How to work as a remote musician

Read some essential advice on what you need to work as a remote performer and musician... 


Working remotely as a musician will be an important revenue stream as the UK music industry and the wider world experience a period of social distancing and self-isolation. 

Whether it be recording as a session player to teaching like our many of own faculty, a great deal of musical work will be done online in the coming weeks. But, thanks to the power of technology and the flexibility of the modern musician, this new normal should hopefully be relatively easy to embrace. 

However, if you're totally new to this world, then where do you start?

To help, we quizzed ICMP BMus tutor Audrey Riley. Audrey has close to 200 album credits to her name, working with some of contemporary and classical music's top names including Coldplay, Muse and the Foo Fighters. So has a lot of experience to draw on when it comes to working in a variety of musical scenarios.

Check out her essential advice on what you need to make remote working a reality below… 

Invest in a great internet connection 

You'll need this for the times when you have to send large files or a conference call.

So if you don't live somewhere that has great internet access, it's worth paying a bit extra to improve your connection. Or at least try and arrange to be somewhere that does offer good connectivity when you need to work. 

Use a file-sharing service 

OneDrive or Dropbox are great for large collaborative projects. You want to see how the work is growing all in one place. Or something like WeTransfer if you want to send large files.

Keep in mind that some people have security worries with file-sharing services. Bigger artists either suggest their preferred platform straight away, or I will ask them their preference."

Find a way of talking to your collaborators cheaply and efficiently 

Email and phone calls are usually the starting point for collaboration. But for meetings and even listening/talking through Skype or FaceTime is fine.

I've just completed a three-month project with an Australian artist, conducted entirely through FaceTime, Dropbox and email. I'm fortunate in having more than one computer, so I'm on FaceTime on one, meanwhile, the computer with the work is open, speakers on, and I sit in front of both. I take notes and I have the projects open, ready to play and discuss.


The sound isn't great, but you usually send a bounce in advance, so you can be patient and wait while they listen to the bit you've just played and talked about. Use bar numbers or timings so people don't get lost. 

Acquire music software

I use Logic. But many people I work with prefer ProTools. Fortunately, it's really easy to export midi files so that they're set up the same, even between the two DAWs.


You have to be more careful with audio. Always check which sample and bit rate you and your collaborator are working in! You can be caught out easily by this and not realise that your audio file has changed. So always confirm keys and speeds in meetings. You can navigate the issues of opening files made in one DAW in another DAW just by asking/researching, and if you can't manage it there will be a friend somewhere who's got both and can convert for you. You don't need to confine yourself to those two DAWS. Most convert.

Remember other equipment 

You will also need a decent microphone, an interface such as Focusrite,  good speakers and a willingness to get online and research how to mic things up. 

Be inventive and use your creative imagination

It's true that when I do online recordings, maybe a cello performance from home, it's much harder to find that energy, especially if you're dressed in your pyjamas working in the middle of the night to hit a deadline.

I find it easier to be creative, perform well, when there's company, the social dynamic is really important. And also another person to tell you objectively about how it sounds. But you just have to dig deep.

If it's an online session, or you're working on someone's arrangement, don't plough away at it on your own for hours. Do a few takes, tidy them up, and chat to them for feedback."

Social dynamics are important 

The group We Are Children is a really good example of this. There are a lot of people in it, so it's always been hard for us to get together in one place. Sometimes we even have to record one at a time or send stuff in. But we work hard at the social side of things. We have groups on social media and so on.

It helps that everyone in the group is super cool and super caring with each other. Most importantly there's a huge amount of trust and acceptance, and different people volunteer to do different things. If you're the sort of person that feels they need to control every last detail of your collaboration it will be difficult. Things can seem so important when it comes to creative projects. But if you can try to regard them all as an interesting experiment, it's surprising what great things might come up unexpectedly.

Ultimately, being remote doesn’t mean behaving any differently

Make the most of any remote working opportunities in the same way you would any other musical situation. By being professional, open and receptive. 

Many thanks to Audrey for her offering her experience and advice for this article.  If you're looking for free audio resources to use head to our extensive latest list of top-quality apps, samples and tools that have been made available during the COVID lockdown period here.

Photo by Blaz Erzetic from Pexels

Take the first steps in your music career with ICMP

We've been developing and delivering contemporary music education for over 30 years – longer than any other music school in the UK. With a proven track-record, countless music industry connections and unrivalled access to facilities, it's easy to see why hundreds of students choose ICMP each year. 

To completely immerse yourself in your music career, chat with our friendly Admissions Team via email or give them a call on 020 7328 0222.

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by Jim Ottewill
March 23, 2020
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