The Work Realities of Professional Studio Musicians in the German Popular Music Recording Industry: Careers, Practices and Economic Situations


  • Jan Peter Herbst Senior Lecturer in Music Production University of Huddersfield Department of Music & Drama School of Music, Humanities & Media Member of the IASPM D-A-CH & UK branches
  • Tim Albrecht


studio musicians, session musicians, recording industry, music business


Among the professional roles in the recording industry, studio musicians have received relatively little academic attention. The present study explores the work realities of professional studio musicians in Germany, one of the largest music industries in the world, and is based on interviews with six pop musicians; guitarists, bassists, keyboardists and drummers who are between 27 and 66 years old. The findings show how changes in the recording industry - most notably dwindling budgets, the rise of project studios and virtual collaboration - have affected working practices, skill requirements and business models. The findings indicate that in Germany it is hardly possible to make a living from studio work as a professional musician. This is true even for leading session players. Sinking fees and the lack of access to royalties pose a problem that is not tackled due to fierce competition and the risk of damaging one’s reputation.

Author Biography

Jan Peter Herbst, Senior Lecturer in Music Production University of Huddersfield Department of Music & Drama School of Music, Humanities & Media Member of the IASPM D-A-CH & UK branches

Diploma from Munich Guitar Institute Diploma from Los Angeles Music Academy 1. B.A./ M.Ed. Music and English Education M.A. in Popular Music and Media PhD in Popular Music Education PGCHE FHEA



Another article based on the same interview data is published in the Finnish Yearbook of Ethnomusicology (Herbst and Albrecht 2018). Its focus lays on the required skill set of studio musicians and how it compares to musical scenes around the globe at different times in popular music history


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