Unpaid Interns Spin Record Company Heads


What if you were offered an unpaid internship for a big-name record company right now? Would you take it?

Would you still take it if you were made to the same work as actual employees of the company, if not more?

In a movement that started last year, unpaid interns began filing lawsuits against their host companies, many targeting record companies such as Atlantic Records and Warner Music Group, and Universal Music Group. While they may be receiving experience and connections in the field  (and possibly academic credit), under the minimum wage law that was enacted in 1938, interns are still required to be paid for their work.

According to Forbes.com author Deborah L. Jacobs, “In June 2013, a New York Federal Court held that Fox Searchlight’s unpaid interns were “employees” subject to the minimum wage and overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The Court found that to legally employ an unpaid intern, an employer is required to “provide something beyond on-the-job training that employees receive.”

In my opinion, while I think internships are competitive enough to seize in the first place, especially for record companies since the music industry is constantly becoming more and more difficult to enter, I definitely side with the interns in getting the pay they deserve for having to do the same amount of work as paid employees. For decades unpaid interns have been silent about this issue but I’m glad that students are finally taking a stand against for being uncompensated for their work in return for an opportunity that is statistically less likely to lead to a full-time job offer than those students who secured paid internships.

However, because of the costs that could entail having to pay for all of the hours that these unpaid interns have worked and all of the legal costs as well, there is a large possibility that the number of unpaid internships could decrease in order for the record companies to avoid having to pay all of that money when they could instead simply either hire more employees or turn unpaid internships in more competitive paid internships.

The future of record companies and the music industry is going to come from our generation and those to come. I think that it’s great that these opportunities are available to students but due compensation is needed. I believe that it’s so crucial that the record companies don’t become even more inaccessible to students. While some of these unpaid internships may start including wages and/or comprehensive training, others will find less opportunity in the field. However, I don’t believe that anyone should give up on trying to secure one of these internships. It’s invaluable experience if you’re aspiring to be a part of the music industry. Just make sure you get what you deserve out of it!


*If you want to see some of the specific statistics from the referenced article on Forbes.com, you can check it out here.