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3,000 Interns Are Now Suing Warner Music Group…

Nobody forced them to do the work.  But were they abused?

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On Tuesday, a New York federal judge approved a massive class action lawsuit against Warner Music Group, one that now involves more than 3,000 interns.   The lawsuit, first filed in June of last year, alleges blatant violations of minimum wage and overtime requirements, and major infractions of the Fair Labor Standard Act.

hand-left  May 13th: Warner Music CEO Selling His $30 Million Manhattan Penthouse

The class action, sparked last year by ex-intern Kyle Grant, alleges that Warner Music Group and its subsidiaries routinely abused interns by focusing their energies on things like fetching coffee and grabbing lunch for paid employees.  Unfortunately, these tasks carry little-to-no educational or vocational value, which is a critical requirement for unpaid, apprenticeship-style internships.

hand-left  October, 2013: Warner Music Just Signed a $256 Million Lease In Midtown Manhattan

“During the Plaintiffs term of employment, his duties primarily consisted of answering telephones, making photocopies, making deliveries, creating lists, preparing coffee, getting lunch for paid employees, running personal errands for paid employees, and other similar duties,” the complaint alleges.

“Defendants did not provide academic or vocational training to Plaintiff of members of the putative collective.”

If the case is successfully litigated, Warner Music Group could owe millions in backpay, and be forced to radically change its intern employment rules.

Here’s the filed complaint.

 

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Comments (60)
  1. check please

    by the description above it sounds like he was being trained to become and assistant. was he trying to skip that first step?


    Reply
    1. DUDE

      I held several of these unpaid internships in my college days and it was not the work I minded, it was the lack of pay and the attitude clowns like you copped about it… doing someone else’s bitch work is not a privilege just cause its at a glamorous music company, nor is it job training in any meaningful sense of the word.

      Bottom of the ladder or not its a job, and the people doing it deserve to be paid for their work just like anyone else that does a job. Thats not a lot to ask for and its a god damn shame that people are having to go to court to get that in this day and age


      Reply
      1. Former WMG Intern

        This is truth. However, it really depends on who your supervisor is and the team that surrounds you (as well as your attitude – are you going above and beyond? are you setting up meetings to discuss employment options? etc…). I was an intern there several years ago and found it to be a great experience overall. I didn’t gain employment but learned a lot and felt like I contributed to the team’s goals. It also helped in my subsequent interviews to land a job. Again, I had a great supervisor.

        Now, the pay was shit of course; $4.25 per full work day didn’t even cover a one way train ride. Luckily I come from a fortunate enough background and socioeconomic standing that I was able to do this while attending college. Others are not so lucky and perhaps this is the fulcrum of the issue we should be addressing when discussing internships.


        Reply
        1. DUDE

          I don’t care how great the experience was or if you were able to sustain working for no pay where others couldnt; Im not really tryin to get bogged down in the trivialities of your (or my, or anyone’s) particular experience here… the important thing in my mind is that you were, as you said, a contributing member of your team. You weren’t just there to be trained, you were there to help a company that makes billions of dollars of revenues make their money. In my mind, that merits material compensation as a matter of principle and fairness


          Reply
          1. Former WMG Intern

            I’m totally on board with what you’re saying. But as other have pointed out, I (and you, I suppose) went into those experiences willingly. I knew I wasn’t getting paid fairly, and that was something I signed a contract on. If you don’t read the terms, or don’t agree to them, don’t sign. It’s that simple.

            Changing the system is another story completely and like I said, I agree with you that that should be the case (fair pay in exchange for work).


            Reply
      2. Jaded Industry Dude

        ‘The lack of pay’ part you agreed to and are ‘attitude’ is based around whether we think you’re worthy of the music industry or not. The music industry is not easy to get into at all and a lot of people can’t and won’t cut it, or even have the opportunity to get a job offer. Kyle Grant sure as hell isn’t going to get any job offers. I got my old first boss (unpaid internship) Starbucks coffee all the time and it didn’t bother me, and I got a job out of it and got my foot in the industry. Likewise, I often will get my co-workers coffee, or lunch, or whatever. I get snacks and coffee and stuff for my assistants, too. It’s not about ‘being taken advantage of’ – it’s about being INSIDE the music industry instead of OUTSIDE.

        I truly question how many of these 3k interns spoke up and tried to really do a fantastic job and ask a million questions. I’ve had miserable interns before and incredible interns before. The miserable ones would complain about everything, TXT all day, no focus, no energy, no ‘go getter’ attitude, and they would end up no where in the music industry. Guess who would always get hired? The good ones. Always.


