Created by Alex Taylor
For a foothold in London, Alex Taylor exchanged his creativity, and found the true cost of freelancing.
You know that feeling you get of being on the guestlist for anything? That sense of, frankly, bastardish superiority? No? Maybe that’s just me then. Being on the guestlist is a great thing and when you get an internship on an east London magazine, your dewy-eyed sense of optimism can lead you to some dumb decisions.
Around this time last year, I was working on a bar, and I had very little direction apart from the letters ‘B’ and ‘A’ after my name. Fearing that I’d be working this role for a prolonged period, as well as not putting to use the £21,000 piece of paper that John Moores University had kindly conferred upon me, I decided to chance my arm at a spot of writing in London.
I sent off a few CVs, wrote some embarrasing cover letters and set up a rubbish Tumblr in the misguided view of that being the way to go about it. I quickly became an ‘Indie Music Ambassador’ for a magazine that shall remain unnamed.
Somewhat naively, by this I mean reprehensibly naively, I decided that working for free was a great idea. From my experiences so far, the professional field of journalism is as hard to get into as Mr. Kipling’s cakes are good. It requires time, ability and contacts that a smaller organisation will allow you to gather. This is, however, where the benefits of my particular ‘internship’ ended.
Working out of a basement in Whitechapel decked out in a ‘minimal’ style of décor, everything was coming up Milhouse – I was working for a magazine in east London, interviewing bands I’d only listened to through headphones and working with a bunch of people who were motivating me in a way that I hadn’t experienced before. It was ace.
After a couple of weeks working for nothing and getting zero feedback on the work that you’re producing, you begin to grow somewhat skeptical of your situation. The idea that we were having fun and doing something genuinely cool quickly evaporated leaving a sticky residue of sulky twenty-somethings who were sick of getting paid nowt when we were making the editor, and I use this term in the loosest sense, money that we weren’t seeing. I’m used to having to pay your dues and all that, it’s a learning curve that you should have to do but working for not a solitary penny? Not even travel? You’re on a dodgy, hypodermic-strewn playing field there.
Leaving was probably the best decision I made while in London. It felt good. Like, real good.
My next experience didn’t really improve upon what I’d taken away from that dungeon in Whitechapel, however. While the following employers did pay me, their morals were, arguably, so much grimmer.
Based on a road just off of Oxford Street, I thought I was pretty bigtime to have the role of Junior Editor of a Music & Entertainment blog, but when I was asked to write an article with the working title of “What does a Girl owe to a Guy when he buys her a drink on a night out?” that just never really sat right with me. Especially when I was asked to ‘be a bit of dick about it’ to boost the controversy factor.
I don’t know in which direction your moral compass is adjusted, but I’ve been struggling to think of a more apt moment to summarise my time with these gents. If that’s what they get their kicks out of then, whatever. For my money, that just ain’t cricket.
I wasn’t a massive fan of these times in my life. They left me out of pocket but with a couple of decent stories to tell. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. If anything, I’d actively discourage it. It gave me a start, though, and a few decent contacts who I’ve worked with since. At the time it seemed like a bit of a bronze lining, but the idea has grown on me since then.
Alex Taylor is a freelance music journalist