Cruise Ship Audition

COBBtheDRUMMER

Junior Member
Hey,

I am curious to hear about other people's cruise ship auditions and/or experiences working with talent agencies. Are there talent agencies better than others or are they about the same?

I auditioned for, Lime Entertainment, in March 2016. I was given 30min to prepare 5 charts to preform over Skype for the live audition & earlier in the week they gave me two 30 sec. backing tracks "sweet love" and "got to be real" that I had to learn the drums by ear and play over. As well as play over several different styles of 15 sec. backing tracks to demonstrate feel/grooves. I came close to passing but fell short due to my sight reading of the Jazz charts.
 

Seafroggys

Silver Member
Based on the video I saw of you drumming, I would think you fell more than slightly short.

The reason why I bring that up is because sometimes we're terrible judge of our skills. You (you being the general rhetorical you, not you specifically) think you're the shit, but you're really not.

Cruise Ship gigs requires some pretty slick skills. Its not for an amateur. I got a scholarship for sight reading in high school and now at age 30 I still feel intimidated by the thought of playing for a cruise.

Just work on your skills some more. When you've improved a bit, try again.
 

jeffwj

Platinum Member
Hey,

I am curious to hear about other people's cruise ship auditions and/or experiences working with talent agencies. Are there talent agencies better than others or are they about the same?

I auditioned for, Lime Entertainment, in March 2016. I was given 30min to prepare 5 charts to preform over Skype for the live audition & earlier in the week they gave me two 30 sec. backing tracks "sweet love" and "got to be real" that I had to learn the drums by ear and play over. As well as play over several different styles of 15 sec. backing tracks to demonstrate feel/grooves. I came close to passing but fell short due to my sight reading of the Jazz charts.
I have performed on cruise ships and can honestly say that (for an audition) 30 minutes to prepare the charts is more than I ever heard of. Most of the lines (and agencies) want you to sightread everything. For my audition, the person called me, emailed the charts, and had me play them as soon as they came out of the printer. They also wanted to hear a bunch of styles.

It sounds intimidating, but they want to make sure you can handle the gig. My first night on the ship, I was sightreading shows. Singers and dancers get rehearsals, musicians often do not. On the rare occasion that I had a rehearsal, it was usually just stops and starts (beginning and endings of tunes).

For a cruise ship gig, be prepared to read anything and everything. Check out Steve Houghton's Drumset Reading Anthology. It is the closest thing to cruise ship charts that I have found.

I also prepared by taking lessons from people who were solid show drummers/chart readers. I had a lot of help from Steve Fidyk and also took a lesson with Brad Flickinger (Broadway drummer) in NYC. I would recommend studying with someone who has extensive show drumming experience.

Jeff
 
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PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
I would think that they want someone who's really good at a lot of different genres as opposed to someone who is stellar at one genre.

If you didn't get the gig and they were actually sort of nice about it, I'd be thankful. If they offered you feedback, go work on that for a while then try again if you would like. I've never read a chart I didn't make myself, so I don't even know where to begin with that.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
For a cruise ship gig, be prepared to read anything and everything. Check out Steve Houghton's Drumset Reading Anthology. It is the closest thing to cruise ship charts that I have found.

I also prepared by taking lessons from people who were solid show drummers/chart readers. I had a lot of help from Steve Fidyk and also took a lesson with Brad Flickinger (Broadway drummer) in NYC. I would recommend studying with someone who has extensive show drumming experience.

Jeff
Solid advice here. Probably the drummers who play(ed) in shows also teach by Skype, or maybe can refer you to someone local. When you ask for lessons, also make sure to mention your goal of developing your reading skills in order to play cruise ships.

In general, you're off to a good start, but there are still many miles to go. If you really went for it every day with lessons, gig experience (musical theater and shows), and reading practice, you could probably be where you want to be in two or three years. Take lessons from a few different teachers at once. One for reading and charts; one for hand technique, rudiments, and snare solos; and another for learning to play jazz. Apply your skills by getting together with other drummers to play the snare solos, and get together with other jazz musicians to play some tunes from the Real Book. Just rehearsals here, gigs aren't necessary. Also volunteer to drum (as in, for free) for local musical theater or show choirs at middle schools and high schools.

And -- no offense here, and in the kindest way possible -- lose the banner. It's a turn off to almost all musicians, and they'll be the ones hiring you as you're getting into the world of professional music.
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
Everything I've heard about Cruise Ship gigs leads me to believe I could never hack it. Has to be one of the most challenging gigs you could get. If not THE most challenging.
 