        Reply
        1. dave chappelle

          “whether you’re worthy.” I’m so glad this industry’s numbers are crumbling away so entitled douches like yourself lose their jobs.


          Reply
          1. Jaded Industry Dude

            Would you hire an unpaid intern who wasn’t good enough for your job? ‘Worthy’ is just another way of saying ‘you don’t quite have what we’re looking for’ – Why are you on this website if you hope our industry crumbles? Bartenders make more money than I do annually. This isn’t about being self righteous or entitled – It’s about being honest and straightforward.


            Reply
            1. mdti

              I concur that there is a mentality of the interns that is just “astonishing” and that can be seen in many industries in various countries, even where they are actually paid.

              You are not alone, and what you describe is spreading. You know that a lot of schools attracts students by promising to them salaries that are out of this world. it is a part of the problem when the intern realizes that it will not happen as easily as they were told.

              Where I work, we just don’t take interns anymore. we make short terms contracts and it works much better like that because it is clear for them that they are employees like the others with all the advantages, but also the liabilities, that it contains.


              Reply
              1. mdti

                I still find it extrememly suspicious that a single company welcomes 3000 interns.


                Reply
                1. former intern

                  I’m not sure why you are suspicious. You don’t think they were all employed at the same time, do you? And WEA(warner, elektra, atlantic) has TONS of subsidiary labels. They are distributors more so than strictly record labels. I’m pretty sure I would win my lawsuit against the label I worked for(a subsidiary of WEA) if I sued because I worked 7 days a week, 15 hours a day many times for no pay, and I was told I had to be at the front desk at all times to answer the phone to let people in the gate, and to buzz people in the door. When I wasn’t doing that, I was driving all over the city getting food for people. I am not talking about a quick trip to starbucks or burger king. There were a few occasions where I had to take orders for over 30 people at ONE time, all paid for separately with cash or credit cards, and keep track of all of their individual receipts and change. Then they all come in grabbing the food out of my hands, taking someone else’s food before I can even sort out what is what, leaving others pissed off when they didn’t get their order because someone else took it and ate it. I would then get bitched at(instead of bitching at their buddy who actually took their food) and have to go back to replace it with my OWN money. I was offered no education or training, and the only times they let me or another intern into the control room they told us to sit in the corner and not talk or ask any questions. Where they screwed up, though, as far as a lawsuit, is that they told me specifically on the first day that they hired me to replace paid employees(who were interns, but paid). That right there is against federal law, if an intern is doing a job that replaces a paid employee he must be paid at least minimum wage. I worked for the record label, not the studio, but the owner of the studio’s head of marketing would be there all of the time and felt bad about how they abused myself and the other intern(his words, not mine) and stated that they are really going to miss you when you leave because from what I can see you are one of the best interns to ever come through this studio. He also told me he had never seen an intern keep it looking so pristine and organized in the 10 years he’s been there.

                  I never complained, and I’m not complaining now, it was a way in the door. I am just stating the facts of the way that label operated. A few genuinely nice people, 3 specifically, and it is because of them that I will not join this lawsuit or even name the label(and it is a big one, one of the biggest names in hiphop over the last decade).

                  I just moved on after 5 months and started over elsewhere where I worked for an engineer/producer who had far more integrity. Not only was he happy to have me sit right next to him as he worked and ask any questions I had, he treated me as a friend and never as just his bitch.


                  Reply
        2. DUDE

          That’s EXACTLY the attitude I was referring to — it doesnt have anything to do with my merits as an intern (which actually did end up netting me a job thanks very much) or with the merits of any particular intern for that matter, or with how competitive the job market is, or with proving yourself, or with intangible benefits, or with doing bitch work or with how often you bring your coworkers coffee as a favor.

          As a matter of principle, if someone is doing work for you, no matter how menial the task, you should be cutting them a share of the money they’re helping you make. You can rattle off the reasons you can get away with not holding to that principle that in the music industry until you’re blue in the face, but it won’t make you any less of a scumbag. Get that shit all the way the fuck outta here dude, you should be ashamed of yourself


          Reply
          1. Jaded Industry Dude

            I’m really, really glad it worked out for you. I am. I’m serious. But you keep forgetting what you agreed to; an unpaid internship. What you deem ‘unacceptable’ another person, myself included, deems ‘an awesome way to get your foot in the door’ – I was _THAT_ unpaid intern once, and you seemingly were also, DUDE, so it seems stupid to me that we’re arguing about semantics. unpaid internships exist for educational purposes and opportunity purposes, which you, and the people in the 3K lawsuit, all signed up for.

