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Internships AKA Corporate Slavery
Old 14th June 2016
  #1
Here for the gear
 
1 Review written
🎧 5 years
Internships AKA Corporate Slavery

I am a student soon to be graduating an audio engineering program at City College in NYC. This summer I emailed 11 Post Productions facilities in total, of which two responded. I pursued each further and decided I would take an unpaid internship position at "Batman" Sound, which is located on 45th street in midtown manhattan.
At first I was excited, the studio manager, 'Jakey', seemed friendly and told me to come in for an interview. When I spoke to him in person, I felt like he was a good guy, I related to him because he was a fellow engineer following the same passion.

He told me that the internship might be more involved than others, and that I would have to perform the 'normal intern duties' like running errands and preparing/cleaning the rooms before sessions. He told me that it was a full time position 9-4 Mon-Fri, which seemed like a lot of hours, but I was content.
The next day I received a call from 'Jakey'. He wanted me to come in on Monday and begin interning at "Batman." I accepted and on Monday I came in for my first day.
I knew that being intern wasn't going to be glorious, and that it involved grunt work, or possibly even emotional mistreatment, but I nonetheless came in with a good attitude.

When I arrived I was surprised to find that most of my 'intern duties' where actually custodial, including sweeping floors and washing dishes, not to mention my actual hours were a full 9-5.

This is for the forum to decide, as I am not a lawyer and I in no way am attempting to defame the "Batman" brand or company name. However, do these 'intern duties' hold true to what an internship is meant to be, both legally and philosophically??? Please examine the list of chores that they gave me, and then read the labor NY fact sheet and tell me: Are internships like this meant for education????

When observing the corporate driven world that is mid-town Manhattan, what I see is men and women who have creativity and wit but are ultimately slaves to producing content for the largest companies, or for smaller companies like ad agencies who are paid by those same largest companies. They are paid. Underneath them are countless students and recent graduates hoping that one day they can pay off their student debt by entering into this world and learning how the 'big boys and girls' do it, but are in the end, wasting their time and effort to fuel a system that is rigged against them. Your thoughts?

View image: List of Chores

View image: List of Chores 1

https://www.labor.ny.gov/formsdocs/f.../pdfs/p725.pdf
Old 14th June 2016
  #2
Lives for gear
 
Lumbergh's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Yeah thats not an internship, you are an unpaid runner. Probably unlawful, definitely taking the p***.
Old 14th June 2016
  #3
Gear Maniac
 
A Radical Cut's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 5 years
He is basically using you as an unpaid janitor.. tell him to shove his fake internship up his ass.
Old 14th June 2016
  #4
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Wait--how long have you been at this internship now? Days? Weeks? Months?
Give them the benefit of the doubt a little--they may be seeing if you are responsible and thorough on small tasks before they try you out on something that matters more to their bottom line (although clean-up IS actually very important to a facility like that). Have you taken some time to try to cultivate relationships with other folks working there? Are you keeping your eyes and ears open about what's going on, how things were done? I learned a great deal by being a runner/grunt/utility/coffee-maker etc at a video production company when I was first starting out. And I did well enough at that stuff, was consistent, always there, thinking ahead for the company, doing anything extra I could think of, that eventually they came to think of me as part of company. If you've been at this gig VERY diligently for many months, then it might be time for a chat with your boss, but if it is still a new thing I'd advise patience, if you can afford to be patient (another issue) re living in the city.

Last edited by philper; 14th June 2016 at 06:03 PM..
Old 14th June 2016
  #5
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
What! Kids today! I interned for 2 years before cracking the industry. I did a ton of cleaning, running, dish washing. All that. That was 20 years ago but still. Has the industry changed that much? You're lucky you aren't trying to get a job at a music studio.
Old 14th June 2016
  #6
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GJ999x's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 5 years
An Open Letter to Interns (and future interns)

Harsh, but real. Real is good if you want to make it in a tough business.
Old 14th June 2016
  #7
Gear Guru
 
🎧 10 years
Well, I for one don't advocate exploiting free labor to make a profit. These businesses make a profit and they should pay for the services they use to make that profit. Not only are interns like this working for free, they're also taking work away from other people. And all of that is just my opinion about the "ethics" of it all; there's also the fact that if everything is as stated it's actually violating NY state legislation.