COBBtheDRUMMER

Junior Member
Everyone's quick to give criticism on my abilities but not one actually answered my question as to what working with other talent agencies is like. I've actually been a professional musician for the last 4 years and this is something I'm very close to doing. I am also studying with someone who has been a cruise ship drummer before and am following the right steps to get where I want to be. Please if anyone has any actual experiences about auditioning (failed or pass) or working through talent agencies please share.
 

Merlin5

Gold Member
Cobb, I'll try and give you some background on my own experiences, may give you some more insight. Don't let anything I say put you off though. It's a great gig with great perks, but it can be difficult.

First, I never did any auditions for ships. Don't think they did them when I was doing cruises. I got lucky because a keyboard player I used to work with happened to be on a P&O ship and called me to say one of the drummers was taking some leave and did I want to sub for him for 2 weeks. I jumped at it. This was in 1993. I subbed for him on several cruises over the next 2 years in the Mediterranean, Atlantic, Caribbean.

Perks were great. Might be different these days. But back then it was free hire cars to get to the docks in the UK, and sometimes free flights if I had to meet the ship in Singapore or somewhere like that. Own cabin, tv, bathroom.

Eventually P&O offered me my own resident gig on one of their new ships in 1995. I was over the moon. Especially being tax free by being out of the country for 6 months in a year.

Up to this point it was all dance trios including backing cabarets. Eventually the musical director of the 7 piece theatre showband asked me if I'd like to do that as their drummer was leaving. It was effectively a promotion to the top gig on the ship. Less work time but harder reading and a ton of it.

I actually turned it down at first, TOO scary, lol. He said "Aww, you'll be fine. Come on, have a go at it!" Well I ended up doing it as the trio gig was coming to an end and I needed to stay working.

Let me tell you, talk about baptism of fire, lol! After coming back from some leave to start in the theatre which I was incredibly nervous about, I immediately got handed about 7 or 8 pads of music all at once. Wtf! Each one was a different show, and many with click tracks. My head was spinning. What have I got myself into I thought.

I somehow got through the first show which was a night or two later. To be honest, once you get to know the shows you really start to enjoy them. In the showband, I only ever worked 2 x 1 hour shows a night plus the occasional daytime rehearsal. Whereas in the trios, I had to work a lot more, like several shifts in the day and in the evening often up to 3am. But that was fun most of the time anyway.

Possibly the hardest thing I found was random cabarets that come on the ship because you don't get a chance to learn their dots in advance. I'd be in rehearsal with 6 other musicians who were all very experienced, everyone is handed their charts, and they're pretty much counted off as soon as the music touches the stand. So yeah, it totally sharpens your sight reading. Sink or swim really.

Continued the theatre gig for 2 years and then left ships in 99. Awesome experience in every way. I'm a decent reader but personally I always found that theatre gig a bit too hard and stressful. I did ok at it but kind of sucked in comparison to some of the other drummers I'd seen do that gig. Glad I did it though. If you get a chance to do it, 100% go for it! :)
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
I've worked for four lines and I think I've played one actual audition, for a job I didn't get. So maybe I'm not an expert on auditions, IDK...

I haven't done this kind of work in ~10 years, but friends currently involved with a bigger line tell me there are a number of unethical agencies out there who will place virtually anyone with a pulse. The problem is, if you get there and can't actually do the job, you get fired. A big pain in the neck when you just flew to San Juan and were planning on being employed for 5 months.

I didn't find it to be tremendously difficult-- anyone with two or three years of college level jazz studies playing ability, and who has done some gigs-- jazz, R&B, theater, maybe Latin, should be able to hack it. You do have to be good at reading bad charts and at following cues.

They do require that you have a professional appearance and public demeanor. Treat your next audition like an interview for a customer service job at JC Penney. There might also be some useful tips in this thing I wrote a few years ago, Survival Tips for Cruise Ship Drummers.
 

Super Phil

Senior Member
Have any of you approached this from the angle of assembling your own cover band and auditioning as a group? Seems to me if your group gets hired then you have an already established repertoire of songs, don't have to worry about all the sight reading and learning on the fly, and have the opportunity to really rehearse your stuff before you ever set foot on the ship. Just a thought....seems like it would take a lot of the stress out of the situation. Of course you would need to find the right players, though.
 

ineedaclutch

Platinum Member
Based on the video I saw of you drumming, I would think you fell more than slightly short.
I agree. You need to be less concerned about the talent agencies, and more concerned with your ability to excite the talent agencies.
 
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toddbishop

Platinum Member
I agree. You need to be less concerned about the talent agencies, and more concerned with your ability to excite the talent agencies.
I haven't really watched his videos, but I actually know him, and he's going to be fine. With some work on a few things he'll get a gig.