            I, personally, always make sure interns get the proper education necessary from me to further their career, whether they ‘have what it takes’ or ‘don’t have what it takes’ – Likewise, if they ‘have what it takes’ I make sure that they are on the tip of my tongue at all times until they get a job. Simple as that. I wont suggest a friend of mine hires someone who slacks off, doesn’t speak up, and TXTs all day.


            Reply
            1. Nina Ulloa

              glad you go the extra mile to teach your interns relevant skills, but many people don’t. i don’t know if these 3,000 had that opportunity or not.

              i had a paid (minimum wage) job with WMG while at school and learned so, so much and am very grateful.. but i turned down an internship in their design department because i wasn’t going to go out there and do menial work for free.

              anyways, just saying i don’t think people should be so eager to jump down these interns’ throats


              Reply
            2. DUDE

              I totally disagree with you about pretty much all of that.

              RE “You chose to take an unpaid internship:” I was actually required as a part of my undergrad program to take on several semesters’ worth of for-credit internships, and as you said its become sort of a ‘zeroth step’ of dues-paying you more or less HAVE to do if you want to have a chance of breaking into the industry with an entry-level job. I felt (and obviously still do feel) that it was a deeply unfair practice, but on my lonesome I was powerless to do anything except maybe screw myself out of a college degree and potential employment in a field I really wanted to break into. Sure no one literally put a gun to my head and told me to work for free, but I certainly didnt feel like I had much choice in the matter unless I wanted to abandon my dream of working in the music industry. I guess I could’ve been the one crusading against the practice but Im afraid Im not quite that bold… I would hope that if this suit is successful, other people wont have to face the choice between buying into an unfair system and screwing themselves out of potential employment.

              RE Training: Funnily enough I still didnt know what an ISRC was when I started work but it took all of 2 seconds for me to get up to speed. Maybe Im just that good, but really I think that not knowing the particulars of your job in advance just doesn’t slow you down enough to justify not paying your interns. In every single one of my internships I was certainly learning stuff that isnt taught in the classroom, but I was also contributing. And now that I have a paid gig, I still learn new things all the time to this day and not knowing everything certainly hasnt stopped me from being a valuable member of my team. I think the whole distinction is pretty artificial really

              RE “Some interns suck:” Im sure thats true but you can always fire shitty employees and bring in someone capable and hardworking to replace them. I dont see how that justifies unpaid internships either.


              Reply
    2. Squibling

      I don’t see what the issue is. This is what interns do. If you want a job that pays, go pump gas.


      Reply
      1. Former Intern

        I’m with you. If you can’t afford to intern, work at Walgreens for the summer. What happens is these interns think they’re guaranteed jobs, they’re lazy and they’re dumb. The reality is you’re asked to do what they think you can handle and apparently for Kyle, it was getting coffee. Then he didn’t get hired and now he’s crying. And now he won’t get hired anywhere.


        Reply
  2. Jeff Robinson

    I wonder if they streamed Warner Music Group product non-stop on the streaming services?

    3,000 folks streaming music in an 8-hour day across 8 services would bring in 15 streams an hour, or 120 streams each day. That’s 960 streams per day from each intern. That’s 2.880,000 streams per day from each intern if Warner had them maximizing their potential. Charts aside (which they could have dominated), they could have streamed 14, 400,000 songs a week. Multiply that by 52 weeks and you could see a substantial income stream (no pun intended).

    Certainly, which that kind of income, Warner Music Group should have been able to afford to pay them, don’t you think?


    Reply
    1. Jeff Robinson

      I wonder if they streamed Warner Music Group product non-stop on the streaming services daily?

      3,000 folks streaming music in an 8-hour day across 8 services would have been an excellent way to earn capital. Each could bring in @15 streams an hour per service, or 120 streams each day. That’s 960 streams per day from each intern. That’s 2,880,000 streams per day from each intern if Warner had them maximizing their potential and assuming all interns worked at the same time. Charts aside (which they could have dominated), they could have streamed 14, 400,000 songs a week. Multiply that by 52 weeks and you could see a substantial income stream (no pun intended).

      Certainly, which that kind of income, Warner Music Group should have been able to afford to pay them, don’t you think?


