A few weeks eago, we looked at the current situation of interns in the Chicago music scene. While their optimism and good cheer seemed to bode well for the state of things, we realized that we'd need to see what the result of these many hours of free labor would provide" />

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Feature Fri Nov 27 2009

Chicago Music Interns Part II - And Look Where It Got Us

A few weeks ago, we looked at the current situation of interns in the Chicago music scene. While their optimism and good cheer seemed to bode well for the state of things, we realized that we'd need to see what the result of these many hours of free labor would provide. Did blood, sweat and promo e-mails pay off for everyone who put them in? Do the ones who end up with unsexy day jobs regret their fate, or did they still gain something? We started an open discussion with several former interns — some more forthcoming than others. Some are now successful entrepreneurs of their own, some are still finding their way. Some negative experiences were not elaborated on, and the juiciest stories had to be left out to protect the innocent/the storyteller's own hide. But short of inviting this gang out for a drink at the neighborhood watering hole and hearing them yourself, here are the tales fit for print from the intern veterans of Chicago.

The Gang:

Name: Caitlin Lavin
Age: 26
City of Birth: Chicago/Oak Park
Formerly Interned at: WXRT Programming spring '05
Q101/Loop Promotions intern summer '05
Q101/Loop Progamming intern fall '05
Touch and Go - '06-'07
Bloodshot - Radio promotions intern/assistant Apr-Dec 2007

Name: Robin Whitney
Age: 25
City of Birth: Chicago
Formerly Interned at: Billboard Magazine, Electrical Audio

Name: Andrew Mall
Age: 31
City of Birth: Ft. Worth, TX
Formerly Interned at: Touch & Go Records, 12/07-3/09

Name: Kristin Marks
Age: 24
City of Birth: Lake Bluff, IL
Formerly Interned At: Carrottop Records

Name: Matt Holland (pictured, left)
Age: 26
City of Birth: Chicago
Formerly Interned at: Flameshovel Records

Name: Coleman Brice
Age: 28
City of Birth: Chicago
Formerly interned at: Thrill Jockey, Waterdog Music, Rhythm Cafe (commercial music production),KBAQ Phoenix, Borg Warner Automotive, Cook County Recorder of Deeds

Do you have any favorite memories from internships?

Caitlin: Programming "Breakfast with the Beatles" on XRT.

Robin: Recording a Jazz quintet session at Electrical Audio...and eating Hot Doug's everyday.

Matt: Mostly the people that I met while working at Flameshovel. I got to hang out with the people at the Empty Bottle, musicians on FS and other people associated.

Cole: Recording Foley art for some Foot Locker commercial. Probably the only creative thing I ever got to do as an intern.

Andrew: Going through a mail crate of demos, surrounded by garbage cans and a CD player, dashing hopes left and right. I did pass on the name and website of the one new band I've been excited about in the last few years, and apparently they were this close to signing when Cory started shuttering the place last spring.

Robin: How about most embarrassing memory: Interning at Electrical Audio in 2005, I was sent to pick up some "friends" of a studio client. I drove out to Wicker Park, they piled in the car and we started small talk. I asked if they were in town for the Intonation Festival, and they said they were. I explained that I was very excited for a couple bands- Andrew Bird, The Go Team, Magnolia Electric Company, Les Savvy Fav, Deerhoof, etc. I also didn't hold back on my complaints: "I'm definitely not a Hold Steady fan, and I can't believe the Decemberists get to headline. I've been avoiding their hype for so long, and I finally was forced to listen to them, and I thought it sounded just like REM," I griped. The conversation moved forward, we spoke about different artists coming to the studio, how the music industry was changing and big record labels were merging. One of the passengers interjected, "Yeah, we just recently got signed to a big record label, and it's a little intimidating, we have no idea how secure it is." "Oh," I responded, "Congratulations! What's your band, I'll keep an eye out for it!" He pushed up his glasses and answered, "The Decemberists." Thankfully, They told me they love REM and were flattered, and treated me really nice, as my face turned red and I almost hit stop sign.

Kristin: There was a guy that used to work at CTD who was moving. This guy, Michael, would always over-dress for work, like wear a tie and nice parts. He also had an obsession with making fake moustaches. On his last day we all showed up to work wearing ties and fake moustaches. It was awesome. Then, I got sent to clean some graffiti off the back gate (intern job!) and cars kept rolling by and laughing at me and I had no idea why. Then I realized I had been wearing my moustache the whole time. Good times.

Was your internship worth it? Would you have done anything different?

Robin: At Electrical, it was worth it to collect memories and anecdotes, but in retrospect it wasn't what I had hoped for and it ultimately caused a lot of heartbreak and frustration. I leaned a tough lesson on how much harder women have to work to be accepted in a predominantly male industry (audio engineering). And to top it all off, I recently had a potential employer call my studio reference only to find out he didn't remember me. It cost me the job! At Billboard, I was more fortunate to make lasting relationships and build up a network- it still serves me with some freelance work from time to time. But that's getting to be rare as publications have laid off nearly everyone I worked with and worked for. Something I would have done different? I'm not sure, honestly. I really felt proud to gain access to these high profile and respected companies, and at the end of the day, in this economy, I'm not really sure that any other internship would have turned out differently and provided what all interns need- a job!

