Make money as a studio musician

If you’re good at something, don’t just keep it to yourself. It is totally legal to offer your skills to the world and even charge for it. So whatever instrument you play, you may play and record that instrument for others as well. And with the internet being almost a household commodity it makes it fast and easy to work as a studio musician.

Recording Studios
Even today you can still walk into a local recording studio and offer your skills to the studio operators, so they may eventually call you whenever a client is in need of a studio musician such as yourself. Recording jobs for which you will have to show up at the studio in person usually come on short notice, so be prepared to act quickly, have your instrument in tune and your car filled up.

Just like any other part of the music business recording is a people business. The more musicians and producers you know (and the more they value your skills) the more likely you are to have your schedule filled with recording work. Usually it’s the musicians themselves who bring additional musicians to the studio to record with them. So a ‘big black book’ packed with musician contacts might even be the more valuable asset.

The internet
With internet access and some neat tools it has become quite easy to record remotedly and deliver the goods to all parts of the world within minutes via eMail, server upload or any legal filesharing program such as yousendit and others. There are also websites where you can both find studio musicians and offer your own services such as studiotraxx and promusicianservice. Think of oDesk only for musicians.

Many musicians like to charge by the hour. That seems rather unfair because it rewards a musician with more money the longer it takes him or her to lay down a decent track. So it makes more sense to price the final product such as a vocal track, guitar track etc.  Unknown – but good – musicians can charge approximately:

$ 75 – 150 for lead vocals (for demo songs)
$ 250 – 600 (or more) for lead vocals (for songs that get released)
$ 40 – 100 for an instrumental track (guitar, bass, synths)
$ 75 – 200 for an instrumental track (real piano, drums)
$ 75 – 120 for a mix (per song)
$ 30 – 60 for mastering (per song)
$ 15 – 35 for a solo

Prices are usually flexible. While you do not want to sell yourself short (and even worse, have the word go round…) it often is your client’s budget that determins your price. If the price offered seems too low for you, try to agree upon bartering. Maybe you can record a guitar track and get some decent vocals for one of your demos in return.

Whom to look for
People in need of studio musicians can be other musicians (bands), recording studios, producers of production music, jingle producers, radio and TV stations (they often produce the commercial spots for their clients), independent film producers and newsreporters, advertising agencies, theaters and quite some more.

Find them
In order to find potential clients networking becomes essential: from real life to online forums, social media and expert websites there are quite some opportunities to present and promote yourself and become known as thee musician to call. Again, as in any other field in the music business it takes time to establish yourself and develop good relationships, so don’t get discouraged if things don’t happen over night.

– Julian Angel

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About MusicBizMadness

Julian Angel is a chart-noted songwriter and film musician with Hollywood credits. He has successfully released six (physical) records by himself. MusicBiz Madness started as a business conference in Germany and keeps sharing hands-on advice for musicians and people in the music industry.
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