      Reply
    2. lifer

      Streaming in 2010, the date this suit refers to? We always made sure our interns took the time and care to get the facts right before saying ignorant, albeit clever, stuff. Before you get to the fine print you have to, at least, read the big print. Interning 101.

      I can’t even count how many lawyers, investment bankers, designers, ad creatives, marketing people, artists and others who parlayed their internships into careers. I have hired more than a few. The one thing they all have in common is their can do stick-to-it-tiveness which is to say they were too busy pitching in to complain.

      Lazy supervisors hurt their company’s bottom lines by not properly utilizing the intern pool. Successful executives get ahead by mentoring the good ones and sending the texting/smoking crowd home.


      Reply
  3. wallow-T

    This issue was already litigated against the Fox Searchlight movie studio, with a summary decision against the studio being delivered in June 2013. (Re-reading the story, I see that June 2013 is when the lawsuit against Warner started rolling.) I’m unaware of any appeals having changed the federal court’s decision, but of course I am not a lawyer.

    My non-legally-trained summary: if it’s a go-fer job, it has to be paid work. Claims of “networking” benefits to the intern do not appear to meet the standard required under the law for an unpaid internship. A legally valid unpaid internship would be something like sitting in the recording studio next to the engineer, learning the advanced tricks of that trade.

    http://www.npr.org/2013/06/13/191365440/unpaid-no-more-interns-win-major-court-battle

    http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/interns-win-huge-victory-labor-566360


    Reply
  4. Anonymous

    This is interesting,

    A friend who worked at WMG in a more executive position for a bit was telling me how on his first day he passed a cubicle bay with what looked to be junior staff types toiling away furiously. He was then told that it was the intern pool…

    So, there’s that.


    Reply
  5. Brawling

    “Kyle Grant sure as hell isn’t going to get any job offers.”

    I’d hire Kyle! He has exactly the kind of balls it takes to make it in the music business.


    Reply
    1. Jaded Industry Dude

      Go ahead and hire him, then.


      Reply
      1. Paul Resnikoff

        Something about guys named ‘Kyle’…


        Reply
  6. GGG

    Yea, I mean, I know for a fact there’s plenty of shitty people in the music industry that will just make people get coffee and lunch. That gives this lawsuit some merit for sure; people certainly take advantage of interns. Hell, I’ve worked in the same office as a guy who had three interns for himself. Because he was a cheap bastard. But I also know for a fact there’s a lot of kids who intern in the music industry and don’t do shit. I worked with some. I guarantee a big chunk of those 3K kids never spoke up, never went above and beyond, never did anything because they were content telling their friends they worked at Record Label.

    My first internship turned into a two month paid gig while I filled in for a canned employee before school started back up again. Not because I was some wunderkind, but because I was proactively asking to do/help out with better stuff after I did the bullshit like packing envelopes. Take initiative, don’t rely on lawsuits. Should be the motto of America.


    Reply
    1. DUDE

      This isnt about rising to the top though — I totally agree that if you wanna make any meaningful strides in the music industry you need to hustle — its about what happens at the very bottom. I really dont think its unreasonable to ask that people just making their start in the industry get paid some small chunk of money for their time and effort. If they’re lazy or bad at their job by all means do what everyone does with their paid workers, shitcan em and find someone capable — thats never not been an option


      Reply
      1. Jaded Industry Dude

        The problem is we can’t afford to hire you during your internship 90% of the time, especially when interns finish their internship right as we’re done training you. We train you to know how the industry works because most industry schools _DON’T_ teach you how the industry works… Every single f*cking intern I’ve ever worked with, that came from music school, had no idea what a UPC or ISRC code was, or what DSP stood for. When I’d hire people (hire, not internship) I’d simply ask them “What does ISRC stand for?” to get a general idea of their knowledge.

        We’re TRAINING interns in a way that schools don’t. The same way you _REALLY_ don’t know what its like to work someplace until you _DO_ work someplace. It’s an eye opening experience. I encourage my interns to see every aspect of it, and explain to them truthfully that they will _NEVER_ make a good salary and have a difficult time even landing a full time job. I’m just being honest with them. And the ones who do end up landing a job are the grateful ones that wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.

        Yes, it’s total bullshit if all an intern does is get coffee – I agree totally – But I doubt that’s the full story. The second you step foot into a record label, you have the ability to take it all in and learn how the industry works. Tons of my interns would have their headphones on all day or be outside smoking… How can you learn the ins and outs while listening to music?