And I really have to wonder: What are we teaching employers by excusing or advocating this? That they should pay for labor or that they shouldn't? I hope none of us who have work end up complaining when some "rookie" does the job half as well for a quarter of the pay, or for free, because it'd be partially our own doing if we put up with this.
Old 14th June 2016
  #8
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
That's bad. I wouldn't mind so much in your position if it was paid minimum wage and they made it clear that you start as a cleaner/runner. But unpaid is absolutely taking the piss, and you are entitled to be disillusioned with them. Any internship, or runner job, should have clear guidelines that tell you what to expect in the future - are you trained with a view to upgrading to studio assistant? Runner jobs (paid) that I have known are good routes into a company. However, talking to anybody in the company usually informs you about the company's attitude. I recommend them when i know the company is deliberately starting you off at the bottom, but will swiftly progress you and train you up, allow to use the facilities in downtime etc. All that should be absolutely clear. If it is not, I would have an urgent talk with the guy there - and don't be palmed off with vague promises. Tell him you want a clear plan of progression, however humble, and an indication of when you can start getting paid. Any responsible employer will provide that to prove his bonafides. If he can't, walk. It is totally insulting to use you as as an unpaid cleaner without any promise or contract of future employment. Don't be exploited - if they are any good and responsible, they will answer in kind. Otherwise, tell them to pay for a cleaner and walk out the door, with your dignity intact. By asking him you will very quickly get an idea of their attitude - which as you have described it, is frankly deplorable. Young people get shafted these days, and are often not confident enough to ask some basic questions - that may be what they hope. You can get jobs with startup bands which may not be paid initially but will serve you far better in the long run. Don't be a mug.
Old 14th June 2016
  #9
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 5 years
Like Phillip said, I'd be curious to know how long you have been at the internship. When you say "Monday" is that yesterday? If so your going to have to give it more than 1 day or 1 week. None of those duties sound harsh or unusual.
Many of them are essentially tests to see if they can trust you and if your able to work hard and do a good job. If they cant trust you to keep water stocked and the room clean, can they trust that you are converting picture correctly or not missing a track from the OMF when setting up a session?
It's a lot of those little things that differentiate a successful studio from from an unsuccessful one and oftentimes its the smallest details that can make a big difference whether its having a throat lozenge for VO talent or tiny mix tweaks. If you absorb and acknowledge those small details I guarantee it will help you in the future.
The audio business is strange and clients have their people they enjoy working with, so I don't think you can take it personal that your not mixing sessions yet. I imagine you will get training on the way things are done at that facility once they can trust you and during downtime between or after sessions and slow days.
There are ways to maximize your intern experience by helping out, staying interested and engaged, engaging engineers and others at the studio during appropriate times and keeping your eyes open and being perceptive about what it takes to run a successful audio business. Everyday I utilize skills learned during my internship.
Regarding your last paragraph, I don't think anyone feels that they are "Slaves" to corporations in this world, at least I have never felt that way and advertising is almost all I have ever done. People pay me to play with audio all day, sometimes its exciting, sometimes it grueling, boring, tough, tedious, awesome - but anything and everything is like that, at least I get to do something I love. The "big boys and girls" were once the little ones learning how to do it.
Old 14th June 2016
  #10
Gear Guru
 
Thomas W. Bethe's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 15 years
I do all those services listed and I am the owner of the company. I will never ask an intern to do something that I myself will not do. I pay my interns and always have. Having them be "indentured servants" is not what I hire them for.

One of my former interns took an unpaid internship at a recording studio before he worked here. He was suppose to be a production assistant but instead sat in a small room and made cold calls all day long. He had to drive 35 miles to get to the studio. He also had to use his own car for transportation of "guests" and for errands and never got paid for using it. He thought that the "cold calling" would only last a couple of weeks but he never saw the inside of the studio. That is IMHO criminal and should not be allowed. Unfortunately from what I hear from the interns I hire this is almost the norm for a lot of the studios. The studio owners dangle a carrot (work in a pro studio with BIG name artist) in front of the student's face and just expect them to do what ever is needed without complaining. Good topic.
Old 14th June 2016
  #11
Gear Head
 
