What type of person would thrive in a Cruise Ship Musician role?
“As well as technical skills and professional experience, you need to be an easygoing person and able to get along well with others in a close environment. You’ll be working and living closely with your colleagues for up to six months at a time so it really helps to be a people person! The Cruise Ship Musicians you work with will be from different parts of the globe so it’s key to be open-minded and have a good head on your shoulders.
Tell me about the hiring process for Cruise Ship Musicians. What is the audition process like?
Our auditions are separated into two categories: Orchestra auditions and Entertainer auditions. Most lines have an Orchestra (also known as the Show Band) onboard and each musician is hired individually. This 5-10 piece band plays production shows, headliner shows, big band and Top 40 sets onboard. Keys, sax, trombone, trumpet, bass, drums, and guitar are the most common instrumentation.
The most important requirement to land one of these jobs is strong sight reading skills (both jazz charts & individual notation). Working onboard a ship as an Orchestra Musician, you’ll find yourself playing new shows daily and having little to no preparation time with the charts.
In order to assure that you’ll be comfortable in that setting, we test your sight reading with similar charts prior to hiring. We do live auditions around the globe and if you can’t make it to one of those, we do auditions via Skype. In each case, simply apply with us, and we’ll set up a date and time that works best.
For the audition itself, you’ll be handed a series of charts and be asked to read them without much preparation, typically thirty minutes ahead of time. These charts will range from big band to Top 40 to Broadway selections. Depending on the audition, you might also be asked to play a jazz head and solo over it in order for us to get a feel for your improvisational skills as well.
If sight reading isn’t your thing, you can also be hired as an Entertainer onboard. We recruit the following entertainers to perform on cruise lines: Solo Pianist/Vocalist, Solo Guitarist/Vocalist, Classical Guitarist, Cocktail Pianist, Duo, Party Bands and Jazz Groups (3-4 piece).
These entertainers perform four to five forty-five minute sets a night in various lounges onboard. In order to be hired as an Entertainer onboard, you must apply with the following: promo video, song list, and performance resume. If your materials are all ready to go, it only takes a few minutes to submit an online application with Flagship. And that’s it: we take care of the rest.
What can aspiring Cruise Ship Musicians do to make themselves competitive candidates for these roles? What do you specifically look for when screening applicants for these positions?
For prospective Orchestra candidates, our best advice is to READ, READ, and READ some more! Constantly challenge yourself reading in different settings and read as much music as possible prior to your cruise ship audition. If you believe your reading is up to par, then work on fine-tuning your improvisation as it can also play a crucial role in being hired.
These positions are highly competitive (and highly rewarding). Therefore, we are looking for candidates that have the full package: advanced sight reading skills and improvisational skills. It also helps to show enthusiasm and a positive outlook on the job, too!
For prospective Entertainer candidates, the importance of your promotional package (video, song list, repertoire list) cannot be overstated. Entertainers are hired based on 7-10 minutes of video and your supplemental materials.
As you only have a limited amount of time to prove yourself, we suggest following these five tips to stand out as a qualified candidate:
- Video Song Selection – Generally speaking, keep selections upbeat and enthusiastic. All song selections should be covers, as entertainers will not be playing original music onboard. An audition video should reflect that.
- Video Song Length – An effective submission should be short (about fifteen to thirty seconds) clips demonstrating a variety in style and era. Perspective entertainers should avoid submitting full songs versus excerpts.
- Members In Video – For band submissions, the members in the video MUST be the members who can commit to performing on the ship. Far too often, a video is approved and the group cannot be hired because only one or two of the members in the audition are actually available for a contract.
- Song List – You should submit, preferably in PDF form, at least 150 songs on your list. The selections in your song list will depend on position, however, the list should be well-organized by name, artist, and genre. This repertoire list should show that you can perform an impressive range of styles and eras.
- Performance Resume – This document should include all previous relevant experience. Do include any past cruise ship employment, a list of venues/dates in which you’ve performed and [info regarding your] music education. Do not include irrelevant information such as non-music related day jobs, education or non-music employment. We get this a lot and have to think twice when we see a non-performance based resume.
What is the advantage of applying through a recruitment service like Flagship vs. applying directly to the cruise lines?
Applying through a cruise ship agency like Flagship Entertainment offers what we like to say are 3 Major Pros:
- PRO #1 – Multiple Job Opportunities
An agency can provide several job opportunities to musicians and entertainers by working with several major cruise lines. Deciding to apply directly may be a good option if you are certain you want to pursue your career with a specific cruise line. However, you will find that working with multiple cruise lines can give you more options. An agent can open up several more opportunities and establish a gig (and future gigs) that is best suited for both you and the cruise line of hire.
- PRO #2 – Personal Attention
An agency can (and should) provide the personal attention needed for musicians and entertainers to be successful in the cruise entertainment industry, from the start of a candidate’s audition to developing one’s talent for future contracts on various lines. In many cases, musicians will choose to approach a cruise line directly.
After time, they often feel as if they become a number in the system or simply just lose any sense of contact. Applying direct will save you a small percentage of your salary, but in the end, an agency will give you the kind of personal attention and time that you will need to be successful.
- PRO #3 – Easy To Apply
Most agencies have websites where you can complete an online application in a relatively short amount of time. Flagship Entertainment’s online application can be completed in less than five minutes and our team gets back to you within forty-eight hours. Also, on-site auditions are often held in major cities around the world which can be very convenient for those who are less tech savvy and want to apply.
In contrast, when you apply through a cruise line directly, it often takes months to hear back, if at all.
Do you look for any certain training or education when hiring musicians?
“Most definitely. We like to see that you’ve been studying your craft for many years. As cruise ship jobs are very competitive, you need to be technically sound on your instrument. Cruise ship jobs can be demanding so if you’ve only been playing for a couple years, then this gig is not for you.”