SATIRE: History in the making – Folk songs from the unpaid-internship era

They say history should be told through the stories of everyday people.

Artists like Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly and Bob Dylan are all famous for their storytelling through music that still inspires today’s folk tradition. In an effort to continue this art form, students have come together to lay bare the biggest problem they face: unpaid internships.

The relatively new variation of folk music draws from the common experiences people face while doing shit work for a failing company that has nothing useful to teach its interns. Tasks like getting coffee for every employee in the six-story building or organizing company records that more rats have touched in the last 10 years than people are all too familiar themes in the songwriting.

But the music also draws from a tradition that stretches further back than the guitar-toting blues heroes. Take this song as an example. It has a rhythm similar to the rock-hammering Mississippi chain gangs of the early 20th century.

The careful detail that bored-out-of-their-minds interns put into their art form shows sophistication in their attempts to do something useful with their time.

Work all day from 9-5

(Won’t get paid ’til the day I die)

Boss don’t care if I survive

(Don’t even care if skills apply)


Get ’em drinks when I arrive

(I learn nothing, I wonder why)

Think it’s worth the two-hour drive?

(It’s not, I really can’t deny)


Counselor was wrong, thought I’d thrive,

(Instead I just spend breaks to cry)

When I told her, she just sighed,

(“Once you get credit, you’ll be fine”)


We’ll learn nothing while alive

(We got no skills: Resumes lie)

But that’s fine, ’cause they know I

(Won’t get paid ’til the day I die)

The music isn’t only a cry of pain by the tattered souls of these musicians, but also a decree of hope. We see it in this representation of the religious views of this group of musicians. It’s important to note the central metaphor, with the established Judeo-Christian concept of heaven having a paid salary added to its already – established attributes.

There is a land

(Oh yes a land!)

Where you’re more than an unpaid hand;

Where you’re earning every cent

(And can afford your goddamn rent!)

‘Cause you’ll finally have some money saved

(And that’s not even the only perk!)

After all those uncountable days

Of horrifying unpaid work


Don’t quit just yet

(Your fate’s not set!)

Soon you’re in the land of “no more debt”

(When the people who made you go berserk!)

Will pay you for all your sweat

Because when you find a way to prove your worth

You’ll finally be free from this shitty intern work


It’s here your life will start

That special little part

Where life is finally not a jerk

And then you’ll feel so smart


But before you think of this,

That eternal land of bliss,

Don’t forget your untold hours of free work

(Don’t forget your untold hours of free work!)

[Composed by Simon Albaugh and Sydney Brack]