Here we discover the answer to a question that may have occurred to you when I mentioned how nice it is to get access to all these great players for free: what's to protect them from being inundated with offers they don't want — musical spam?
Answer: A clever eSession filter. You get access to the eTalent and regular member databases for free, but if you want to send a work request to one of the eTalent members, it costs $25 each time. (As of this writing, there is an introductory offer of free work requests and extra disk space beyond the 250MB basic allotment).
I think that's just fine. It's no more unreasonable than being asked to pay for an estimate, and it forces you to think before uploading a demo that isn't ready. Furthermore, if you find some people who are sympatico with what you're doing, the $25 may amount to a one-time introduction fee, kind of like with a dating service. Meanwhile, there's no fee for sending work requests to non-eTalent, so amateur, experimental, or jam-oriented connections are supported as well.
If the eTalent to whom you've sent a work request wants to do your song, he or she replies by sending you a bid. That bid could be as low as $100, if it's part of a promotion, but a more typical charge would be in the neighborhood of $250 to $300. (Disclosure: Since I was getting a journalist preview, I didn't have to pay for eTalent out of my pocket.)
Here's an excerpt from the first sketch I uploaded for this project. No vocal yet; the melody is played on electric piano:
I recorded my sketch using Apple's GarageBand, which I like for its combination of speed, simplicity, and surprisingly good sounds. I'll usually start a song with GarageBand and then switch to Logic if I need to, or just take the GarageBand sketch to a studio. In this case I ended up keeping the GarageBand guitar all the way through to the final mix, even though it was a stock sound, played via keyboard.
I used to be more anxious about my sketches, often laboring over them for days, throwing in all kinds of arrangement and production detail. But I've found that the better the musicians I work with, the less I want to tell them exactly what to play. My feeling that one of the most important abilities a producer can have is simply to recognize greatness when you hear it — recognizing a great idea (great to you, at least), and recognizing great talent to execute it.
Once you've found the talent, give them a little bit of (clear) guidance and get out of the way for a while. Then you can respond to what you hear, which will often contain surprising gifts, and nudge whatever needs nudging towards your objective.
I also posted a chart of the melody, chords, and lyrics:
(Click to view full-size PDF.)
Although eSession provides its own eChart feature (which supports lyrics and chords), for this song I thought it would be helpful to have the melody written out as well. So I made my chart using the free Finale Notepad.