I hear this all the time: “Eh, I’ll just do it myself, I have a decent voice.” “My cousin sings well, everyone tells her she’s great, she can do it!” “Why should I pay someone when I can get my neighbor to do it for free?” Well my friends, I have some responses to all of these and more!
What is a Session Singer?
Let’s get the definition down before we go any further. A session singer is someone who is hired to sing on studio projects. They may also be artists, performers or songwriters themselves, but a session singer is someone who is experienced and actively working on session projects. A person who has released their own album and performs is not automatically a session singer. What makes someone a session singer is the amount of time and experience they have toward working on other people’s songs in session-based gigs.
Why can’t I just sing my own songs?
If you’re a recording artist, of course you’ll sing your own songs. However, you may want a different singer for your background vocals, or you may want a female singer if you’re male (or vice versa). If you are pitching a song, I strongly urge you to hire a session singer instead of doing it yourself. I explain why in the video below.
Here are the most important reasons to hire a session singer instead of just someone who can sing:
1. Session singers are highly experienced in a studio setting
Someone who performs live might not have as much experience in a studio. They may not know studio microphone techniques. Many session singers (including myself) have our own studio, so we don’t even need to include travel costs in our fees.
2. Session singers are extremely time-efficient
We do this every day, so we can get your song done quickly. This saves you studio time and fees. If we’re doing it from our own studio, we usually have fast turnaround time. Someone who is not experienced may take longer to finish the job.
3. You often receive more than just session singing
I deliver edited tracks, ready to drop in and mix into the project. This means I have combed through them and removed any clicks or pops, and I have ensured that the sound is high quality. I am also experienced using my DAW and can fix any issues without delay. If I’m hired to do background vocals, I have a lot of experience arranging and performing them and it won’t take long to finish. Not every session singer does their own editing, but many will automatically (or they will if asked).
4. Session singers have contracts and policies that are in your favor
As this is my business and source of income, I have cancellation fees, refund policies, and other standards that the average singer might not have ever considered. If you hire your cousin’s neighbor and they don’t show up? You’re out a singer and you’re left scrambling. If you hire me, I have a contract in place where I have to show up and provide notice otherwise. If you’re unhappy with something, I have revision policies. Should either of us needs to cancel, I have policies in place to ensure we’re both protected. This brings me to my next (and arguably, most important) reason:
5. You pay us up front and have full rights to the song
Unless otherwise stated, what you do after the song is your business. If you’ve made a million-dollar hit, you pay the session singer only what you paid them. Many pro-songwriters suggest offering residuals if you feel so inclined, but you’re not obligated to do so. If you didn’t plan anything out with the singer you hired, they could easily come after you later and sue you for residuals.
6. Session singers take this seriously
This one could be the most important. I’m not going to do a no-show on you because this is my career. I’m not going to flake out or show up unprepared. Since your satisfaction is part of my business, I’m going to make sure you are thrilled with the result. I will be a professional every step of the way. I leave personal drama at the door. I’ll deliver your work on time, and if not? I have policies you can rely on.
At the end of the day, the choice is certainly yours. You can do whatever you like. If you feel confident that your singer is fit for the job, that’s perfectly fine. I just strongly encourage you to at least consider the benefits of hiring a pro, which certainly does not have to be me.
Lastly, I made this video that highlights other reasons I didn’t go over here:
Communicating with your session musicians can be tough, so I wrote a whole book on how to do it effectively. It will tell you exactly what we need to know in order to get the song right. If you want to check it out, it’s right here!
I am also currently giving private consultations for session musicians. We can talk about whatever you like, whether it’s policies, recording, or any other aspect of running a session business. Feel free to contact me about it here!