This is a guest post by Addison Cash of Cashville Skyline.
For as long as I can remember, the only thing I’ve ever really wanted to do was work in entertainment. I even studied music in college as a way to get closer to it. What I wasn’t aware of is the hundreds of music industry programs pumping out thousands of semi-desperate graduates into the already flooded job market every year.
A Leap of Faith
I moved to Nashville on a whim for an unpaid internship and eventually landed my first job as the marketing coordinator at a record label. My salary was a measly $25,000 per year with health insurance not kicking in until I reached six months of employment. Unfortunately, half of the marketing department was eliminated before I reached that point. This was a tough, but important, lesson to learn at 22 years old.
After being laid off from my first entertainment industry job and going on several uninspired job interviews, I accepted a position with a temp agency specializing in entry-level positions at a variety of Nashville-based music business companies. I was lucky to land a temp-to-hire receptionist position for $10 per hour at my current company. It was a step down career-wise and financially from my previous gig, but I worked relentlessly, made myself invaluable, and was eventually hired as a full-time assistant with a starting salary of $28,000.
Even with the bump in salary to $28,000, I was actually earning less take home pay than my previous job due to an inferior benefits package – 50% of health insurance paid by the company, no dental insurance, and no 401(k). Additionally, I started frequently traveling and working long hours for the job, eliminating any possibility of picking up any type of side hustle.
My low starting salary experiences are not unique. The Berklee College of Music released a Music Salary Guide a couple of years ago, outlining what one could expect to earn in a variety of professions throughout the entertainment industry. Many positions start around just $20,000 per year.
There are several types of people either pursuing a career or working in the entertainment industry: recent graduates who are willing to do anything (including work for free) to get their foot in the door, young professionals struggling to make ends meet (many of whom quit the business after a few years), lifers, and the most talented people who become highly successful and earn a great living (top 5%).
I remember sitting in a large room on Music Row with a couple hundred other young entertainment industry professionals. We were participating in a question and answer session with one of Nashville’s most successful booking agents. Someone from the back of the crowd timidly asked for advice on how to achieve a work-life balance. The agent simply replied, “you don’t.”
Working in the entertainment industry is much more than a job; it’s a lifestyle. And that lifestyle certainly isn’t for everyone. When you’ve reached the point that you’re burnt out and exhausted from the low pay, lack of benefits, long hours, lack of sleep, unhealthy lifestyle, and sometimes unreasonable clients is precisely the moment you should get out. If not, you’re just making everyone else’s job more challenging.
Is It Worth It?
No one pursues a career in the entertainment industry to get rich. The most important benefit is building a career that you love. Other perks include free concert tickets, invitations to exclusive parties, access to amazing music before the general public, and unlimited opportunities to be creative. You’ll find some of the hardest working, most enterprising, and brilliant people working all over the business. There are innumerable opportunities to learn and never-ending reasons to continually work at being better. The moment you slack off, a younger, hungrier person is perpetually on standby to do your job for lower pay.
I was recently standing on the side of a stage, watching an unbelievably talented artist who is growing more quickly than even they realize, play their encore to a captivated crowd. Laughter is always a bit muffled and the mix isn’t quite meant for someone listening from backstage, but I acknowledged privately that I was experiencing a special moment in time – an intimate performance of a unique artist that was bound for unbelievable success. The truth is, I felt privileged to be playing even a small role in that artist’s rise to the top.
What about you? Would you pursue a career you’re passionate about even though the hours are long and the pay is low? Please leave a comment below.
Image credit: Addison Cash