Reporting From the Frontlines of the Entertainment Business

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The entertainment business is booming. Rapid change through all facets of the business presents the opportunity to build amazing careers. I often meet people who are considering joining the world of entertainment from other fields and people regularly ask for my advice to understand what life is like in the business. While I have my fair share of opinions, I'm only one voice.

When I searched online for industry career research, the results I found were "horrible boss" stories or gripes/praise about the Entourage movie--not the helpful insights I was seeking to share with others. So I resolved to make my own research.

I gathered anonymous feedback from roughly 500 folks (493 to be exact) currently working on the business side of entertainment in theatre, television, film, live music, attractions, and arts and cultural institutions. The responses were a well-balanced blend of male (44%) and female (56%), with a near-even split between age groups--47% over age 35 and 53% under age 35. Respondents had no direct incentive to complete the survey and their responses were completely confidential via an online form.

I analyzed the data across two primary comparisons--gender and age (over or under 35)--to answer the common inquiries I hear about working in the entertainment business: background, work/life balance, daily grind, and overall outlook about the future.

The purpose of this research is to shed light on what it is really like to work in this business, I encourage you to take a look at the findings and tell me what you think. What stands out to you? Any surprises?

Career Path
The entertainment business is comprised of a highly educated group of folks. 97% of respondents have a bachelor's degree and 41% hold a graduate or advanced degree. For context, the 2014 US Census reported 31.96% of the overall population with a bachelor's degree and 11.8 % with an advanced degree.

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Take a closer look:
Women with bachelor's degree: 99%
Women with graduate/advanced degree: 42%
Men with bachelor's degree: 93%
Men with graduate/advanced degree: 38%

The Daily Grind: Work Week
Early mornings. Late nights. Rehearsals, walk-throughs, presentations. Uptown, downtown...Brooklyn. A single day in this business can take you all over the city, at all hours. My Apple Watch recently opened my eyes about the actual numbers behind my personal pace.

In our findings, the average work week fell between 40-50 hours a week (54%). 24% of respondents reported working 50+ hour weeks. In industries filled with interns and youthful energy, it's a bit surprising that both men and women over age 35 reported working more hours per week than their younger (under 35) counterparts.

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Take a closer look*:

Men under 35 working 50+ hours per week: 35%

Men 35+ working 50+ hours per week: 52%

Women under 35 working 50+ hours per week: 21%

Women 35+ working 50+ hours per week: 47%

The Daily Grind: Commute

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I was surprised to find the average one-way commute is under an hour (93%). In fact, 42% reported a less than half hour commute.

The Daily Grind: Health and Fitness
As for daily activity, those that work in the entertainment business are a fairly health-conscious bunch. 51% reported exercising between two and six times a week, a stat consistent across gender and age groups.

Family Life

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27% of respondents said they have a significant other working in the entertainment business. For men 35+, we saw the highest percentage--37% report a significant other working in the business.

On average, 25% of all respondents reported having kids at home. Women 35+ had the highest percentage of children at home (49%). Compare that to men 35+, 37% of whom report having kids at home.

Reading: "What publication can't you live without?"
Aside from The New York Times, which was referenced across all industries, answers varied based on the specific industry in which respondents worked. The most referenced outlets:

TV/Film: Deadline
Theatre: Playbill
Arts/culture: You've Cott Mail

The Emotional Toll
When respondents contributed "one word that best describes working in the entertainment business," passion, intensity, and engaging were the top three words. If you look at responses from people under 35, fulfilling, challenging, and intense rose to the top. Look at people 35+ and see words like rewarding, meaningful, and evolving.

All of this passion may best be illustrated when we asked participants, "When was the last time you cried?" 46% of all respondents reported crying in the last week.

The Future: Equal opportunity?

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The survey concluded with a series of true or false questions. When asked "do you believe the entertainment business is an equal opportunity employer" just 37% of all respondents answered true. For young people (under 35), 44% of men and only 34% of women agreed.

Most staggering were the responses to the statement "The sky is the limit for my career." Overall, just 44% answered "true" to that statement. More revealing, 40% of women under 35 agreed while 65% of their male counterparts answered true to this question.

So, there you have it. Anything surprise you?

*These statistics have been updated since the post's original publication.