DiS – my employers until really quite recently – are on the look out for interns. Fair enough says me: I recall well how many packages would arrive a day, dreams dashed against rocks without padded cells even being broken. Simply too many for one man alone to handle, so it’s sensible to call in support.
There are positives to agreeing to such work for no remuneration, beyond the occasional cost covered that is. Connections mean everything in the music industry – it’s an old but true adage that it’s not what but who you know – and it’s possible that whoever is brought in by DiS will worm their way into the industry successfully. Past employees proper have gone on to run labels and work at management companies, and earn a crust, so the idea that DiS can be a stepping stone is a valid one. Here’s hoping the trend holds true for me.
Also, if you’re truly into music in its myriad forms, the material you’ll be exposed to will be like a dream come true. Without working within the industry there would be loads of favourite bands I’d have missed: of the right now, that’s acts like Nadja, Pyramids and Calories. On the downside, those rose tints will soon turn a shade of grey, as it’s easy to become a cynic, sceptical of every act’s motives. You will question ties with particular companies, and develop something of a competitive streak: in the world of online music coverage, first is everything.
There’s no such thing, really, as an online exclusive unless you chase it – provisions from PR companies exist as exclusives for seconds, minutes maybe, as blogs x y and z link to your site, or simply lift the relevant code. It’s a 24/7 deal – during my two-year full-time tenure at DiS I never switched off – even on holiday, on a hillside in Scotland, I was taking calls about the booking of a DiS gig, and organising for writers to attend certain gigs. It takes a determined mindset to make it in music journalism, in terms of editorial/full-time positions, and most interns will fall by the wayside at great speed. Friends of mine have caved in, and they’ve gone into such roles with plenty of experience. It can simply be too much for many.
Also, interns demand a lot of time from employees proper – I was always reluctant to take them on as DiS consumed almost all of my time per day, except for a 30-minute stop for lunch. I didn’t have time to show whoever came in the ropes properly – their experience was delivered in drops rather than rivers, and as such thumbs were left to twiddle. Whoever goes into DiS to help out should expect to do this, unless the idea is to truly strip back the content on the site to but a few news stories per day, and perhaps one feature and one review.
There are interesting points made by former DiS writer and current in-house NME bod Ben Patashnik on the DiS ‘advertorial’ piece, accessible here. I agree with much of what he says, but it is very rare for anything substantial to come from an unpaid placement. If the successful candidate really mucks in, above the call of duty, they may find their place in a shrinking industry. But most people just want a few free records and a name on their CV.
The point? Don’t walk in blindly, I suppose. From the outside looking in the idea of writing about music for a living must seem phenomenally attractive, but once that thrill subsides it really is Just Another Job. It has perks, but so do all positions – just depends on what constitutes an appealing bonus in your book. Be prepared for the hard grind, the toil and what feels like the weight of the world to be heaped atop you. But trust me too when I say: it’ll feel amazing when you make that mark and the rewards come your way (and I do not mean monetary ones – if that’s what you’re after: wrong business for you!).
BTW: I have never done an unpaid internship outside of university, where it was part of the course, and strongly advise those not living with parents/those who can cover bills to not do it. It will drain your reserves, emotionally and financially, and chances are that nothing will come of it (certainly not enough to repay what you put in). If you’re still keen (I do recommend it to students with financial support), you know where to go.