Matt: It depends on how you look at it. I got my internship mostly due to the fact that I didn't have a job, and I wanted something to fill the time, and maybe with the end result of getting the job. Basically I went into this internship with no concrete expectations. On one hand I got to meet a bunch of my favorite musicians, become friends with them, DJ with them, and even play music with them. I recently toured through the east coast with members from two Flameshovel bands, and we have plans on recording a full length and releasing it. That for me is a small dream come true. On the other hand, I haven't seen much financial benefits from working at Flameshovel, besides free records, beer and access to shows. If I had to do it again, I might have had a bigger goal in mind with my internship. But hey, I'm still having fun with it and might get to tour more. You decide.

Cole: Yes, in a roundabout way. The internships taught me that there are basically no jobs in the music industry that pay a decent wage. Most of the people that I worked for were entrepreneurs. This kind of forced me to realize that if I was to make a living in the music industry I would have to start my own business, which I have done. If I could go back I probably would have done fewer internships and spent more time relaxing.

What's the most important thing you took away from your internship?

Robin: School credit.

Matt: Not sure, experience and networking, with the hopes of some kind of future, and not having it have been a complete waste of time.

Cole: See Above.

Any words of wisdom for people thinking about an internship?

Robin: There's no way around interning these days, so make it count! Really chase after the companies and industries that you are passionate about, and stay in touch with your network. One of my internships provided lifelong friends that I still use for references and freelance work. It's important to stay in touch and check in, even 5 years later!

Caitlin: A lot of intern kids come and flake out — if you want to make an impact, stick through the shitty work and it will lead to other things.

Cole: go to business school, and forget about any internship that sounds cool or glamorous. The boring nerdy accounting internships pay $25 an hour. Working for free is for chumps. But seriously, make sure that you are learning enough to compensate you for your time.

Matt: You're gonna be doing dishes and making food runs no matter what company you intern with, just try and listen and learn some stuff while you're there.

Dan Morgridge is a writer from Ukranian Village. He recommends making yourself a reliable friend or at least a pleasant enemy to anyone who's butt you might need to kiss later.

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Nick / November 29, 2009 1:43 PM

Yeah I studio internship thing.....best part? Getting my car stolen....and then walking outside one day to find my 2nd car in the process of being stolen.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »


  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
Big Rock Candy Mountain
Boxx Magazine
Brooklyn Vegan Chicago
Can You See The Sunset From The Southside
Chicago Reader Music
Chicagoist Arts & Events
Chicago Music Guide
Chicago Singles Club
Country Music Chicago
Cream Team
Dark Jive
The Deli Chicago
Jim DeRogatis
Fake Shore Drive
Gowhere Hip Hop
The Hood Internet
Jaded in Chicago
Largehearted Boy
Little White Earbuds
Live Fix Blog
Live Music Blog
Loud Loop Press
Oh My Rockness
Pop 'stache
Pop Matters
Resident Advisor
Sound Opinions
Sun-Times Music Blog
Theft Liable to Prosecution
Tribune Music
UR Chicago
Victim Of Time
WFMU's Beware of the Blog
Windy City Rock


Abbey Pub
Andy's Jazz Club
Aragon Ballroom
Auditorium Theatre
Beat Kitchen
Bottom Lounge
Buddy Guy's Legends
The Burlington
California Clipper
Concord Music Hall
Congress Theater
Cubby Bear
Double Door
Elbo Room
Empty Bottle
Green Mill
The Hideout
Honky Tonk BBQ
House of Blues
Kingston Mines
Lincoln Hall
Logan Square Auditorium
Mayne Stage
The Mutiny
Old Town School of Folk Music
Park West
The Promontory
Red Line Tap
Reggie's Rock Club & Music Joint
The Riviera
Thalia Hall
The Shrine
Symphony Center
Tonic Room
Uncommon Ground
The Vic
The Whistler

  Labels, Promoters
  & Shops:

Alligator Records
Beverly Records
Bloodshot Records
Dave's Records
Delmark Records
Drag City
Dusty Groove
Flameshovel Records
Groove Distribution
He Who Corrupts
Jam Productions
Jazz Record Mart
Kranky Records
Laurie's Planet of Sound
Minty Fresh
Numero Group
mP Shows
Permanent Records
Reckless Records
Smog Veil Records
Southport & Northport Records
Thick Records
Thrill Jockey Records Touch & Go/Quarterstick Records
Victory Records

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Transmission is the music section of Gapers Block. It aims to highlight Chicago music in its many varied forms, as well as cover touring acts performing in the city. More...
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