The Music Business

In mid-April we caught up with a former intern at a national orchestra who has managed to land a job with the same company he interned for. This is what he had to say about his experiences in the education and fundraising departments.

Q: Where are you working now?

A: I’m working for an Orchestra.

Q: And what do you do?

A: I work in the education department.

Q: Brilliant, how did you get that job?

A: I started off as an intern in the fundraising department. And I soon realised that I didn’t want to do fundraising so I asked to help out in music education whilst I was doing my internship. Then a part-time role came up. So when I finished my internship I started doing that and I never left.

Q: Doing a music degree… was this kind of educational or charity side of an orchestra what you always wanted to do?

A: Well I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I graduated so I decided it would be nice to help people, so I started volunteering for a music charity. I didn’t really know what I was doing and they didn’t have any offices or any structure so I applied for the internship because I thought it would help me with the volunteering and that just progressed.

Q: So you didn’t think ‘hey that’s my passage to a great career’?

A: No I did it because I thought the charity might be my career…

Q: So the internship was a great opportunity to learn different kind of aspects about a company…

A: Exactly and it was just lucky that whilst I was there the fundraising and education side of things overlapped and through that I realised that’s actually what I was interested in.

Q: And you made contacts. How did you get your position, did it come up and you applied or were you just moved across from your internship?

A: Um, well I was kept on in my part time role in the education department because they knew there was job coming up, which I applied for and didn’t get. But I then applied for the job that the person that did get that job left. And that’s where I am now, I got it.

Q: Why did you think of internships, where did that kind of phrase enter your vocabulary?

A: Um, I don’t think when I was looking for jobs, I didn’t have any clue what I was doing, I was just looking for anything that I thought would help me. And I was just lucky that the first thing I saw was the internship with the Orchestra and I applied for it and I got it, so I never really had to think about anything else. But I wasn’t specifically looking for an internship I don’t think.

Q: And did they pay you, did they pay expenses?

A: They paid travel expenses and sort of lunch expenses; I think it was about three pounds a day for lunch and a monthly travel card.

Q: How long did you do it for?

A: 6 months.

Q: And there was no guarantee of a job at the end of it?

A: No not at all, it’s very rare for interns to get jobs, there’s one other intern who was there shortly after me- she now works full time there as well but it’s not that usual.

Q: How did you afford to survive during your internship?

A: I was lucky because my parents live in London so I lived with them, but I also worked five or six shifts a week in a pub and if I had needed to I could have afforded to live off that and rented out somewhere cheap if I had to, but I was lucky that I didn’t.

Q: What kind of stuff did you get up to during your internship?

A: Well the problem with doing an internship in fundraising is that you don’t get much responsibility, so there was mainly lots of research and processing of membership applications, and towards the end I did get to do some applications, some funding applications for trusts and foundations. But the internships in the education department which I work in now are much better, because the interns get real responsibility and they have their own projects that they look after and run from their project managers.

Q: So they definitely feel like their boosting their CVs and making themselves more employable?

A: Yeah, I think, yes definitely but I think the fundraising one did as well. There are just limitations as to what you can do as an intern in that role- you know sort of corporate sponsorship, you can’t give someone that sort of responsibility to look after if they’re not being paid.

Q: We usually ask people whether they’re glad they’ve done their internship, whether it helped them get a job- well it did in this case because you were able to get a job where you were working. But imagine you didn’t get a job or you were just at the end of your internship… would you feel more employable, did you feel like you had a set of transferable skills on your CV that you could shout about to potential employers?

A: Yes definitely, and actually there was another intern in my department at the same time as me, and she managed to get a job because of her internship, as she was leaving… in a much higher role- I think she was a co-ordinator or something like that, so it definitely does give you the skills.

Q: Did they value their interns, was there a specific role for them as in helping them and training them- or was it just extra help around the office?

A: No, we did, we went on training courses and that sort of thing so we were definitely well looked after, they gave us as much as they could- and we got more responsibility as the internship went on. But as I said I just think it’s hard doing an internship in a fundraising role because the information that you’re dealing with can be quite sensitive.

Q: Are there any ways you would have improved your intern experience, or if you were looking after an intern in your current role, how, what would you do differently perhaps?

A: I think just to make sure that there was more varied things to do, less research and staring in front of the computer and checking facts which is very boring. But as an intern in the department that I now work in, I think it’s brilliant, I don’t think there’s anything that should be changed.

Q: And where do you want to go in your career?

A: Haha I have no idea but spending money is definitely better than raising it!

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1 Response to “The Music Business”


  1. 1 Susie 02/26/2011 at 11:09 pm

    The music business is notorious for unpaid ‘opportunities’. As an opera singer just coming out of college after 6 years of study, I was told to ‘Get as much unpaid experience as I could’. In fact that was dreadful advice, because you quickly become known as a performer that will ‘be cheap’ and it devalued the training and experience I already had.
    It is the same in the admin side of business, where as the writer said, six month, full time internships with no provision for a job are the norm. What is particularly sickening is that a) there are recruitment companies that charge the businesses to find interns (and then just post opportunities on Gumtree) b) the people at the top of these arts organisations are being paid huge salaries and c) full time jobs are being filled by interns, when in fact they should be fully paid jobs.
    I am in the music business: on the admin side. We have used interns for specific projects. We ensure it is mutually beneficial; that they are only part time and not long hours. We provide expenses; contacts at the end; genuine experience – not being hidden; help with CVs and references. We aren’t in a position to take on someone full time but we have offered interns freelance work. I am very aware of not exploiting anyone, but giving them great opportunities that only a small company can give.
    I would say that internships are an opportunity for a young person, to get experience. With the 6 interns we have had, only one was up to speed when she came and she was snapped up by a big company after working with me – I was thrilled! The others were not yet ready for full time employment and they needed the time to understand how the workplace worked so that they would be invaluable as employees. It is wrong to assume and expect that a full time job will come from an internship; you have to treat the internship as a job interview (albeit longer) and get as much as you can from the opportunity. Even if you aren’t offered a job there, you will have some great experience on your CV.
    I would also recommend you consider doing internships in small companies; in larger ones you really are doing the photocopying and making the tea, but in a small company, you will be involved in anything from rebranding and marketing specific services to assisting on exhibitions and events. GREAT EXPERIENCE and something you can add to your cv and talk about at interviews.
    Finally, I graduated in the 1980s when the economic climate was similar to now. It was scary, but as graduates and young people we tried to be as creative as possible; creating projects; writing; running events. If you don’t have a job; try blogging (like this wonderful site); writing; podcasts anything. Keep going. We WILL come out of the recession. Good luck.


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