        Reply
      2. GGG

        I agree. My point, though, based on 3 summers as an intern and now (including those, 10 years in the industry) is that for every 1 of those 3k interns that was actually treated like shit, there’s probably 15 that were lazy or shitty or lacked initiative or just wanted to be at a label/see celebs or expected to waltz in a be Beyonce’s PA, etc.

        Now, having said that, you could certainly argue any low percentage is worth reform, and I’d agree with that for sure. So I’m on your side more than it sounds.


        Reply
  7. harley

    they knew it was unpaid. These whiny bitches could’ve taken a paid job somewhere and made cash– getting a foot in the door in the industry you want to work in is always worth it, until you aren’t offered a position, and use the courts to rectify a perceived wrong because a law says you can. nothing in life is easy, except filing a lawsuit it seems.


    Reply
  8. Anonymous

    This is less of an issue of interns knowing what they were signing up for than it is an employer knowing the employment laws that relate to unpaid internships. If you’d are an employer who wants to hire interns, it is in your best interests to know the state and federal laws. You’d probably be surprised at what constitutes a legal unpaid internship. Having an intern does not equal free labor in the eyes of the law, which is a shock to many as companies have successfully managed to be non compliant with the laws for decades.

    The shame in all of this is that rather than adapt their internship programs, many will scrap them to avoid the risk of litigation.


    Reply
  9. Loss Leader

    Interesting comments on both sides, when I was an intern with no pay, I just stocked up on the promo CDs that went to waste in the office and sold them to the used record stores who were more than happy to buy them and more times than not were not receiving promos for in-store play/employees from their reps who were handling the stores in the first place.

    It turned out to be a well paid internship, not to mention I was really pro-active and did get promoted anyways.


    Reply
  10. Jim Bob+Forskin

    As a retired music industry person I am filled with joy seeing this. I worked at a “cool” indie label and interns were used and exploited in the worst way. In the music industry that kind of thing is not shocking. But it should be! Nobody should work for a for profit firm for free. The Sierra Club is one thing, WMG another. The shitheads blabbering about “you agreed to do it” are real assholes. They agreed cause they were desperate college students trying to secure a job, that is not a green light for exploitation. I am so so so glad the industry is going to shit and that people are downloading music for free because free labor is the backbone of that evil industry. Music and art with live on, shitty record companies will die a miserable death and good riddance to them.


    Reply
  11. Faza TCM

    While there’s nothing wrong, in principle, of rewarding work with vocational training and experience, as opposed to money, the key question was whether the employer actually made any efforts to provide those.

    Running errands and making coffee in not vocational training or experience. General office work may qualify, but only on the understanding – at the time the employment agreement was entered into – that this is the kind of training and experience that is on offer.

    It seems that a person willing to enter into an unpaid internship agreement with a company in a particular industry is doing so in order to get training and experience in that particular industry. Standard office work (answering telephones, making photocopies etc.) is essentially the same in any industry, therefore an employer who provides only that kind of training could well be found in breach of the agreement (to say nothing of the relevant laws, cited above), unless this was spelled out in the agreement itself and agreed to by the intern.

    As others have pointed out, interns are not unpaid labour. They expect to be compensated in non-monetary value and it is alleged that WMG failed to provide such compensation. That is all this case is about.


    Reply
  12. mdti

    3000 interns???? that’s a huge number!


    Reply
    1. Jeff Robinson

      3000 interns with 8 accounts each, streaming 2,880,000 Warner Music Group songs per day.

      At Spotify rates 2,880,000 x .00997 = $28,713 to Google rates 2,880,000 x .045 = $129,600 Warner Music Group could have easily been earning enough to cover the cost of these interns.

      Shameful no executive thought of this.


      Reply
      1. mdti

        nice :-)


        Reply
  13. DJ

    It’s the free market… They could have always chose not to work there. WMG would eventually have to ante up or forego interns. Seems to be a problem with a perfectly legit free market solution.


    Reply
    1. mdti

      free market does not exist. It looks like real jobs, for which the company doesn’t want to pay. mind you that it is a social debate currently in several countries.


