You want to work on a cruise ship? Here's how....
For many musicians, working on a cruise ship is a dream. Travel the world, play each night to a packed house, eat fine food and, best of all, get a set wage each month.
As such, it is a honey pot for musicians so there are many people trying to get the work. And although the holiday industry is one of the biggest in the world, there are still only *so many* openings.
So here's a quick blog-sized guide on what you'll need to get cruise ship work as a musician.
1. Be good!
Despite what you might hear, the holiday industry demands high quality musicians and performers. It's true that bad actors will talk themselves into contracts, but they rarely stay very long once they're caught out. Or agents will put lower quality acts on a contract out of short term desperation.
To be the pick of the bunch though, and to achieve regular re-bookings, you need to have a very good product. You need to look good, sound good, and have well arranged and performed material.
2. Be prepared
As a 4/5pc band, soloist or duo looking for cruise ship work, you'll need to have a large repertoire. You'll be asked to play up to 5-6 45 min sets per night so you don't just need to have enough material for over 3 hours of music, you'll also need to be able to keep your sets a little varied from night to night.
The magic number is 200. A repertoire of 200 songs that cover all of the popular music genres: Pop, Rock, Soul, Funk, Disco, 50s/60s, Top40, Jazz - even a little Ballroom will help open a few more doors.
For solo and duo acts - the preference for agents and bookers is to perform to backing tracks. Simply - they want to give their punters a 'band sound' and only pay one person. The industry is rife with acoustic guitarists right now - and there are openings for laid back acoustic acts - but the majority of openings require a backing track based artist.
3. Have high quality promotional material
This is the most important point. You have a great band/act with a large repertoire - how are you going to sell yourself compared to all of the others acts that are going for the same work?
The answer: present yourself as professionally as you can.
Agents don't want amateurs or 'have a go' warriors. They want professional people. And your promo material speaks volumes about you. If you send a low quality video, you'll be thought of as a low quality act.
Send a polished, sharp, video that sound great - you'll be thought of as a high quality act that sounds great.
Host it all on a website that contains all information about the band/act that a booker needs to know - you'll ne snapped up very quickly.
4. Set your expectations.
Even if you have 5-10 years experience of playing pubs, parties and weddings in the UK - you'll need to unlearn everything you know before you can accept the conditions of a cruise contract.
You're no longer paid nightly - you're paid monthly. The you'll be paid to play 6-7 nights a week. As such, don't expect £100 - £200 per night. It's unaffordable frankly.
You can expect a good quality wage of between £1400 - £2000 per month (before commission) but don't expect parity between the cruise companies. Each is different.
Expect to be out of the country for between 1 - 6 months. If you're able to be out of the UK for longer, you'll be more valuable to a cruise agent. It's harder to find people who want to be out of the UK for long periods of time so you can almost guarantee yourself work if you're prepared to live away from home for a long time.
Also expect to have a little light duty applied to your contract. You'll be employed as a musician, but every so often you'll be asked to perform a 'duty' on the contract. Again - each company is different.
5. Be flexible and friendly.
Finally, be prepared to be flexible and friendly. Make no mistake - the entertainment industry is as fickle as you can find and the moment you cause a conflict of any kind with your Entertainments management, you'll find yourself not being booked again.
So be prepared to do what's asked of you: play an extra set, play a little longer, play for a staff party, wear clown shoes…. what-ever is asked of you: do it. You may not like it, and you may feel taken advantage of, but it's the kind of act that'll guarantee that you'll be asked back again and again.
In reality, there is ALOT more to this - and it's a long conversation.
I worked in the cruise industry for a few years and I've seen what works and what doesn't. If you're looking for cruise work and you're new to the industry, I can help set you up and point you in the right direction.
You can check out my Career Consultation service here if you need help with your musical career, and if you need a showreel and marketing package created, you can see my low cost and affordable Showreel Production packages right here.