Many musicians make music from home. However, not many know how to get paid for it. Bree Noble has on the show Angela Blacker and David Blacker from AirGigs, a platform that offers a user-friendly tool for diversifying income for musicians where you can offer your services remotely. In this episode, they talk about online session work and how you can use AirGigs to land gigs as vocalists, guitarists, arrangers, and more. They provide some great tips on maximizing doing remote work to get paid for it and become a musicpreneur. Be guided by tuning into this great discussion to become even more prepared and do better in online session work.

Listen to the podcast here:

A Musicpreneur’s Guide To Landing Online Session Work

With Angie & David From AirGigs

To start out this episode, I have got a question for you. Have you ever recorded anything from home, whether an instrumental part or a vocal part or something else, or maybe you did some mixing or some mastering for someone? Have you ever done any of those things and gotten paid for it? This is what is commonly known these days as online session work. That is what we’re talking about on the show with my friends from AirGigs.

Angie and David gives us a thorough overview of how you can use AirGigs to get gigs whether you’re a vocalist, guitarist, keyboardist or you specialize in anything from arranging to mixing. You can do that through AirGigs. They’ve created a fantastic platform for that. I’ve used it for many years as a vocal demo singer. It is user friendly and easy to use. I’ll talk about that in this episode. This is taken from a workshop that I did directly with my Female Musician Academy students. I wanted to take some excerpts for you so you could get an idea about AirGigs and how you could use it in your own musician business.

This is a special one because I have got my friends from AirGigs here. They’re going to be explaining to you what AirGigs is and how you can get involved and start making some money with this cool platform that they have. I’ve been using it myself. I heard about it originally from a podcast guest, Audrey Callahan, who’s in our big free group and on the Academy for a while. You know her because she’s done a lot on AirGigs. She’s the first person that told me about it. I immediately went out and signed up. I have done probably twelve projects on AirGigs without doing any advertising whatsoever. Putting my information up there and not trying to get gigs at all because I’m busy but I enjoy doing them.

I probably had 3 or 4 a year. It’s getting to be more. At first, it was slow starting. Maybe we’ll talk about some ways that it could not be slow starting. Once I started doing it, I started getting more and it started compounding. Now, I probably get one every two months. They’re fun projects. They’re things I can do on the side and make some good money. I am going to turn it over to David and Angie, the heart and soul of AirGigs. They’re in there and getting their hands dirty every single day, answering questions and helping people. They have a heart to help musicians, which is why they had me do some articles on the blog and which is why they’re here. I’m excited to have them.

I was on your email list, Bree, and when I found out you were part of the site, I was like, “How cool is that?” Audrey, she’s even done videos for us. We pull people in here and there. That’s how it’s grown. It’s our content team. We pulled you in because I was like, “We have to. This is great information.”

We’ll start and Angie will give a little background on the site. We’ll dive into some of the practicals of getting work and stuff like that.

It’s an exciting time for anyone creating. For ten years, we co-ran a recording studio in New York City and wanting a change, we moved to Southern California. It kept rolling around our head that we wanted an area to book something we needed. It kept coming up and we said, “It must be that we have to do this.” We bought the domain and we built it.

Prior to that, we were doing a lot of multimedia projects and a lot of web mixed with music. It was all evolving in that direction. AirGigs came when we hit California.

That’s how we started it as a diversification tool.

Diversification of income for musicians. We saw it from both sides. We saw it from the side of like, “We’d love a platform where we could connect with people. We’re in a new location. We don’t know musicians.” We saw it that way. All of our community was back in New York. We saw it like, “This is another tool for doing sessions and stuff.” We saw it from both angles.

With more awareness, more people are working this way. Before it was someone wanting a part and now you see bigger companies coming in and wanting a part or advertising companies or filmmakers. It’s getting more awareness around the whole thing.

Particularly now, we shifted from this weird little niche into there’s no live music industry.

Hopefully, it’s just for a little bit.

I’m not happy about that in any way. I’m saying it’s strange for us because everything is refocused. We’ve heard all kinds of stories and it’s been an intense time.

There's more communication with remote sessions than maybe in-person sessions. Click To Tweet

It will expand people’s minds when it comes to the recording of their album because they don’t have to go to a traditional studio. Once they experienced this, they’ll be like, “I can do it this way.”

You pretty much can do the whole thing remotely, but it depends if you want to be in the room with the mixer. It all depends on what you want.

Maybe if you want to lay your own vocal down or that thing. In any event, it’s come quite away from when we originally put it out to our friends. It’s grown nicely and organically. Bigger players started coming on. It’s been our full focus. You can pretty much sign up and post services in any of these categories. What is a service? It could be anything from album artwork to audio editing to creating backing tracks or guitar, bass, drums and those things. I pulled out a few different services that do a good job of illustrating what it’s about and how to make it work.