      Reply
  14. Music Hack

    I’ve been in this business since 1984. Worked in NY since 1990. over the years I watched other departments at various major labels where I worked have their interns do all the menial stuff described in this thread and I was appalled at their treatment, especially by assistants, (most of whom had barely graduated college and probably interned themselves, a cycle of abuse). I resolved NEVER to have any interns I hired get coffee or lunch or do grunt work ie; circulate copies, fetch and carry etc unless it was absolutely necessary (ie: we were slammed and it was all hands on deck). My interns sat across from me or next to me and would watch me work, asking me questions and getting answers. They were there to learn. When I interviewed each one, I straight up told them that, in my view The word “Intern” is not code word for “slave”, that each one of them represents the future of this business and will be treated with respect by me. Sure, there may be occasions where we will be stretched thin and do need copies made, or something fetched, but he or she wont be camped out in the copier room, I can get my own coffee and lunch. If they had any ideas on how I can improve my department, no matter how small their suggestion, I welcomed them. If they were being harassed by other employees, I told them I want to know and would deal with it immediately. The look of relief on their faces said it all. Knowing they would be treated properly made them even keener to help out wherever they could. I still keep in touch with pretty much all of my former interns: every single one has gone on to do bigger things, every single one appreciated the respect they received and every single one told me they treat their interns or employees in a similar manner to the way I treated them. I remembered several totally saving my ass on a few occasions. I learned a great deal from them, too. I would get the pick of the best interns at various music programs through word of mouth. You look after your crew, paid or unpaid and they will look after you.


    Reply
    1. lifer

      Exactly. College internship coordinators send their best students to people like you. They know which students just want to party and get free tickets and which students are likely to be employable. And yeah, the party crowd may start a company and become wildly successful but that’s a different discussion


      Reply
  15. hippydog

    Wow!
    many of the comments in this thread just blew my mind..

    The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division allows an employer not to pay a trainee if all of the following are true

    The training, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to what would be given in a vocational school or academic educational instruction
    The training is for the benefit of the trainees
    The trainees do not displace regular employees, but work under their close observation;
    The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees, and on occasion the employer’s operations may actually be impeded;
    The trainees are not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training period; and
    The employer and the trainees understand that the trainees are not entitled to wages for the time spent in training.


    Reply
  16. evilone

    I don’t know if most of you who comment here actually had internships or worked in the music industry but I have done both. This industry is almost impossible to get into if you haven’t spent time at another music company.. period. I spent 9 months of my life working full time for a label as an unpaid intern from 10-6 then went to my bar gig a night 7-2am to pay my costly NYC rent. I did all the low brow tasks as well as learned the in’s and out’s because I asserted myself and wasn’t a TOOL. At the time, I worked with many other interns who filled the term and belonged no where near creative. Some had no sense of situation. Some had no desire to succeed. Some had no business working anywhere but McDonalds. That’s NYC folks eat or be eaten. My industry internship provided me with knowledge, gave me entrance to shows where I could also network. It also provided contacts that meant I could built relationships of which because of my determination, landed me a job at the company. I ended up working my way up the ladder and remained there for 10 years. In those 10 years, I also had many interns. Those I felt I couldn’t do without, those who were an asset to the company, I made sure they were hired. So, Kyle Grant, hope McD’s welcomes you with open arms.


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  17. workbi*ch

    This isn’t a matter of the internship being paid or unpaid – the majority of unpaid internships require some type of school credit, and that, in essence, is your “payment”. On one hand, interns having to do menial tasks such as fetch coffee or lunch IS somewhat training for an assistant position where those tasks are often required of you. On the other hand, I think the bigger issue here is how certain employees of major labels routinely take advantage of their interns by requiring ridiculous tasks and forcing them to stay after hours. I for one – during my own internship at a major record company back in 2006 (I wont say which one, but let’s just say this particular label is notorious for abuse, though it’s former tyrannical leader has since left to focus efforts on a booming audio technology company) – moved furniture, took cars into the shop for service, got CDs thrown at my face, routinely picked up dry cleaning, children, and supplies for parties, and even hand-wrote personal holiday cards for the people I interned for. I also frequently stayed at the office until 7 and 8 o’clock at night. Sure it bothered me. I spent my own personal money for work-related purposes within those 6 months for that internship, but I was hungry to work in music and was confident it would pay off. I was hired into a full time position shortly thereafter, and have had a thriving career in music now for almost 7 years. Many major labels use the “intern hazing program” to test just who wants it bad enough, and I think that is the real crux of the issue here. It shouldn’t be about how far you’re willing to go and who the people are that you warm up to in the process, but about how talented of an employee you can be through your creativity and smarts. But unfortunately in my own experience, those are traits that are seldom at the top of the job requirements list in the recruiting process among entry-level staffers.
    On another note, it will be extremely interesting to see the outcome of this lawsuit. Music isn’t the only industry that often builds itself on the backs on unpaid internships (just look at the fashion and film industry), and Warner Music Group certainly isn’t the only label guilty of these practices. At the very least,significant reform of the intern program within major music companies is long overdue.
    And I wont even go into the treatment of so-called “independent contractors” within music companies — that is a lawsuit waiting to happen as well, and interns have a relatively smooth sail in comparison.
    Basically, music companies and unfair labor practices are pretty synonymous with each other, and I think we all can pretty much attest to that.


