Looking at a career as a musician
In this article we will look at how to work on a cruise ship and the type of preparation required to land the job.
Please note that if you don’t like or can’t play some jazz, please don’t apply.
Well, now you have been playing in bands for several years and you may have graduated with a degree from one of the excellent music academies in 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 companies operate throughout the year and are always very popular with tourists and travelers. There is still something enchanting about sailing across the ocean to stop at exotic ports, explore ancient cities, and soak up the atmosphere of busy seaside restaurants. Sounds fun right? I’m sure you want to register 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, cruise lines audition on Skype, so they can recruit from a global talent pool. Speaking English may give you a slight edge, but it’s the music that counts in the end.
Second, two types of musicians are required, the orchestra musician is the main work horse, his role is to act as part of the main show and also to accompany the guest musicians or singers who may be brought in for special events. They can also entertain guests during daytime sessions as part of a smaller unit or more traditional four price band.
The other act is that of a solo musician, which will undoubtedly involve being able to sing and play his instrument.
Third, contracts can be for a limited period, especially if you are new to the job, your first contract can be only for 3-4 months. The typical contract is 6 months. So remember, you are not ready for life once you pass the audition.
Finally, you will have to pass a medical exam, in addition to being a musician, you are expected to be part of the crew so you must be in good physical health. So relax with the pizza and drink yourself under the table every night.
Before you worry about any of the above, see if you suffer from dizziness!
Well, you have your sea legs now, let’s find a job. Well that part is pretty easy, just Google music jobs on a cruise ship and you’ll find plenty. Some companies like Carnival Cruise Line advertise directly, others use talent agencies. The application is straightforward, if you are applying as a solo artist, you will be asked to provide a recorded video of your performance, if you are applying for an orchestra it is not that important, but it is always a good idea to have something recorded that demonstrates what you can do. Remember, this is a cruise, so there is no point in recording your best Yngwie malmsteen lick. Try some soft jazz or top 40 hits with a hint of blues.
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 in a substantial number of genres. You should be able to cover music from the 50s to the 40s of today. Since you will probably be entertaining a group of passengers for 5-10 days, you will need to have at least 80-90 songs ready to play.
For the orchestral player, you have a different challenge, your sight reading must be competent enough to read a chart quickly and also be able to improvise smoothly and confidently.
I would recommend learning as many jazz standards as possible and studying chord changes and inversion. A guest singer at the last minute may decide to add a song to your set and you should be able to play it.
It takes time to prepare, but it is worth the hard work.
If you are invited to an audition, the company will set a date and time. They will contact you normally 10-15 minutes before your audition to give you your song lists, which will allow you the same amount of time to review that you would have on a ship.
Once they call you back, it’s up to you.
If successful, the company will make all the arrangements, including medical contracts and flights to get you on board the ship.
If you would like to see a sample audition sheet, please email me and I will send you a copy of my original sheet.
Just another point to keep in mind, if you are employed through an agent, the commission will be deducted from your salary. The good side of working for an agent is that once it is on your books, it will probably keep you on the job for as long as you want to work on the ships.
Hope this helps anyone looking for a career in cruise ships.
Geoff Sinker Article