The day of doom has come. You have to enter the workforce. And if you must work, you might as well labor in an industry with perks. Music enthusiasts can enlist in “the business,” and gain more than just experience to pad the résumé.
Internships don’t pay much—if at all. You do mindless tasks, and get treated worse than the company dog. But in the entertainment world, heavy crap duties may weigh a little lighter when you’re taking home free gear and guiding P. Diddy to his meetings.
Precocious senior Abby Koocher knows the deal. As a former intern at MTV, Cross Road Productions, and Interscope Records, she has learned that meeting celebs and getting free stuff eases the pain of payless duty. Toting home over a hundred CDs, rare posters, and bushels of clothes, she’s had no qualms with bringing Beyoncé a Red Bull during an MTV shift or hanging with Method Man after aiding as a production assistant for Cross Road Productions in the making of RZA’s music video “La Rhumba.”
After winning a journalism scholarship, she landed at Vibe magazine, where she was granted the chance to interview soul diva Mary J. Blige. It beats pouring coffee.
Kimbarly Taylor—currently an associate at White & Case LLP—interned at Sony Music Entertainment. An aspiring entertainment lawyer, she learned the ropes handling “meet-and-greets” with artists like Destiny’s Child and Genuwine, accompanying them to radio stations and record stores during album promotions. In return, she took home tons of CDs and promotional materials. “We also got tickets to all the Sony events, so I got to see the Roots and Busta Rhymes,” she says. After reaping the benefits and networking, many of the interns she met during her two-year stint now work in Sony’s promotions department full-time.
Students 21-and-up have more options than unpaid internships. The best alternative is copping a club job. Bartending, bar-backing, working the coat check or the guest list are the most fun you’re going to have while holding your own. They have flexible hours and usually pay cash at the end of the night.
Former cocktail waitress and coat-check girl Natasha Jones advises: Be prepared for anything. One night you could be working coat check and the next, helping out with floor security, DJ assistance (fetching beers for Sasha!), and doling out staff schedules.
It was hard for Jones to complain: “On a really busy night, I would take home around $250 to $300,” she says. “And I’m a people-watcher, so it was entertainment for me.” Her position came in handy: “The promoters I knew ran in small circles, so I would get free entrance and comped drinks at other clubs.”
In the club world, there are other ways to get your feet wet without going through the traditional channels. Cliff Cho, a/k/a DJ Seoul, is the owner of Direct Drive, a drum’n’bass production company that hosts weekly parties and special events. Seoul plans to start a record label and relies on many of the same skills as a president of a major label. Although small companies like Direct Drive offer internships, openings for assistants and street promotion are frequently available. Some positions even pay.
Eric Mendoza has worked for Seoul volunteering as a driver, Web assistant, and street promoter for a year. “I get to meet the DJs and go to parties for free, that’s my pay right there,” says Mendoza. “It is a learning experience too—maybe one day I will throw my own parties. Hanging out with Seoul, I get to understand how the whole thing works.”