    Reply
  18. Atlantic Intern 2010

    I interned at IDJ and then got into Atlantic Records. I did learn a decent amount working in the marketing dept. but not as much as I would have liked to. I was about to graduate with a Bachelors in Business Management/Music Business when an assistant job opened up. With killer recommendations from a VPs at IDJ, a lot of experience working for bands and touring the country, the job went to a female because my “would-be” boss was a gay man. I was most certainly qualified but I definitely felt discriminated against. With all that money they make I’m sure they can afford to pay their interns something. The music industry is one big game and if you want to play it make sure you’re ready for a whole lot of let downs.


    Reply
    1. David Dzurilla

      Do something about it! I have a few lawyer friends.


      Reply
  19. wallow-T

    http://unpaidinternslawsuit.com/

    “Should you have been paid for your unpaid internship?”

    “If you have held an unpaid internship during the past six years, even if you received school credit for the internship, we would like to talk to you.”

    a website from the law firm Outten & Golden, which mentions current cases involving the Charlie Rose show, Conde Nast, Fox Searchlight, Hearst Corporation, and NBC Universal.


    Reply
    1. Deb

      Unbelievable!


      Reply
      1. Jeff Robinson

        There was a film studio that was supposed to moving in the metro Detroit area back when the film incentives were high (Granholm administration). Schoolcraft Community College was approached by this film studio and said, “We’ll take students from your college as interns IF you pay us to take them.” It was an Associate Dean of Liberal Arts told me this when I was teaching there. I thought it was appalling, but she simply thought it was ‘just too expensive’. The number was something like $2500 per student to have them intern there.


        Reply
  20. Deb

    I did two internships. One half-way through college, one as my last four credits. After that I was offered two jobs at different labels. I ended up having a 15 year career that ended when I started a family. Yes, it’s shit work. But like a few others have said, it’s like a trial by fire. It’s funny how all the people who understand the unpaid internship are the ones who got careers from it. We understood that this was a means to an end. It’s a chance to prove yourself and for the employer to see if you act like an asshole around the artists. I got great perks. Free concert tickets and free music. If you don’t learn anything during your internship, it’s your own fault. Ask questions. Keep your ears and eyes open. Make people like you and enjoy working with you. Successful people are those that are willing to go above and beyond to create the outcome they want. They don’t whine. The entertainment business is dog eat dog. If you can’t deal with the internship, it’s not the business for you.


    Reply
    1. Paul Resnikoff

      I tend to agree with this sentiment. Back in the day I worked internships as well, and did a lot of crap work. But really, for the most part, people weren’t a-holes to me, actually most were quite cool (and others were too distracted to invest in any sort of relationship with an intern that would be gone in three months, I understand that). But, then again, lots of people took time to teach me stuff, though, I was asking for information and data. There are so many people that helped me, all along the way, even though I wasn’t the coolest 19-year-old to work with (hey, just being honest).

      BUT, all that said, there is a legal test that the judge will be looking at here. The judge will most likely be ruling on what the law states, not on whether people are whining or cry babies.


      Reply
  21. JNicole

    Lots of people work internships like this and do it for their resumes–they don’t know any better. But it is illegal and the employer has a responsibility to know the law. It is a federal law at that. It is not okay to use an intern to serve your staff. Being someone’s assistant is not a prerequisite to getting a job. I am glad someone realized his worth and set this major brand straight. I imagine you will see a lot more complaints come to light as a result. May even have some companies either cease offering internships or start paying stipends. We should be mad that they used 3,000 people for free labor and still charge what they charge for movies and other media productions.


    Reply
  22. Intern Placer/ industry vet

    I started my career as an intern in 1987. I have placed, through a non profit focused on developing a diverse workforce, several entertainment industry interns. I have also hired and supervised interns. Many have excelled and maintained positions at the highest levels within the industry.

