Looking at a career as a musician
In this article we will look at working on a cruise ship and the type of preparation needed to land the job.
Please note, if you don’t like or can’t play some jazz don’t apply.
OK, now you’ve been playing in bands for a number of years and you might have graduated with a degree from one of the excellent music academies around the various countries. You have decided that you want to have a career as a professional musician, so what is your next step.
Well, one of the options you might consider is a musician on a cruise ship. Large cruise ship companies operate all year long and are always very popular with tourists and travelers. There is still something enchanting about sailing across the ocean to stop in exotic ports, explore ancient cities and soak up the atmosphere of busy seaside restaurants. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?I I am sure you want to sign up right now and set sail.
Well, before you do there are a few things you might want to know.
First, there is a lot of competition out there, cruise lines hold auditions on Skype, so they can recruit from a global talent pool. Speaking English might give you a slight edge but it’s the music that counts in the end.
Second, there are two types of musicians required, the orchestra musician is the main work horse, his role is to play as part of the main show and also accompany guest musicians or singers that might be brought in for special events. They can also be entertaining guests during daytime sessions as part of a smaller unit or more traditional four price band.
The other act is the solo musician which will certainly entail being able to sing and play your instrument.
Third, contracts can be for a limited period especially if you are new to the job, your first contract might only be for 3 – 4 months. The typical contract is for 6 months. So remember you are not set for life once you pass the audition.
Finally, you will have to pass a medical, as well as being a musician you will be expected to be part of the crew so you must be in good physical health. So ease up on the pizza and drinking yourself under the table every night.
Before you worry about any of the above check out if you suffer from seasickness!
OK, you have your sea legs now let’s find a job. Well, that part is fairly easy, just Google music jobs on a cruise ship and you will find plenty. Some companies like Carnival cruise line advertise directly, others use talent agencies. Application is straight forward, if you are applying as a solo act you will be asked to supply a recorded video of you performing, if you are applying for orchestra it’s not as important but it’s always a good idea to have something recorded that demonstrates what you can do. Remember, this is a cruise ship so no point recording your best Yngwie Malmsteen licks. Try some smooth jazz or top 40 hits with a blues feel to it.
Now, this is the point where the two jobs differ. As a solo artist you will need to have a large repertoire of music to perform across a substantial number of genres. You need to be able to cover 50’s music right through to current top 40 hits. Because you will be probably entertaining a group of passengers for 5 – 10 days you will need to have at least 80 – 90 songs ready to perform.
For the orchestra player you have a different challenge, your sight reading must be proficient enough to read a chart quickly and also be able to improvise smoothly and with confidence.
I would recommend learning as many jazz standards as possible and study your chord changes and inversion. A guest singer at the last minute might decide to add a song to his/her set and you have to be capable of playing it.
It does take time to get prepared but it is worth the hard work.
If you are invited for an audition the company will set up a time and date. They will contact you normally 10 – 15 minutes before your audition to give you your song charts allowing you the same amount of time to review as you would have on a ship.
Once they call you back then it’s down to you.
If you are successful, then the company will make all the arrangements including medical and contracts and flights to get you aboard ship.
If you would like to see a sample of an audition sheet, send me an email and I will send you a copy of my original sheet.
Just another point to note, if you are employed through an agent then commission will be deducted from your salary. The good side of working for an agent is that once you are on their books, they will probably keep you in work for as long as you want to work on the ships.
I hope this helps anyone looking for a career on the cruise ships.