The Online Session Drummer
COVID, when viewed historically in relation to the music business, will turn out to have been just a blip on the growth of recorded music and the music business in general.
Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mean to be glib and I’m not making light of the pandemic and its impact. The previous paragraph is just taking a very long view.
Clearly, this virus has shaken the world and has been (and continues to be as of this writing) devastating in many ways, none less important than the massive loss of lives it caused.
The music business has been greatly disturbed and interrupted. Tour after tour cancelled, Broadway theaters shut down, and countless music venues shutting down temporarily or permanently going out of business. Musicians have had to get a variety of other types of jobs to survive.
But the music business will eventually recover.
How Covid Fundamentally Changed Businesses
In the world of business, the pandemic is an event that caused many to pivot their business endeavors. The economic and business impact has been profound.
It’s already been shown that the pandemic has essentially sped up the direction that any business was moving towards–whether good or bad. That’s my belief: if you have (or had) a business that was not positioned well for the future, Covid probably destroyed that business. If, on the other hand, your growth potential and business model was solid, you may have seen significant growth during the pandemic.
Some examples. A few that were well positioned, like Amazon, Zoom, and Netflix, were boosted by Covid to even more rapid growth and profits. But for the many businesses that relied on in-person activities for success, just the opposite has been true. Those poorly positioned got crushed. Some examples of businesses filing for bankruptcy during the pandemic: Brooks Brothers, Chuck E Cheese, GNC, Guitar Center, JC Penny, Lord and Taylor, Neiman Marcus, Pier 1, Men’s Warehouse, Dean & DeLuca, Lucky Brands, Gold’s Gym, Modell’s, and the list goes on. There have been many casualties.
And I was no exception. My in-person drum teaching business was pretty much destroyed. That business was easily covering all its overhead and paying all my bills when the pandemic hit. It had been cranking along, growing slightly each year for many years. Then, almost overnight, my teaching business imploded. So, what did I do?
Two things. First, I sped up the process I had already begun of becoming a remotely operating studio musician; more specifically–an online session drummer. Secondly, I dug into the creation of an idea I’ve had for a while for a video course that will soon replace the in-person teaching business.
Interestingly, I always believed that my teaching business was limited by the fact that I needed a well equipped physical space to teach from. The overhead was significant and the day-to-day management (I had five teachers working for me) was also of consequence. Being reliant on real estate owned by someone else is a weakness that has plagued many businesses during Covid.
Having realized this, I thought that online video lessons would be the answer to scaling. Yes, the space is particularly crowded, but I have an idea that no one has yet tried and I believe that will make it a success.
But the planning for that business is significant and in the meantime, I worked on my remote online session drummer studio. After all, I was already a session drummer. It just happened that when the pandemic began, going to a studio to work inside was a scary proposition.
The Future of Session Drumming Will Be Online While the Music Business Will Rebound
When I say that the future of session drumming is online, I’m just pointing out the direction we’re headed. It’s no secret that many of the world’s top drummers have had their own tracking studios long before Covid ever hit.
Here are a few who come to mind: Kenny Aronoff, Ash Soan, Shawn Pelton, Simon Phillips, Aaron Sterling, and Dave Weckl. These guys have all been recording remotely for quite some time now–way before Covid. And certainly there are many more well-known drummers with remote capability.
The Traditional Recording Studio Will Remain
Don’t misunderstand; I’m not saying that the traditional recording studio is dead or dying. In fact that is not the case at all. Check out this article from ProSound about how USA Today incorrectly claimed that the recording studio business was dying: “USA Today is Wrong: Recording Studios Are Not Dying”
The only problem with the ProSound article is that it was written in 2018–pre-pandemic. Hasn’t Covid caused some problems here? I haven’t been able to find solid statistics on this, but yes, I’ve read about some studio closings. However, I do believe that the studio business will remain solid overall, especially over time. Covid will turn out to be just a blip that disrupted the business of music for a while. Studios will close, but new ones will open.
But, if studios aren’t going away, why is remote session work the future?
Good question. There are two answers. The first is that the recorded music business is actually quite healthy.
The Music Business is Growing Significantly
And the bottom line is that as of this writing, things are looking up. Report Linker sites some research on the global growth of the music market. See the article here: “Recording Market Impact and Recovery”
Here’s a short quote from the source of the report, The Business Research Company:
The global music recording market is expected to grow from $54.22 billion in 2020 to $57.05 billion in 2021 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.2%. The growth is mainly due to the companies rearranging their operations and recovering from the COVID-19 impact, which had earlier led to restrictive containment measures involving social distancing, remote working, and the closure of commercial activities that resulted in operational challenges. The market is expected to reach $74.11 billion in 2025 at a CAGR of 7%.
Pretty significant, right?
And the second reason that online session drummers and other studio musicians can be optimistic is the following.
The Amount of Music Being Created and Released is EXPLODING
Arguably the most significant factor of all is the rise of technology.
The technology has crushed the barriers to entry into the music market. And that means that the floodgates have been smashed open.
First consider streaming. In April of 2019 it was announced that almost 40,000 tracks were being uploaded to Spotify every single day. That is an astounding number. Here’s the article: “40,000 Tracks Added to Spotify Daily”
But wait! If you think that number is impressive, get this! Even more recently, in February of 2021, an updated number was announced. The new number is 60,000 tracks per day. “60,000 Tracks Uploaded to Spotify Daily”
Remember that before streaming or downloading was possible, and before CD Baby, BandCamp and other indie friendly outlets existed, the barrier to entry was massive. You could not get your music out to the world unless you had a record deal with a significant record label. You just couldn’t do it. But now….ANYONE can release music and make it available to the world instantly.
The result is that a massive amount of music is getting released to the public; more than ever before in history. For session musicians, this spells opportunity. Not all of those making this music are going to feel comfortable or have the funds to rent out “real” recording studios. Many of these people are doing things on their own. Perhaps in a basement or bedroom.
And therein lies the other technological development of major significance for session players.
Anyone Can Make Pro Level Recordings At Home Now
No one has to go to a recording studio to make their music at a professional level anymore. Technology has made it possible for any of us to make great sounding music from within our apartment or house. The technology is astounding! I’m NOT bad mouthing the traditional studio. Far from it. I love recording in big recording studios. Having great gear, a great engineer, and a great sounding room obviously can make a big difference in the quality of the music produced.
But that being said, you don’t HAVE to do it that way anymore. It used to be that the only way to make your music was to go rent a studio. There were a limited number of places that owned the equipment necessary to record quality music product. With all the DAWs, audio interfaces and plugins that exist now, you can make incredible sounding music at your home studio. And people are doing that.
Online session work certainly looks like a growth industry to me. And the future is bright in this way for any musician–not just drummers–who want to get a slice of this ever-growing pie.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments or via email.