    I am mindful that some have an incredible work ethic, while some suffer from poor work habits and a sense of entitlement. The fact that 3,000 former interns have jumped into a class action suit makes me shudder. I can’t believe that this is over the course of one fiscal year. If I am not mistaken they were paid. I believe that companies have reduced the number of intern positions because the law requires them to be paid a fair wage.

    I have read quite a few of these emotional, flippant responses, touting WMGs or the labels ability to pay but I’m sure that none of you is familiar with those companies P&L. If you have no insight into that or what it costs to maintain a struggling business in a struggling industry, relegate your comments to what you have intimate knowledge of. The ranting does not move the discourse forward.


    Reply
  23. Anonymous

    Most non-artsy fartsy industries don’t do unpaid internships. You get paid for your work, and often well.


    Reply
  24. What a load - of

    Maybe part of the problem is 3000 people are tying up the legal system when if they weren’t happy they could
    have just left. Interns often just leave without warning. It was an internship! You learn by being around the industry you’re thinking about working it, you absorb. You get some training by fire but you’re not being groomed to run the company. So what if you’re getting coffee or filing, what the hell do you think most people are doing?
    Curing disease? No, it’s 30 people sitting around a table trying to figure out how to sell flavor du jour with the reality being it probably won’t work. You train employees you give exposure to interns. You know why there are no internships at the coat hanger factory? Because they can’t – in the Music Industry – you can – supply demand.


    Reply
    1. former intern

      Thomas Lytle, you are a moron. That is not what an intern is, there is a legal definition of what an internship is supposed to be. Training is ALL an internship is for. That is stated specifically in the federal law. It is solely for the interns benefit, it is NOT to benefit you as the employer. In fact, you are legally bound to train interns even at your own detriment. Call it bullshit, but if you don’t even know what an intern is… well, looks like you fucked up. Jackasses like you are going to cost WEA millions, because you have no integrity. You are just a scumbag.

      I worked for a real producer/label owner who trained us. LIKE YOU ARE LEGALLY BOUND to train. This isn’t a debate, or an argument, that is a FACT.


      Reply
  25. Karen Allen

    Interns do menial work because they are not qualified to do real work that has real consequences. Unpaid internships is glorified networking with perks (concert tickets, access to industry parties, etc). Why are you getting coffee and stuffing envelopes? Because you don’t know how to do a real job and I don’t want to train you just to have you leave in three months. Because if I give you something real to do and you mess it up, it doubles my work load. Show me you can handle the small stuff and I’ll throw you a little project. Impress me with that and I’ll give you another. I haven’t given you a project yet? Show some initiative and ask or show even more and do some research about something you know I’m working on without me having to ask. How you do anything is how you do everything. Smart interns take advantage of the easy gig of getting coffee to meet everyone at the company and absorb what is going on around them. You cannot teach in class what really happens at a company day to day. Chat people up. Ask good questions. Be proactive. We all started doing menial jobs and most of us are happy to refer future rockstar employees for real work.


    Reply
  26. Mystery Intern

    I intrened at Warner Chappell back in the day, and agree with both sides. It definitely wasn’t fun making the coffee runs, and getting cars washed at lunch, but at the end of the day, I was somewhere I LOVED and I made it a point to learn, even if it meant re-reading all the copies I made. I also had an awesome supervisor who took the time to walk me through what he was doing and took me to shows with him and introduced me to other people in the company/industry.


    Reply
  27. Thomas Lytle

    Truth is, If you can’t get my coffee right..consistently, how can I trust you with handling the business of my multi-platinum artist on a consistent basis?!? There is a method to this “madness”. The plaintiffs in this case are soft; the “bottom feeders” of interns. Ask Kevin Liles, who started as my mid-Atlantic regional manager’s interns, the “bullshit” tasks he had to do, and past me, to become President of Def Jam Records. The cream will always rise to the top and be recognized. This is some real bullshit and attest to the laziness of our youth that expect to do nothing and earn a coveted position in the limited space in the music industry. This is some real BULLSHIT!


    Reply
    1. former intern

      Thomas Lytle, your for label can thank you for costing them millions of dollars because you are too lazy and stupid to verify what the federal law requires when hiring interns. You HAVE to train them, you are legally obligated to, even at your own possible detriment. You can not benefit from your interns, they can only benefit from you. Don’t bother arguing with me either, its a fact, and you can look up the law and read it yourself.

      No wonder Liles passed you up. If they couldn’t trust you to know the law regarding interns, how can they trust you to run their label.


      Reply

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