Session Musicians: How to survive in the industry

Stormzy's bassist and drummer share their top tips for session musicians with us... 

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Levi Yarde and Matty Brown, respectively Stormzy's bassist and drummer, recently joined us for a masterclass in which they shared their top tips to survive in the music industry as a session musician.

The two talented session musicians have played on some of the biggest stages of the UK with artists such as Stormzy, Emeli Sandé, Olly Murs, Crystal Fighters and more. Their last public appearance was back in February 2020, when they joined Stormzy on the BRIT Awards 2020 stage for one of his best performances to date. 

Levi and Matty, respectively 20 and 23 years old, have been working as session musicians since their teenage years and have had the chance to quickly learn the ins and out of the music business. When at ICMP, they joined us for an interview prior to the masterclass and shared with us their top tips for musicians looking to build a career as session performers. 

1. Be respectful

"You will meet people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, gender and sexual preferences. It's easy; treat everyone with respect. Also, you never know who you’re speaking to. It could be an important connection!  Be nice to everyone."

2. Come prepared

"Ensure you know the songs you are asked to play on, so listen to them, over and over. By the time you get to the first rehearsal, you should know what to do. Ensure your equipment is adequate; don't say yes to a gig if you're not ready for it. The last thing you want is to show up and not be able to do what you were hired for."

Matty, who studied Drums at ICMP back in 2013, told us that his career started when he won the Young Drummer Of The Year award; he then was hired to perform several gigs for a few urban artists such as Wretch 32, Lion Babe, Little Simz, Shakka, and Lady Leshurr.

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3. Be flexible and adaptable

"Get used to last-minute changes, whether it's a key or a structure modification or even a  new song added to the setlist!"

4. Be open to learning

"Remember; nobody knows it all! Never stop learning, be open."

5. Be presentable

"Have a good dress sense, take care of your image. Take care of hair and clothes, but most of all your hygiene."

6. Up your email game

"You're a freelance worker, hence you need to be ready to send and receive many emails, whether it's about invoices, CVs, artist management, accountants, MDs and more. Your email will always be the first point of contact."

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7. News travels fast

"Good or bad, it doesn't matter. If you do a good job, people will remember and talk about it. If you have any incidents, on or off the stage, the news will spread even quicker and you’ll never have the chance to defend yourself. Keep your name clean!"

8. Build great social skills

This is probably the most important thing, according to both Levi and Matty;
"When you're touring, you can be away from home for weeks or even months, spending 24 hours a day with band and crew members, with little or no time for yourself and it's not easy. Of course, you need to love what you're doing, but most of all you need to be patient and cool with other people. Don’t be weird, be able to converse with everyone. Be sociable and respectful. Rehearsing and touring is so much easier when the people you’re working with are cool on and especially off stage!"

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9. Don’t get attached to gigs

"Anything can change from one tour to another, so don't think you'll play with that artist/band forever. Enjoy the moment!"

10. Dry seasons exist

"Every working month will be different. You're not contracted so there could be no work. Be ready so that you know how to pay the rent!"

We want to thank Levi and Matty for visiting ICMP and sharing their experiences with our students. Watch the full interview here.

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 enquiries@icmp.ac.uk or give them a call on 020 7328 0222.

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by Lara Magnelli
March 2, 2020
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