The life of a remote session musician...
This month we have a guest blog from Kollab artist Dan. Dan is a professional session bassist who has worked with superstars such as Rod Stuart and Katie Melua. Dan was one of the first musicians to embrace the power of remote recording and now has happy clients all over the world.
You can hire Dan to record bass remotely for your tracks, visit his profile page and get in touch directly.
I’ve been professionally remotely recording bass for nearly nine years now. Files have been sent from my home studio to every continent in the world except Antarctica (I’m still looking for a bored scientist with Garage Band on their Mac…). Remote recordings are a win-win for everyone as the client gets a professionally played and recorded performance quickly, with the minimum of fuss and without having to hire studio time and the associated costs.
To give you an idea of who actually uses this kind of service I’ll highlight a few different types of sessions and the kinds of people I’ve worked for over the years. The punchline is that it is everyone from the amateur hobbyist to the full-time professional composer.
Composers for media need to write music that fits exactly to the genre. They also often have a relatively small budget which negates hiring musicians and taking them into a studio. I’ve played on tracks by composers working for, amongst others; Universal Music, Warner Chappell, West One and Extreme Music. More than once I’ve randomly heard my bass lines on Netflix and the BBC as library music gets used a lot by TV production companies (I must admit to getting a huge kick out of hearing little old me on the TV!).
Some composers need to write to a specific brief and this is where they may need me to play a couple of cues for a TV project or even on a full score. I was once sent a Logic project for a film with a few thousand bars and the notated music to play. I ended up recording it in about an hour as I could see where the dialogue was and where the music was and I could just fast forward to those bits and sight read the music. No need for the composer to be present or for an engineer or producer to be hired. The experienced remote session player can just get it all played and recorded beautifully.
A highlight for me was playing on a couple of Adam Buxton’s excellent podcast jingles. Adam recorded one of the tracks on his iPhone, capturing an arcade machine in a shopping mall in the States. He then sent that to me after he created a track around it and I played a few takes which he spliced around it. Truly a modern-day creative process!
These are often amateur or semi-pro musicians who are passionate about the quality of their recordings. They are usually the most enthusiastic clients of all and these sessions are always a pleasure to play on. The music is produced for the sheer pleasure of creating. Then there are the people who make some money from their art.
The professional artist also uses remote session players. I played on a track produced by the Egyptian musician Hamza Namira on a Kuwaiti pop star’s track. The YouTube video has 113,000,000 views and counting.
I have good relationships with a few producers who will occasionally use me for the right project. I recorded a demo for Adam Argyle which made it onto an Izzy Bizu album. He once needed a bass line on a demo to be taken into a record company that afternoon. One quick phone call later I was on it and had the bass line sent back to him within the hour.
My friend Jon Howells of www.j3tdrumtracks.com/ works with a few composers and writers in LA who will wake up to the stems Jon has recorded in the UK whilst they were asleep.
It’s a lot of fun when a band calls due to their bass player being unavailable (or many other reasons nothing to do with me!). Sometimes it will be for one track but often it is for an EP or album. It’s a big responsibility when someone trusts you and your playing enough to be on one track let alone a whole album. One cool session was for two guys who met on YouTube and started creating covers of computer game music. They got in touch with a request for a crazy bassline and slap solo for Mega Man X. Who am I to turn down a slap solo??
Many people - including pro musicians - are still surprised that this kind of service even exists although I have observed that this is rapidly changing. Remote recording is here to stay. As with any industry, there are going to be people out there who are not up to the job. If you are going to use any musician online then make sure you hear the quality of their work and get in touch to see that they get back to you on time and in a pro manner. Finding reliable professionals is where a site like Kollab comes in. They only take on experienced musicians who they have personally vetted. That way you can rest assured that the next performance on your music will be up to the standards you expect.