Have any of you approached this from the angle of assembling your own cover band and auditioning as a group? Seems to me if your group gets hired then you have an already established repertoire of songs, don't have to worry about all the sight reading and learning on the fly, and have the opportunity to really rehearse your stuff before you ever set foot on the ship. Just a thought....seems like it would take a lot of the stress out of the situation. Of course you would need to find the right players, though.
That is a good way to do it if you know some players. Mainly you have to know a singer who does that type of very commercial presentation. You still have to cover a range of styles, and often you'll have to accompany a show every night. On my first gig on Carnival we did that-- as the lounge act we would play a show with whatever random singer, comedian/singer, instrumentalist, juggler, ventriloquist, etc-- whatever they had lined up. You had to get that together in one rehearsal, but the acts were designed to be easy to hack out, and they usually had OK charts.
 

Mattsdad

Member
As a cruise ship musical director from way back in the day, I'm on the fence about current audition procedures. When I was doing it, it was largely a word of mouth recommendation, and while there was the occasional wash-out, musical issues with personnel were rarely a concern. In fact, I only fired one person over music, while other firings were linked to poor behavior and professionalism.

A couple of years ago, I was in the same room with a kid skyping his audition, and it was obvious by the way things were going, that the Miami guy was trying to wreck it, for what seemed to be his bad mood that day. I also don't think the present audition demonstrates potential for things like Captain's Cocktail, which is mostly about thinking on your feet and knowing a lot of standards. That's politically your most important gig, because all officers, including the captain, are present. A lot of players just don't know enough tunes by memory, especially Latin stuff, and when a couple come up to request something, they expect to hear the tune as an immediate segue. Before fake books were on IPads, I used to cringe when I heard the incessant rustling of pages and confused intros, while the captain stared like he was disappointed.

Still, the biggest issue with playing on a cruise ship is behaving yourself, which means being sober and on time, while keeping jaded comments to yourself.
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
I've been on one Carnival cruise. When we left, or arrived at a port, the band, a reggae one would play for 30 or 40 minutes and would then in the evenings for dancing etc.,. I was walking back to my cabin one afternoon and looked in an open door to see them making beds and cleaning rooms. Just sayin'.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
I've been on one Carnival cruise. When we left, or arrived at a port, the band, a reggae one would play for 30 or 40 minutes and would then in the evenings for dancing etc.,. I was walking back to my cabin one afternoon and looked in an open door to see them making beds and cleaning rooms. Just sayin'.
When your poor, double dipping is one of the fastest paths to the middle class. When I was a session guitarist, I also cleaned the toilets of the studio I worked at for an extra $4.25 an hour.

Just sayin.
 

jeffwj

Platinum Member
I've been on one Carnival cruise. When we left, or arrived at a port, the band, a reggae one would play for 30 or 40 minutes and would then in the evenings for dancing etc.,. I was walking back to my cabin one afternoon and looked in an open door to see them making beds and cleaning rooms. Just sayin'.
How long ago was that? I've heard stories (on the forums) of musicians working other jobs, but never experienced it. I also know, and have played with, many other musicians who played cruises on various cruise lines. They never mentioned having to do non-musical duties.

Dancers are a bit different. Musicians will play various shows throughout the cruise - Broadway/Vegas style shows, welcome aboard show, captain's cocktail, small group jazz set, guest talent show, etc. Dancers will usually only perform on the Broadway/Vegas style shows. So they will often be required to help with other audience centered jobs such as bingo, game shows, or teach a guest dance class. On Carnival, the musicians were able to pick up some extra pay by helping with those duties. However, I have never seen a musician doing any cleaning or other duties.

I haven't played a cruise contract in years. But as my prior contract ended, I saw them installing swipe-style time clocks. I believe the musicians were talking about adding some rehearsal time so there would be more hours to show on the time cards.

Also, I liked Carnival because it was more laid back when I wasn't playing. I basically had guest status and access (except for the rooms, pool, gym, and grand dining room). I could walk the ship freely without having to wear any special uniform (just a name badge). Musicians would eat in the staff dining hall. If we didn't want anything from there, we could eat basically anywhere on the ship - sandwiches, pizza, etc. Even places where we were not really supposed to eat - we ate. It's amazing how helpful the sushi bar staff can be when you tip before ordering - lol

Edit: There is one non-music duty - assisting in the safety drill. It is mandatory for a majority of the workers on the ship to do the safety drills with the passengers. This is a for safety - and a Coast Guard requirement.
Jeff
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
This was in 2001. I thought pretty good gig, and I guess it was, but just surprised to see the lads changing beds.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
It's not really surprising that they would be more exploitive of Caribbean musicians. Don't know if cleaning rooms was part of their contract-- at the very least they were getting paid so little they needed the extra bread. Usually extra duties for musicians are extremely minimal.
 
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