THE BLOG

Why The Entertainment Industry Should Pay Its Interns

11/04/2013 03:28 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

Breaking into the entertainment industry isn't an easy feat, which is why landing an internship with a celebrity, record label or film company is a coveted way to kickstart your career in the biz. But why should getting a leg up in the entertainment industry as an intern relegate you to little or no compensation?

If you're like me, you probably find it hard to believe that the entertainment industry doesn't have have the funds to offer paid internships. In fact, even the rap mogul worth a reported $580 million, Sean "Diddy" Combs, isn't willing to share his Benjamins with any of his interns. His former intern is slapping his record label Bad Boy Entertainment with a class-action lawsuit. An estimated 500 ex-interns who have worked at Bad Boy since August 2007 are also eligible to join this class-action claim.

With all eyes on the entertainment industry, it's time to take a look at why entertainment industry interns deserve to be paid -- just like any other employee.

Messing With The Law
Hiring an intern comes with numerous legalities, most of which seem to go misunderstood by employers across industries. By law, unpaid internships are only acceptable if an employer is in compliance with the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division standards.

As a very brief overview, these guidelines state that in order to be unpaid, an internship must be highly educational -- as close as possible to the educational experience students are receiving in college. The employer providing the internship must also derive no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern or have duties that displace a regular employee.

Entertainment industry employers can certainly afford to pay their interns at least minimum wage for their duties. Plus, it's illegal to let interns go unpaid if you're not providing them with an extremely educational, immersive experience.

Interns Aren't Administrative Assistants Or Errand Runners
Classifying someone as an intern doesn't mean you can relegate them to menial, unpaid tasks in the name of experience. So what does an educational internship experience truly entail? It's certainly not the duties given to interns at Bad Boy Entertainment. The intern filing the suit claimed she worked three or four days a week until 6 p.m. answering phones, filing and copying documents, making deliveries, decorating the office during holidays, and getting lunch and coffee for paid employees.

According to Intern Bridge, there are roughly one million unpaid internships in the United States annually. It's very clear that employers view unpaid internships as the epitome of getting more for their money -- or in many cases, no money at all. Rather than bringing on a group of interns to work for free as administrative or personal assistants, you could be paying them and actually striving to have their tasks impact your bottom line.

For instance, a digital marketing intern at a film companyn should be provided with projects like researching and creating social content, recording and monitoring digital performance via online tools, tracking marketing trends, evaluating audience feedback, and working alongside their internship manager to implement advertising and marketing strategies. All of these are hands-on tasks that will benefit their future careers in marketing.

Even if you pay your interns, they're with you to learn. It's your duty to develop hands-on projects and have them work closely beside you and other employees to accomplish them. If you're not willing to commit to educating the future of your industry, then it's time to pass on hiring interns altogether -- and possibly rethink your goals as an employer.

It's A VIP Party
Internships have become mandatory for getting your foot in the door and adding fodder to your resume. But without pay, it's almost impossible to make ends meet while undertaking one. In fact, 65 percent of students rely on financial assistance from parents during their internships. That means students without well-off parents are left in the dust.

Only offering unpaid internships excludes highly talented candidates who can't afford to survive without compensation. So not only are you missing out on great potential interns, you're also maintaining the status quo by fostering the advancement of only a select number of future entertainment industry workers. It's time to drop the idea that having the name of your record label or film company on a resume is enough compensation by itself.

Entertainment industry interns should always be paid. This will allow for companies to make more talented intern hires, contribute positively to the industry, and advance the internship as a positive employment and educational experience overall.

Do you think entertainment interns should be paid?

Ashley Mosley is Community Engagement Manager of InternMatch, an online platform connecting the best intern candidates and employers. Connect with Ashley and InternMatch on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.