December 02, 2009

Squeezing a Dollar Out of a Dime

I haven't worked this hard since the fall of 2002, when I began my job at Razor & Tie with no office, no assistant, no boss, and a roster of doomed projects. At the time, not only was I staying at work until 8 p.m. or later, but I was spending all other free time - mornings, evenings, and weekends - programming music for the Crunch fitness club chain, continuing the freelance work I started during the 10 months I was unemployed after 9/11.

Now I get up at 7:45 in the morning and write press releases, answer overnight emails from Ultra, look for jobs, and conduct general consulting business development BEFORE going into the office at 10:30 or 11. Now that my time at this inhouse consulting gig is ending, I spend all day putting out fires, mediating squabbles between the label and its artists, and teaching my coworkers how to do their jobs, all the while conducting conference calls to try to get some new clients for January when I will be released from my current assistant-free, cubicle-bound assignment. At night, I do more freelance writing, coordinate travel for my QVC appearances, and agonize over eyebrows, teeth, skin, hair and nails that will be illuminated by bright soundstage lights and magnified by digital HD cable. And although I am constantly on the prowl for kickbacks - any other sources of income -, I've been able to retain most of my weekends, save for the occasional frantic work phone call on a Saturday night and a trip down to West Chester, PA for QVC.

In some ways I feel like I've regressed more than ten years, when I was just starting out in the music industry as an assistant at Atlantic Records' classical division, not making enough money to pay my half of $1000/month rent. I took on a second job in the music department of the now-closed Barnes & Noble Chelsea, working until close both weekend days, and often leaving the Atlantic office at 2 on summer Fridays and starting my next shift at 3. I only lasted a few months in that routine, until I received a meager salary increase at Atlantic that made up the difference just enough to let me quit the second job that was slowly killing me.

Do I regret quitting my job in January? No way. Do I regret taking on this current job, with smaller budgets, smaller artists, smaller staff, and smaller power than I'm used to? Sometimes I do. Sometimes I think I've made a big mistake, that I'm wasting my time on a nowhere business where people who know less than me insist on arguing with me. But I have to keep remembering that the last time I felt this way, when I worked for three weeks at CMJ and was so visibly miserable that I got fired, it led to my hiring at Razor & Tie, a place that did make me happy for a few years, until things just went terribly wrong....

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