Two weeks ago I attended an event promoted by the NY Chapter of NARAS at Jazz at Lincoln Center aimed at making music industry professionals familiar with eSession.com, a Texas based company founded by two highly achieved producers/engineers and aimed at making online music collaborations easy and effortless.
eSessions has been around for a while but their infrastructure has become much more solid over the past few years and these demo sessions were an eye opener in that regard. Although I wish they hadn’t used Flash or Java Applets, their new beta site is much better organized and functional than it was when I checked them out a few years ago. eSessions basically allows you to hire talent (or be a hired talent) in the music industry without being limited by geography or by a limited network of contact. If you are a band or a musician you suddenly have easy and direct access to all these Gold, Platinum, Grammy or up and coming engineers and producers who you can hire to mix, record, edit or produce your album or your track. Producers and engineers, like myself, have access to a wide array of musicians from all over the world, and although this might not be the greatest asset to somebody that operates from within New York City (where some of the best musicians in the world live) it is an enormous asset for somebody living in cities that don’t have the same kind of musical scene that New York does!
I would imagine that this idea should really catch on in far away places. Suddenly somebody in the middle of nowhere in the US (or I guess in the middle of Iceland for that matter) can hire a top notch musician from Los Angeles and negotiate a price for him. Speaking of which, everything is negotiable and eSession keeps 15% of profits.
With great power comes great responsibility… eSession founders are well aware that by creating such an amazing platform for collaboration they are also handing the music industry the key to outsourcing everything and anything just like major corporations do today.
When everything is negotiable and you bid on talent’s services almost like you bid on eBay, talents might start to compete with each other (instead of collaborate with each other) and this might corner them into under-selling their services only to stay on top of the competition. Although it is true that it might be hard to find an Indian singer that will sing the blues as good as a cat from New Orleans does or to find a Taiwanese drummer who can play funk/fusion like some people at the Baked Potato do, it also needs to be noted that struggling musicians in “expensive” cities like NY or LA might likely not welcome the idea of being replaced by cheaper players from some rural town in the mid-west, especially if the people hiring the talent live in NY or LA themselves.
Studios might also likely be hurt by this approach, since the eSession way pretty much entails or assumes that the hired talent can deliver the goods without having to hire a studio (because if he or she had to do, their final price would not be competitive with musicians that have home recording systems – which will of course push every eTalent to get equipped with some kind of home recording tool aimed at replacing a professional studio’s services). eSession tried to address this issue by having an eStudio section for recording studios, but I think it’s really only meant to show that their are not insensitive to the issue itself. It’ll be interesting to see if the bulk of eSessions commissions and traffic comes from studios or from talent… I’d put my money on the latter.
Last but not least, one other concern I have is: what will you choose to do when given the chance to inexpensively hire a guitar player from Kalamazoo, a bass player from France and a drummer from Australia as opposed to a solid rhythm section that plays together in the same room in the city you live in, right in front of you? Does anyone remember the old concept of playing together, vibing off of each other, feeding off the each other’s ideas and style? If you are paying these folks to play, wouldn’t you wanna be there (in most cases) to provide them with your input and your feedback so that they can adjust their aim and get you what you are paying them for? I don’t want to sound old fashioned… I have myself hired people (before the days of eSession) from other countries where I did not have a chance to be present and I had to either deal with FTP or with mailed CDs and have had to ask for a variation on their first try, therefore prolongating the process… When compared with that situation, being able to drag and drop tracks into a browser and connecting with these people easily via email or messanging is certainly a huge leap forward. However, I will say that, unless there is a specific reason (your no.1 choice hired gun is on tour but has access to recording system, you need a tabla player and you want to hire an actual Indian guy from India etc…) I might still resort to calling up local talent because (a) face-to-face interaction is irreplaceable and (b) it’s always great to be able to bring work to people you’ve worked with before. I am not saying I won’t experiment with new talent, but if time is of the essence why not go back to someone that delivered promptly and exactly what you wanted in a previous work-for-hire scenario?
I think my approach and/or opinions might be slightly different than that of others because I live in NYC, a crib for/of awesome talent where you really almost never have to look beyond the city limits to find exactly what and who you need.
Although I might have my concerns, legitimate or not, I do embrace the changes brought on by the digital revolution we’ve been living in and I welcome anyone and anything that makes good use of this digital revolution (bringing new musicians together for sure qualifies as good use!).
Either way, I still like the idea of eSession and I like the people at eSession (if you have any questions contact their main rep Ryan who is super responsive, really nice and very knowledgeable!) so after the NARAS event I decided to give it a try and see how it goes… eSession might very well be the next big thing in the music industry professionals’ world!
Here’s my profile eTalent profile at eSession.com