The important thing to note here is there’s more communication with remote sessions than maybe in-person sessions. Behind the scenes, we like to tell people to take into account, maybe some extra communication time to make sure everybody is on the same page. We definitely like people to take into consideration the platform’s commission, PayPal’s commission, and their taxes. You’re a musicpreneur. That’s what a recording studio does and this business does, you wrap it into your price. We can’t tell people what to charge, but we encourage trying to spread the awareness of what’s also involved beyond your skills, your time, your electric bill and the maintenance of your gear. That’s to bring in the awareness of what is it for you. There might be some mistakes at first, but you can get better as you go, as any business or musicpreneur would.

There are a lot of nuances too. How sessions can go right? How sessions can go wrong? Having sat between many of them, we can both speak to it.

It’s a personal choice too. David, he’s a guitar player. He could probably take something and come out with it in a couple of hours. I’m mainly a vocalist. If I took a piece, I might need to sit with it for a day before I could lay it down. It’s all much around, what is your thing?

How do you like to work and what do you need to deliver this session? The components of a listing, this is a well set up listing. Given the range of instruments that they offer in the title and they’re giving a price of $85. Anyone can come in and book this without any communication happening beforehand. We try to make it actionable like that so it encourages people to book stuff but there are certain terms that come with it. It’s like, “He’s establishing. I’ll do two revisions with this.” That’s the base. “I’m charging $85 for this track. I’ll do two revisions. I’ll deliver it in approximately five days.” If someone booked sight unseen, no conversation, those would be the terms of the arrangement, so to speak.

I’m glad you explained that because I set mine up long ago. I couldn’t remember if those were choices that I made or if that was how long you had and that thing. You can set all of that. That’s all personalized?

When you set up a listing, it will say, “How many revisions do you want to offer? What are your instructions to the buyer when they order sight unseen?” If someone were to order without you ever speaking, you could say, “I require a lyric sheet. I require chord charts. I require a reference track.” You get them oriented on what you need in those cases. Ninety percent of the sessions go where there’s some communication.

We’ve also had people who don’t want anyone to book them without the pre-communication in case it’s something outside of their listing. We’ve encouraged to put at the top of a service listing, “Please contact me before ordering to discuss your project.”

My problem and why I want to talk to them in advance are sometimes there’s an issue with the key. If they don’t have an easy way to change the key, then I don’t want them to book me because I don’t want to have it in a key that’s not going to do me justice.

That is all to say. You can provide all that information in the rare event that someone doesn’t contact you but 90% of the time, it’s going to be like, “This is my song. What do you think? Can you do it?” That opens the door for, “This is perfect for my existing package.” What you need is a little more than that. You then would send them a custom offer specifically for their package. Whether you do a custom offer or regular service, once the service gets rolling if the client starts asking, “I want you to sing it over again.” You then can say, “I require an additional payment for that.” You can modify the existing orders.

It’s not like that. You point them back to your terms.

All of that is possible once the order is open. This person reaches out and he says, “If your song is missing anything, you’re in the right place. My mission is to bring your song to life.” You’re reaching out to people and speaking to them directly. I’ve been working with artists and songwriters on AirGigs for quite a while. He said some nice things about us. He mentioned his instruments and then he says, “If you need any of the above, I’m happy to work with you.” This person is creating a listing where they do multiple things. He could also create separate like banjo recording, dobro recording or mandolin. Those could be separate services that he sets up, but he’s creating a catch-all here, in this case.

TPM 4 | Online Session Work

Online Session Work: It is good to niche yourself out. Specificity is the key, at least, when you’re getting started.

 

For the algorithm of your site, would it be better for him to create a bunch of individual listings?

Yes and no. With one listing, he’s going to get all the reviews on that listing and it’s going to have much more potency. If he did multiple listings, he would show up in more places. It’s one of those things to consider. The last component of this is mentioning your gear. What is your home studio setup because that’s going to be important to consider.

Your DAW sometimes is important.

Your recording interface and your DAW and all of that. Those are the components of a listing. Here, it’s like a vocal listing that’s done quite well. It’s good to look at the components of any listings that are doing well, not from a price standpoint because only you can establish your price. Price is not the only criteria.

It does an assumption, but it’s not the truth from what we see in the background. It’s very much what they’re looking for.

It’s like, “Can you take my project to the next level?” They’re creative people. They’re looking for a creative match. In this case, the vocalist is included. You can include a YouTube video or a SoundCloud reel.

I want to speak to the video. We have seen some of the better-selling services. What she’s selling us with an intro into your environment so they get to know you better, if that makes sense. It’s like, “I’m happy to work on your project. This is my home studio. This is what you’ll get.” These types of videos have done well. We have a drummer who’s doing it.

