My first task was finding players through eSession's eTalent database. Here was an early indication of what makes the service different. While many virtual studio sites aim to connect players at all skill levels — an openness that has its own merits — eSession limits eTalent membership to accomplished pros, usually those who have at least 15 major album credits. (Any user can be listed as a regular member of the eSession community.) This means you aren't likely to find any eTalent who aren't very, very good at what they do. Given that signing up as a user is free, this instant augmentation of your contact list is a heck of a deal all by itself.
You can find eTalent in two ways. From eSession's main page, you can choose among tabs labeled Musicians, Engineers, Production, and eStudios, and then browse subcategories by instrument or by other specialties such as recording, mixing, mastering, or producing.
Or you can construct a search query, such as for a Musician whose specialty is Guitar who has worked with David Byrne. That would in fact bring up Bruce Kaphan, a wonderful player I was able to hire for "Nowhere Motel." I was hoping to use steel guitar in a non-traditional way, and I found Bruce while browsing for steel players who had played alternative rock or alt-country.
Each eSession member gets a publicly accessible profile page listing credits and recording setup.
As you can see from the screenshot of Bruce's page above, each eTalent page has tabs for Discography, Biography, OS/Computer, Images, Outboard Gear, and Audio Samples. I was interested to see that in addition to David Byrne, Bruce had played with Sheryl Crow, the Black Crowes, American Music Club, and the Red House Painters. But what sold me on him were the audio samples from his own album, Slider: gorgeous, free-floating ambiences that painted a whole new picture of what a steel guitar could do. I liked Slider so much that I paid it the ultimate digital-era tribute: I paid for it (on iTunes).
Next I hit the "Click Here to Hire Bruce Kaphan" button and began the process of sending Bruce a Work Request. This consisted of information about my song, a description of the work I was asking him to do (on dobro as well as steel), and a link to an uploaded MP3 demo.
The first step in starting a project is to fill out a Work Request. Prices are negotiable.