Mr.Mann's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Just wait until Jakey and team at Pomann Sound see this post. I'm sure they will be thrilled that their new intern has publicly trashed them online and posted internal documents.
Old 14th June 2016
  #12
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
I actually think it would be great if the Pomann folks joined the conversation, as unlikely as that is. This is a really really hard business to break into (and stay in), and I'd put money on the OP not being the only applicant for that position--he was chosen as the best prospect they had available. If the situation feels onerous and unworkable vs what the potential upside might be then maybe this business (or this part of the biz) isn't for you. But anymore what this company is doing isn't that unusual. Doing your part very well for a bit is the best reason to ask to be paid, and if you've successfully "embedded" yourself with this company, like made yourself indispensable, then hiring you will be a no brainer for them. But you have to make yourself indispensable first. If you do, or feel you have done, and they don't step up, then take what you've learned elsewhere: eventually you will find people who appreciate that kind of commitment.

Last edited by philper; 14th June 2016 at 11:51 PM..
Old 14th June 2016
  #13
Lives for gear
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
This is a really really hard business to break into
True. And there are a lot of people who know they'll be stars in a few months if they can just get in the door. Plus a lot of other people who have paid many tens of thousands to attend 'recording schools', where they get to play studio producer with real equipment, and figure that makes them an expert. (A lot of those schools pay their instructors poorly, and based salary on how many students register for a course rather than on instructor's knowledge or experience.)

So market forces apply: There are a ton of people who would do anything to get a line or two of real studio on their resume, including work for free as a janitor. It may be unethical to hire interns on that basis... as a studio owner, I never did (we had real classes and even the scut work was with real clients and equipment-- I paid a cleaning crew to come in each night, not my interns -- and most of my interns have gone on to be successful).

But as an owner, I also knew that the studio down the street was exploiting interns in worse ways than emptying ashtrays. And my agency clients were impressed by those studios' extra service and warm bodies, with no regard for how they were paid.

This, I'm sorry to say, is the real world. And the intern situation exists the same way in almost every job that desirable. Forget media... Ask a doctor what her hospital residency was like.

So I'd suggest:
1) Give it time, as others have recommended.
2) Don't blame the guy who interviewed you. He might have had best intentions, and then been overruled by management.
3) If you don't like the rules, you don't have to play.
Old 15th June 2016
  #14
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
More like former intern now.

The duties required are not unusual.

It being a full time 9-5 job is somewhat unusual.
Old 15th June 2016
  #15
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celticrogues's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Not unusual at all. That seems quite standard in a facility like that.

Especially if you haven't been there very long... You need to prove yourself in small tasks like this before they are going to let you touch the equipment. And if you were my intern, writing this post on a pubic forum would piss me off pretty badly. You come off like an entitled child, not someone I would be comfortable with touching my equipment and dealing with my clients.

-Mike
Old 15th June 2016
  #16
Here for the gear
 
🎧 5 years
All of my internships were unpaid. And I cleaned toilets, went for food, stood for 3 hours with a finger on the front of a Marshall amp and the other finger on a tuning peg to kill the hum during guitar overdubs. Oh, and at that particular studio that's the closest I got to a session. I was stunned to find out interns in other fields got paid.

However. This isn't an "in my day/uphill in the snow both ways" post.


We pay our interns at my current studio, we don't make them clean fridges or toilets, and we have them working regularly on shoots and in edit sessions. We hire out of our intern pool more often than not, so we want to give them a chance to learn stuff.
Old 15th June 2016
  #17
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 10 years
The interns where I work all deliver food to the sessions every day, and when I have a session with clients who are amenable to it, one of them will sometimes come and sit in the back and see what goes on during a proper session. They're not working at the board, but they're learning. Sessions with clients are a lot different from the ones at school. Maybe if you've been there long enough you can ask some of the engineers if you could sit in if you're very quiet. The reason you're not being paid is (theoretically) because you're still learning, so use it. You'll never have a better opportunity to learn how sessions go down in the real world.
Old 15th June 2016
  #18
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Guest
In many countries in Europe interns have to be paid at least minimum wage when "working" longer than a certain time span (differs from country to country). There have been cases where companies had to pay people that were kept on intern-status for years tens of thousands of euros back because they were essentially "mis-used" as full time cleaning personnel or doing the same work that the regular employees were doing after a while without getting a proper contract, social benefits being paied a regular wage.

