Inside the World of an Online Session Drummer - October 2011
It's been another busy month at TimLovesDrums HQ, although not much drumming as I've been preparing to move house. So the studio is packed up and ready to go. Without a kit set up I find my fingers tapping on tables even more than usual...
But moving house leads on nicely to the subject of location. It's true that the majority of 'real world' sessions take place in London, so being able to get there is really important if you want to make a go of the session scene. But I happen to hate London, and the enduring memory of the sessions I've done there (apart from meeting great people) has been sitting in traffic and doing lots of loading and unloading. It can make for a really long day, and by the time the kit's soundchecked, I'm about ready for a break!
One of the most beautiful things about Online Session Work is that it's truly location independent. From my little home studios in the Dorset and Devon countryside, I've played on songs for bands from Bosnia to New Zealand, and all from the peace and quiet of the place I choose to live. And no traffic.
By taking ourselves online, we open ourselves up to a whole world of music that would previously have been out of reach - literally! Many of the bands and musicians I've played for complain that no suitable players live near them, and they're really glad to have found someone who understands their music. To them, not being able to meet in person is a small price to pay for getting their music to sound the way they always wanted, and once the tracks are done, the fact that I might be half the way across the world doesn't matter in the slightest.
But it's not always as easy as just saying "I want to play for every musician in South Africa", for example.
Because advertising is so important in this line of work, there's a bit of background research that needs to be done if you're going to get exposure abroad. Sure, the Americans will find you on YouTube, and you can target specific locations around the world using Google adverts. The Bosnians actually found me on a UK classifieds website, although how they got there I have no idea! But each country also has it's own set of websites and musicians' hangouts, and it's worth a bit of research to find out where these are and how to get noticed.
So if I've decided to experiment with Australia, I might start by typing 'Musician's classifieds Australia' into Google and going from there. There are pages and pages of these sites, and by having a quick look around each one you can usually figure out how popular they are. Knock up a few ads, post some videos and see which sites produce the most leads.
Because people can be more sceptical about using someone from so far away, as soon as you've done your first session for someone in Australia, you might want to ask them for a testimonial and use this in all your future ads. The perfect testimonial would look something like:
"Tim did an absolutely great job. I was initially sceptical about using someone from so far away, but I'm glad I did as he gave our track a new energy which has made such a difference." Gavin Cross, Adelaide.
This is just an example, but it's really powerful because it mirrors exactly the fears of your potential customers; namely that because you're far away it is a bit more risky.
A quick tip about testimonials: don't be afraid to 'guide' your customers with their testimonials. It's fine to ask them specific things, like "I was wondering if you could write a few words to help me to persuade other Australian musicians to use me, as they might be worried that because I live half way across the world it's more risky". If you've done a good job and they like you, they'll be more than happy to help you out and by guiding them you can really get some great testimonials focussed on overcoming certain obligations.
Come back tomorrow for a special second helping of Tim's column where he'll be interviewing fellow online session sticksman Matt Snowden.