Inside the World of an Online Session Drummer - September 2011
This month has been really busy, even though it's traditionally the 'summer slump' when less session work comes through. When musicians are supposed to be out at festivals and relaxing in the sun rather than camped out in the studio, I guess it's a testament to the British summer(!).
I spend a lot of time advertising and it's really important to put the work into attracting clients. It may not be glamourous, but it's part of the job. Online Session Drumming is very rewarding, but the work at this grass roots level is about getting yourself in front of as many potential clients as possible, and it's a real mistake to assume that you can just build a website, sit back and wait for the work to come in.
"I spend a lot of time advertising and it's really important to put the work into attracting clients. It may not be glamourous, but it's part of the job."
YouTube is a great place to attract people, and lots of clients get in touch saying they've seen some of my remix videos. These are the folks who want 'you' and want your input on the tracks and are often the most fun to record for, because it's a chance to use your own creativity rather than just copying the guide tracks.
Another awesome source of clients is Google. While there are lots more Online Session Drummers advertising on Google than when I started 4 years ago, there's still enough work to go round and I get a fair few enquiries each week just from people stumbling across my site in a Google search. Once people find you, it's really important that your site is interesting enough to make people stick around, and I always tell OSDs to include a video really prominently on the first page so as to 'hook' people. The beauty of a video is that a potential client can judge in seconds if you are going to be the right player for their music, and if your sound fits with what they're looking for.
"There's no shortcut to getting a good list of past clients, you just have to do each project as well as you can and do your best to make sure the client is happy."
As well as attracting new clients, repeat business is a big part of what I do, and it's always nice to hear from old clients who come back for more. Having a good list of past clients can be great for 'filling the gaps' during quiet spells when new clients aren't coming in as fast as you'd like! There's no shortcut to getting a good list of past clients, you just have to do each project as well as you can and do your best to make sure the client is happy. If you do your job well, they'll be back.
The great thing about recording for repeat clients is that you already know what they like and they already know your style, so it's usually pretty quick nailing the tracks. This week a covers band that I record for came back for some more tracks. They use my drumming for their live gigs, and getting bands like this as clients is awesome because they get a bunch of tracks recorded each time, so you can really get stuck into the set. I usually allow a day or two and just do the whole set so the sound is really consistent and I can make sure my playing flows from tune to tune. This sort of work is the real bread and butter of online session work; larger projects for repeat clients.
This month I've also been working on advertising my Online Session Drumming Agency, Black Book Players (blackbookplayers.com). It allows me to share out the work that comes in that I'm too busy to do. The drummers on the agency are all members of my Project: Drums Gold Membership club so I know that they're all capable players set up and ready to record.
The clients who use Black Book Players love it because they send me one email about their project, I send the details out to the drummers, and the client gets back emails from some awesome drummers. Many charge a lot less than me (I'm very expensive!), and can get the tracks done much faster than I'd be able to as well. It's kind of like a one stop shop for drum tracks, and it's been going well. The more real drum tracks we can get on peoples' songs, the better!
As part of my work coaching other online session drummers and helping them get started in the awesome world of online session drumming, I often get emails asking advice and questions on everything from how to chase clients who don't pay (the answer is not to send them anything worth stealing until they have paid, by the way. Also it very rarely happens), to 'why isn't my website working?' (usually because you haven't got any videos, audio or pictures up! If people don't know who you are, why would they send you their songs?).
One of the most common questions I get is about electronic drum kits, and if they can be used for OSDing. I've always said that the flexibility offered by electronic kits is a massive advantage, and although there are plenty of musicians out there who are only interested in acoustic tracks, the quality of programs like BFD and EZ Drummer mean that using electronic drum tracks in music is more feasible and common place than ever.
A significant advantage of using electronic tracks for Online Session Drumming is that your clients can choose their own kit sounds, giving them unbelievable choice. The sounds they have to choose from are often far superior to the sounds us acoustic folks can achieve in our studios, and combining these awesome sounds with the feel and creativity of a real drummer can produce a really good result.
It's always great to hear from players who have got started and it's one of the things that brings me the most joy knowing that there are players out there doing more drumming and getting more money for it as a result of OSDing. Thought I'd share something one drummer sent this month as it proves the validity of taking the electronic kit approach:
Email: OSD OMG!
Terrible cheesy email title I know.... but I'd just thought I'd drop you a line to let you know that since 'going live' last Wednesday with my website, adwords and a few other bits of advertising I'm already doing a demo for customer number 4! A couple of the people are asking for quite a few tracks at once too. I know this probably doesn't sound like too much of a big deal but I really didn't expect work to come in this fast and I'm so chuffed, especially as I'm only offering electronic tracks at the moment.
Before buying the course I knew nothing whatsoever about doing this, I only knew how to play drums and teach others how to do it, so thanks again.
In next month's article, as part of my mission to shed some light on this underground online session scene, I'll introduce you to a couple more OSDs. It's useful to hear from other drummers doing this because each takes a slightly different approach and has their own angle. Until then, keep tappin'!
If you want a free copy of Tim's DVD 'A Day in the Life of an Online Session Drummer', head over to www.projectdrums.co.uk (Limited Copies Available)