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Red flags you're working for a toxic company in the music industry

If you've been working in the music industry, whether as a freelancer or an employee, chances are you've encountered toxic behaviour from a boss or client at some point.

As you likely know, our industry's stress levels are among the highest compared to other sectors, and working in a negative environment can only add to that pressure.

I have been working in the music and event industry for the past 12 years, and I’ve seen it all. I've had the great fortune to work with amazing companies and clients, but I've also encountered extremely toxic ones. Based on my experience, I’ve compiled a list of the most important red flags to help you identify if you're dealing with a toxic business in the music industry.

music industry red flags

Red flag #1 - You are micromanaged

Is your boss or client constantly asking to check your work and insisting on overseeing every small detail of a project even though you are an expert in your field and have years of experience? Your are being micromanaged. If this is the case, you are probably feeling trapped, demoralised and insicure. A boss or client who cannot delegate effectively is not fulfilling their role well. My advice: run.

Red flag #2 - Your payments are always late

Occasional payment delays are understandable, but if every invoice or pay-check is consistently late due to various excuses, it's a red flag. You are expected to complete your tasks on time, so your company should meet the same standard with payments. My advice: run.

Red flag #3 - You are always working extra hours

You've clarified with your boss or client that your package includes X hours of work per week, even documenting it in your contract. However, you find yourself consistently working longer hours because the workload doesn't align with the agreed terms. I understand that in the event industry, working fixed hours every day can be challenging due to the nature of the job. Yet, if this becomes the norm rather than the exception, it suggests your boss is taking advantage of you. My advice: run.

Red flag #4 - Your boundaries are not respected

Is your phone frequently ringing in the evenings, on weekends, and even during your holidays? Your personal time is precious and deserves respect. Avoiding burnout is crucial, so consider using separate phones—one dedicated to work and the other for personal contacts. If your boss persists in reaching out to you, my advice is: run.

Red flag #5 - Racism, body-shaming, misogyny, homophobia/transphobia

Once, I worked for a client where I frequently overheard insensitive comments about different groups of people. Despite my efforts to highlight the inappropriateness of such remarks, nothing changed. Being in this kind of environment can negatively affect you and your colleagues. My advice: run

Red flag #6 - High turnover

A company with low turnover rates typically reflects a positive work environment where employees feel valued and respected. However, iIf you start noticing that the company staff changes as quick as Doja Cats changes her hairstyle, it may indicate underlying issues. My advice is: run.

I completely understand that we all need to earn a living, but your mental health should never be compromised. If you're feeling overwhelmed, I've compiled a list of resources to support you.

Mental health support links for the music industry:

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