Personalized videos of you and your studio. It’s as creative as you want to get with them. They don’t have to be long. Those things make a big difference in terms of connecting with clients.

They give a human connection, if that makes any sense. Music is connective. On this remote level, it’s a bridge.

You can bring in the video from YouTube so it gives you the advantage. It’s not from your YouTube channel or whatever. One of the things that we see is sometimes you’ll have amazing session musicians with all kinds of credits, but their marketing materials are lagging. They’re putting a song that they played on, but it doesn’t feature them. What would be far more effective would be like, “I’m John. I’m in my studio. This is my gear. This is some of the stuff I played on,” something like that. It’s a fusion of communication skills, marketing skills and musicianship skills. That’s something. We’re going to do a lot more blog posts about this and stuff.

We started with a few people giving a script on how to introduce yourself and go on from there. If someone gives us a video that describes their service, we put it on our YouTube channel. We market it directly to your service, not to AirGigs as a whole.

If you do create those videos, reach out to us because we will remarket them as a co-marketing thing, but we’ll push the people to your page. When people take the time to do those things, we jump behind them.

I love that you’re doing that. Do you have any advice for helping people niche down? The reason that I’ve gotten the gigs that I have is because I was specific about my listing. I said things that other people wouldn’t say. I can sing pop, but there are a million pop singers on there. I chose Christian music, classical and Broadway. Every single one that I get, they’re wanting one of those specific kinds of things because they saw that and they realized that a lot of other people don’t. If it’s Christian, they’re like, “I want you to feel the words. That’s why I’m choosing you.” With Broadway, they know that not everybody can sing Broadway style.

It’s interesting that you said that because some of our first sales were in the Christian area. It’s fascinating because almost the churches are ahead of all this technology than the rest of us.

People that know how to market themselves do better than people who have big credits. Click To Tweet

That’s surprising because we’re usually behind.

With the live streaming and with everything. They were big groups or the first people to probably use our service. I learned a genre that I didn’t even know about, CCM.

Christian Contemporary Music.

It is good to niche yourself out. At the same time, I know people don’t like to put themselves in a box. We’ve heard from clients that they like our platform because we don’t make them go down these genre trails. If someone is searching, then it’s good to have it in your tags and your service description and what you like to work on.

Personally, specificity is the key. At least, when you’re getting started. If you’re going to generalize and say, “I’m a pop vocalist.” It’s important to reflect on what are the things that you do special, whether that’s genre-based or it might not be genre-based. It might be, “I have this amazing room. I have the most incredible room sound when I record my Hammond organ,” or in a vocal context, whatever it is. “I have this incredible mic setup and you can hear a sample of it here.” Genre is a potent filter. If you’re focusing on a certain style or genre, those things are helpful. Once you start getting reviews, it’s a cumulative thing because you show up higher in the results. I would highly recommend specificity in many different areas, reflection on what makes your service unique and what you can add value to the client.

You hit on something too, of having a sample of everything that you’re calling out there. For me, I have one that’s harmony vocals. I specifically include this one where I did choral style vocals and I get many requests for that all the time because they hear that and they’re like, “That’s what I want in the back of my song.”

The people who take the time and like yourself, Bree, and Mello is taking the time to write ballad reel cover reel, EDM. She’s making it concise for the clients and that makes a difference.

I have something to say on this. These show up on the front listing. I want to talk more about this to the site as a whole. It’s interesting because a lot of people behind the scenes come to us and they say, “I want this type of singer. I want someone that sounds like this or that.” I go through and I listen to all these samples and I’ll give them 4 or 5 profiles. What I would like to see in these areas is a reel that gets right to your vocal. If you’re a vocalist, let’s say, and you have this epic instrumental, they’re going to leave. When I go through, I’m like, “This is something that we can improve upon as musicpreneurs.” Especially, music supervisors, they’re in a fast-growing space. If they want something fast, they’re moving on.

Having those marketing skills and communication skills do help you stand apart from lots of other musicians who are throwing it up.

Oddly enough, we’ve seen people that know how to market themselves do better than people who have big credits, which is fascinating. I’ve heard this from other services like us.

It’s not all about credits. It’s about meeting the client exactly where they are. To me, that’s specificity. If the client is like, “I need this perfect Broadway singer to complete my song. I have this vision in mind.” You’re there, that’s what’s going to connect, for sure.

What are the most popular services? What are the biggest sellers?

Definitely, vocals, song production, mixing and then the meat and potatoes like bass, drums, guitar and keys.

I would say vocals and then drums.

TPM 4 | Online Session Work

Online Session Work: Having those marketing and communication skills helps you stand apart from lots of other musicians who are throwing it up.

 

Vocals is probably the biggest category, for sure.

