I have a question this week from Brad:
My wife and I are steel drummers and curious about a temporary ship gig. We are both music teachers in a public school.
I get another version of this question pretty frequently, and that is, “Can I get a gig during my summer vacation?”
The answer is yes, you can get a gig during your summer vacation. In theory. Unfortunately, the reality is that the odds are against you. Let me explain.
Cruise musician jobs are hired by either talent agencies or the cruise lines themselves. You can imagine that the personnel department of a cruise line is a busy place. New employees need to be flown out to the ship, trained and acclimated to the job and this process ends up costing the cruise line money. This upfront investment of time and money means that cruise lines try to hire crew members for as long as possible. In the case of musicians, those hiring us are always pushing for 4-6 month contracts or longer.
Sometimes, though, both cruise lines and talent agencies get desperate for a particalar musician. Maybe Joe Saxophone gets caught toking with the captains daughter in the penthouse suite or something equally scandalous. They’ll need to fire Joe and get a new sax player to the ship right away. If they can’t find somebody that will take a longer contract, they’ll take whoever they can find to fill the spot for now and try to get the next person to take a longer contract.
So you see that sometimes they do hire musicians for shorter contracts, but it’s often on short notice and only as-needed. Furthermore, these short-term sub spots often go to experienced cruise musicians because they are already acclimated to the gig, trained, or just because the person hiring already trusts this musician to not screw it up like the last guy.
Ok, having said all that, I have heard of musicians working their summer or Christmas vacations anyway. I don’t understand how they got that sweet deal, but there is a chance that you could get that lucky too. I’ve seen this happen both with musicians that are hired by the cruise line and those with a talent agency – although I would think that the cruise lines would be more sympathetic to this. When you submit your info or take your audition you’ll just have to let them know the deal – that you are a school teacher and can only work in the summers. Then cross your fingers and hope you get lucky. They will probably tell you that it’ll never happen, but again, I have heard of guys getting lucky.