At some point in your travels, you’ll come across a situation that requires more than you can handle. Maybe you need a session guitarist. Maybe your project requires mixing or mastering at a higher standard than you can deliver. Maybe you need a great singer. Maybe you need to hire a bigger studio (and a recording engineer to operate it). Maybe you need a real live string section.
You need some hired help.
But it can be hard to find good hired help. If you’re considering hiring someone you’ve never worked with before, there are a lot of risks. You don’t know if they’ve got the basic skills you need, but even if they do, there are other pitfalls. Will they show up on time? Will they understand your music style? Will they answer their phone or email? Will they be quick to blame others (or you) when things go wrong? Will they educate you to help you understand what they do so yo can guide them to get the best result for the project? There are many variables, and even people who appear competent may not be a good fit and you may only realise it after it’s too late.
That’s why personal recommendations are so important. Your personal connections know you. They know your style, they know how you work. They’ll be able to recommend hired help that has a high likelihood of working out well.
It’s what I do when people ask me for recommendations. I’ll recommend musicians and studios and other professionals that I’ve personally worked with and can vouch for. Likewise when I need hired help, I’ll ask for personal recommendations. I know that I’ll (mostly) only get recommendations for people worth my time. And I’ll get the result faster.
I recently needed an electric bassist for a project that needed a specific style of playing. I could have jumped on the forums and online listings and called (and met and auditioned) dozens of bassists before finding someone suitable. Instead, I made one phone call to a guitarist I know who gigs a lot and knows a lot of bassists. He made two recommendations and I booked the session in the next phone call.
Cold contacts should be your last resort.
This is why ‘who you know’ is so important. Because you’ll take on bigger and bigger projects as you grow. And you’ll get to a point where you can’t (or shouldn’t) do everything yourself. And then you’ll need hired help. And you can get a better job done with less fuss if you can pull someone in who you trust, or who comes recommended by someone you trust.