Companies here risk high fines or retro-active payments if such an "intern" goes to court after a while.

Lets face it: There are companies out there that rely heavily on so called interns to cover every day cleaning and maintenance work telling them that at some point they *might* get to touch the equipment. It's an integral part of how they run their companies saving bucks on hiring actual cleaning personnel that get paid what is due for this job.

Just because in the old days the novices were exploited doesn't mean that people nowadays have to be treated the same way to become real pros. It wasn't OK back then and it isn't now, IMO.

Helping with coffee, trash, bringing in food here and there isn't a big deal but that chores sheet is 98% of a job description of a janitor/cleaning person.

I don't think interns should have to be paid when they only stay a months or two but they also shouldn't spend their time cleaning the place.
Old 15th June 2016
  #19
Gear Guru
 
🎧 10 years
I completely agree apple-q.
Old 15th June 2016
  #20
Lives for gear
 
Mike O's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
The federal and NY state laws seem pretty clear:

Forbes article

NY Labor Standards

NY Times with arts related examples.
Old 15th June 2016
  #21
Gear Guru
 
4 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
My company won't bring in interns anymore because of stupid lawsuits. Really too bad because in the video business that's the only way to really learn, and most places are hard pressed to pay interns, being really small businesses. Also, any intern will usually make a mistake. That can be huge given the responsibility. When you have trained them to be useful, you have a lot invested in them and that costs money.

To the OP, my EP when I interned, wouldn't even let me clean up, until I'd learned what not to throw out! Sounds stupid, but when you throw out a producer's notes from a phone call, it makes sense. Screw up a client's lunch order in a tense session, and it really isn't helpful (not to mention screwing up an equipment order!) Grow up, this is a hard business and figure an internship is real world graduate school you don't have to pay for. Attitudes like yours are ruining it for the kids that want to work their way in, and employers willing to take the risks and time associated with mentoring. Sorry to be harsh, but that's reality....

I totally agree in a well funded business paid internships are great through school programs, but in my experience in this business, that is a rarity. A whole generation of kids aren't getting practical knowledge because of stupid lawsuits from kids (or their parents), that have no idea of how hard it is to make it in the arts. When you want to get paid for what most do as a hobby, you've got problems!
Old 15th June 2016
  #22
Lives for gear
 
noah330's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
My internship was with a guy who had done one of the biggest bands of the late 80s/early 90s along with a bunch of other cool records.

As great as his credits were he treated me pretty badly and my duties were pretty similar to yours. The big plusses were that it was close to where I lived and the fact that I got to sit there and watch him work on an SSL and a pair of A-800s.

I started there the summer when I graduated high school and started at Berklee. I was big into home recording, but walking into a studio like this one was like a dream. I'm not going to say I never got pissed, wanted to quit, felt like a slave or that I loved every task, but I learned a ton about a lot of things.

After a couple weeks he kind of settled down and I got to do cooler stuff but the biggest perk was that I could pretty much walk into the place and observe any time of day or night providing I kept my mouth shut and made it look like I belonged there.

Later in life when I moved on to other things a lot of people I met were impressed that I did four years with this guy (on and off). At the end, he ended up getting me a pretty decent credit albeit as a guitar player a couple years later.

I take an intern once a year (usually), but I try to focus most of their time on things that they'll learn from although some of their time is usually repetitive tasks or less important things. I don't think it's fair to use someone as a janitor, but if you have the opportunity to watch and learn then I think it's pretty much par for the course (or was 20 years ago when I interned).

Question - What did you expect to do as an intern? IMHO they're giving you the opportunity to be in an enviroment where you get to see the business first hand and see how professionals work. You're also getting experience you can use to move up in the world.

If you take nothing else from this thread I would replace the studio's name and the guy's name with something else. It's a small world out there and I would hate to see something like this come back and bite you.

Last edited by noah330; 15th June 2016 at 06:57 PM..
Old 15th June 2016
  #23
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
An internship should be combination of both education and some low-level work.

Some decades ago. I was interviewed for an internship at Manhattan studio. The internship was essentially a full time job, where I answered phones and was their receptionist. Their interns were not allowed in the studio.... Ever. I ended up at much better studio where I learned more than I could have imagined. Worked a couple days a week. Even got a paid lunch. It was great.

