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Recording Music Remotely: How To Collaborate Across The Country

You might be stuck at home. Or you may prefer to work in your own space.

Whatever the case, you can still work with other musicians. Thanks to the internet and people who make useful internet tools, recording music remotely has never been easier.

Here’s how to collaborate with and hire other musicians, regardless of their location.

I’ll walk you through:

  • Contacting Session Musicians
  • Signing The Agreements
  • Sending The Parts
  • Paying The Musicians
  • Sharing The Music(ians)

Contacting Session Musicians

The first step is to connect with solid session musicians. These could be friends, a friend of a friend, or someone you met in a Facebook group.

Whatever the case, it’s best to communicate over email. Messaging on social media and texting have limitations, like not being able to send attachments.

If the musician is not familiar with you or your work, here are some things you can include in the initial email:

  • A genuine compliment about their work
  • A link to your most recent music
  • Clear expectations about turnaround time, payment, and ownership
  • An opening for them to ask clarifying question

If the musician is familiar with you, you wouldn’t need to send a link to your music. Overall, the conversation will probably be a little more laidback.

Signing The Agreements

Even if your session musicians are also your friends, you need a contract. Even if you don’t know them well but they seem honest, you still need a contract.

Not only does this legally protect you, but you can also prove to third-parties (like a sync licensing company) that you have the proper rights.

Don’t you need a lawyer to draw up a contract?

No, not necessarily. You can start with a contract template created by lawyers, like this public domain work-for-hire agreement template.

Sending The Parts

After you’ve set the guidelines and you’ve both signed the contract, it’s time to send the parts you want the musician to play.

There are a couple forms this can take.

If you’re like me and you don’t know how to read sheet music, you can play the parts with a MIDI soundalike. So if you want a cellist to play parts you’ve composed, play the parts with a free cello plugin.

Many DAWs will let you export your MIDI notes as sheet music. You can also render each track individually as a WAV or MP3 and send it to your session musician.

You can also play the melody, harmony, and other parts on your instrument of choice. Heck, you can just hum the parts.

If you’re sending MP3 files, you can use email. If the files are too many or too big, I recommend using WeTransfer. It’s a free tool that lets you share large files and many files at once.

Also, make sure the musician knows the BPM and key!

Paying The Musicians

If you’ve agreed to pay your session musicians, don’t issue payment until you definitely have the final recordings.

When you get the musician’s parts back, ensure that:

  • They’re WAV files (or another lossless file type)
  • They’re in the correct BPM and key
  • They sound correct within the song (do a quick mix by panning and adjusting the gain levels to approximately where you want them)

Once you’re certain everything sounds perfect, issue payment.

The most common ways to pay are PayPal, Venmo, and the Cash app. It may be a good idea — for tax purposes — to ask the musician to send you an invoice.

Sharing The Music(ians)

Now that you have the parts and you’ve paid your session musician(s), you can edit, mix, and master your track.

When you distribute and share your song, make sure to give proper credit. This means you list any session musicians in the credits. Tag them on social media. Even send them a final email thanking them for their work.

Because not working well with others is one of the seven deadly sins of being a musician.

Now you know how to record music remotely. You’ll never have to leave home again!

– – –

Caleb J. Murphy is a singer-songwriter and music producer based in Austin, Tx., and the founder of Musician With A Day Job, a blog that helps part-time musicians succeed.

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