What about solos? I think about myself in the studio. I had to bring some people in if I wanted an electric guitar solo or I wanted a saxophone.

I could say it’s vocals and drums is next. I would say horns are probably next. You can’t fake horns in any way.

That’s true. No matter how hard you try to make a good MIDI sound, it’s not happening.

Keys and guitar are all growing in this space because they’re excited that they can get a human to collaborate with.

That’s another advantage to this. It’s people who have their setups ready to go and are ready to record. It’s not knowing someone who’s a musician who you might connect with. These are your people who are like, “We’re ready to record. Send me your song. It’s going to be back in your hands in however long it takes.” That’s another perk to it.

One thing that I love that I only discovered on this last project I did is I didn’t know that you could come in and charge more. If you’ve already said, “I’ll do this harmony vocal for $50,” which is what I have it up there on and thinking in my mind, “That’s a harmony vocal that I would do if I was singing one single harmony vocal along with a main vocal. Maybe it was my own vocal.” Someone came in and said, “I want two harmony vocals.” I’m like, “This section is small.” I said, “Okay.” He was like, “This is good. I love this. Can you do this in another section? I’ll pay you extra. I’ll add another $30.” I was like, “You can do that?” I realized that you could. You send them a little addition thingy and they approve it and then it was $80. You guys have thought of everything.

We have an endless to-do list.

We want to keep making it better.

We have three whiteboards.

We launched this new area too. This is a new way to work called Artists Wanted. Finally, this is a thing where you can post your services, but you can also respond to services wanted. No one else will see your proposal, except the person posting. We launched this. It works fine. The same way you would create a gig, you would send a proposal.

It’s like a forum, in a way, but you can respond to individuals.

Rather than people having to wait for people to find you, you can proactively send proposals to clients’ requests.

This is great. I love this. Also, someone could potentially suggest you. Instead of responding and saying, “Here’s my service,” they could say, “I worked with this person and they were good.”

It's not all about credits. It's about meeting the client exactly where they are. Click To Tweet

They could. We haven’t built that in, but that’s a great idea to suggest someone.

That’s where I started getting gigs to begin with, not on AirGigs but on forums for songwriters. I started being known between the different songwriters and when someone would post another songwriter I work with like, “You should work with Bree. She’s good. She did this for me.”

We see that behind the scenes all the time. Someone would be like, “You’ve finished this drum track. You’ve got to go to my buddy. We’ve worked together forever. He’s going to do the right thing. We threw this out in perfect. Because of the situation, we wanted another way.”

More ways people could connect.

How awesome was that? Thank you to David and Angie for going through their site and creating such an awesome resource. If you guys want to check it out. Go to AirGigs.com.

Important Links:

About Angie & David

TPM 4 | Online Session WorkI’m an artist, business owner, solution-orientated project manger, creative strategist and explorer. I have launched and managed projects in the fields of music production, touring, multimedia (web, photo, video, content creation) and live events. I surround myself with dynamic and creative skilled professionals, so that I can grow as an artist and business person. I’ve worked alongside world renown producers in the music and dance worlds and have learned a great deal from those experiences.

I integrate focus, balance and a wellness approach into my work. I find that an important (often overlooked) aspect of many productions is establishing a tone and atmosphere where creative direction and ideas can flourish. I come with a “people first” attitude whether I’m hiring, managing or communicating with others.

Projects: I’ve managed, produced or co-produced:

– Co-founded AirGigs.com
– Co-owned & managed a commercial music production studio in NYC
– Directed / produced yoga and music themed event for corporate clients
– Managed a wellness program for touring bands, that integrated yoga and health
– Organized and shot digital photography for live events
– Sourced and secured music licensing opportunities for artists
– Directed and managed social media and online marketing for multiple businesses
– Planned, organized and managed major recording sessions for recording artists

FB: /angiblacker
Instagram: angiblacker

I have produced a wide range of projects in both the music and technology spheres.

In 2012 I co-founded AirGigs.com the first music production marketplace where some of the world’s top session musicians offer their remote services.

As a musician, I’ve worked with award winning artists and have been featured on original recordings, television shows & commercials, short films and radio spots. My production credits include brands such as Dewars, Virgin Media, Fuse Network, Rounder Records, QVC and more. I have also authored four full length guitar courses for Truefire.

At the heart of everything, I consider myself to be a student of the creative process. For me that began as a teenager with a love of the guitar, blues and American Roots music. It has since expanded into the realms of technology and business. Through a lot of trial and error, I have come upon a certain balance that enables me to be effective at leading creative teams and productions. As a songwriter and musician I understand how to communicate and work with other artists. As a business person, I understand how to develop products and services, and how to address the needs of my customer. Whether it’s a song I’m producing or a business venture that I’m working on, I am always shooting for the same thing: to create something that connects with people in an authentic way.