Studios do take advantage of interns. No doubt. And some don't.

It does looks like that studio is using the interns as part cleaning crew. However, I think most able bodied 20 somethings could knock out those chores in an hour or two. That likely leaves you the rest of the day to observe.
Old 15th June 2016
  #24
Old 15th June 2016
  #25
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ggegan's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
If interns are getting the opportunity to genuinely watch and learn then I don't think they should necessarily get paid, since their experience amounts to getting a high end education for free, not a bad deal. However, if they are being asked to perform tasks that an employee would normally get paid to do then they should be paid as well, even if just minimum wage. My personal opinion is that interns should be there to watch and learn, not take out the garbage and run errands.
Old 15th June 2016 | Show parent
  #26
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by ggegan ➑️
If interns are getting the opportunity to genuinely watch and learn then I don't think they should necessarily get paid, since their experience amounts to getting a high end education for free, not a bad deal. However, if they are being asked to perform tasks that an employee would normally get paid to do then they should be paid as well, even if just minimum wage. My personal opinion is that interns should be there to watch and learn, not take out the garbage and run errands.
I don't understand the logic of having bodies around during sessions who aren't doing anything: who aren't "crew", aren't "client", aren't "support" or anything else. I don't like non-portfolioed people around when I'm working--mixing is not a spectator sport as far as I'm concerned. If someone is going to be around as an observer-learner, then they should be contributing somehow, even if by doing menial but necessary work. I know that I would much rather feel like I was paying back for the opportunity I'd be getting to see a big-show mix in action by helping in some minor way rather than just taking up space. A client is going to want to know who the intern is and why they are there, so it is much better for them to at least appear have assigned functions. There are some privacy concerns re: a project that isn't finished yet as well, yet the filmmaker probably would not object to the person who takes lunch and coffee orders hanging for a bit--they would seem part of the family.
Old 16th June 2016
  #27
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AuldLangSine's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
2b

Last edited by AuldLangSine; 2nd July 2016 at 09:14 PM..
Old 16th June 2016
  #28
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Regardless of feelings or "the way it is", there are strict regulations about what constitutes an internship. It is abused and certainly not just in this business. If you want/need a grunt then pay up. Minimum wage is, sadly, pretty damn cheap.

Apprenticeship is the best way to learn the business and the best way to get your foot in the door (without nepotism). That doesn't mean we should flout the law and exploit naive prospects.
Old 16th June 2016
  #29
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 15 years
I got my start as an intern and cleaning, running errands and fixing up the building. The place didn't really offer any real learning situation either... but I made the most of it. I met people/ clients and started relationships that have lasted to today. 23 years later, I have my own small post room(s).

You can either leave, or try to make it work for you somehow.

Currently at my studio, I haven't been able to figure out how to have interns. I don't have time to teach them, and I hire professional editors when I need help. I also hire professional janitors to clean the studio because they do a much better job than interns.

I still handle the day to day tasks of dusting the consoles, emptying bins, and making coffee. I hire couriers for errands.
Old 16th June 2016 | Show parent
  #30
Lives for gear
 
Jamie Mac's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by philper ➑️
If someone is going to be around as an observer-learner, then they should be contributing somehow, even if by doing menial but necessary work. I know that I would much rather feel like I was paying back for the opportunity I'd be getting to see a big-show mix in action by helping in some minor way rather than just taking up space.
I respectfully disagree. I'm in Europe and have the feeling that things are very different here.

I never did an internship. I went to (a recording) school, graduated and got a job at a post house based on my potential (without any credits). I got a fully paid contract in a junior mixer position. AND THEN started by sitting in on sessions of my colleagues for a couple of weeks in between doing low profile jobs by myself.

Once I started mixing big tv shows on my own a couple of months later I got promoted to senior mixer.

It was in my and the companies best interest to actually properly teach me how to do the job instead of giving me "the chance" of looking at a console in exchange for doing janitorial tasks without really learning how to do the job.

It's an investment, not a charity. What you are doing back is being prepared to make the company more money by working for them once you know the stuff.


Conclusion, I don't see the point in unpaid internships for unrelated work.

These days there are enough knowledgable young people who deserve to be paid for what they can do.
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