Musically, sidemen are crucial components in any orchestra. Without them, the ensemble becomes a one-man band. Sidemen need to be able to sight read music effortlessly. In other words, they need to be as comfortable reading the dots on a staff as they are reading a book in their native tongue.
When you are assigned to a ship, you will find yourself playing music you are completely unfamiliar with but having to play it like you’ve played it a dozen times. You need to be versatile in musical styles from the 20’s to contemporary pop standards and perform them with a fabulous smile!
Sidemen share cabins and they are small, so being mindful of your roommates is key. You should be aware of the noise level you exert in this tiny sanctuary. Also, as you’d expect, having good hygiene practices is a valuable asset in tight quarters and will be appreciated. Respect and courtesy go a long way on a ship assignment. Show this to your roommates, but also to your band leader and fellow sidemen. Don’t get caught up in the drama that inevitably unfolds on these small floating villages where everybody knows your name.
Be prepared to make new friends from all over the world as you will be associating with staff from every corner of the globe! Some sidemen make a career out of playing music on these nautical transports as this is one of the remaining places a musician can earn a steady living they can budget with. If you don’t have any expenses at home to pay for, even better! You have a bare minimum of expenses at sea since your accommodation and food are provided and included as part of the contract. Set your mind to it, and after a six-month contract, you could come home with a $15,000 bank balance and an address book filled with international contacts. Additionally, Performing on cruise ships requires your talent 7 nights a week. You are regularly exposed to new music you need to absorb and often musicians practice their instrument daily. All this playing is sure to make you a superior player.
Stay focused, master your instrument, learn another language, catch up on your reading, get fit, get a diving certificate, photograph all the exotic places you will be visiting! Whatever your passion is, you are very likely to have time to explore it while travelling. Bon Voyage! Got more specific questions about cruise gigs? Visit our FAQ page.