for.
Be patient, but be persistent without being a pest. That's not a easy line to follow, but it will help immensely.
And, as mentioned, learn as much about music as possible - not only by playing and practicing but by learning what you can about how recording is done.
Good luck and keep us posted on the progress.
This might be of interest as well the good advice above:
you have to move to Nashville and try to stand out.
I heard that becoming a studio musician is one of the hardest to break into.
it is a ' closed society ' that is running smoothly with producers very picky and comfortable with the three or four guys doing all that work at the moment.
dogbite is right about Nashville. There are studio musicians here that are more famous than the artists you hear on the radio. And they probably make more money too.
If you do come to Nashville, the first beer is on me.
Open your own studio ?
My sister was a session singer for about 20 years (jingles, back up vocals, etc) and I don't think she ever actively lobbied for work or promoted herself.
It was all word of mouth.
She was in a pop vocal group that had a record deal, airplay and played live a bunch. Other musicians saw her, remembered her and would say, 'You know who would be good for this....'. And it just snowballed from there.
She actually disliked it. Thought it was a waste of her skill. But the money was phenomenal.
She still does the odd jingle. One a week or so ago was a solo vocal over Cole Porter's You're the Top. In and out in 40 minutes. Near flawless first take, 3 or 4 more that they could use bits of to get just the phrasing they wanted. Boom; done. It was on the air within about 3 days.
I think it's an extremely tough business to break into and you would have to be a known commodity with chops for days.