Name: Ben Gordon
Location: Washington, D.C.
Hometown: Bethesda, MD
Job(s): Integrated Marketing Manager for Word Wizards & Electronic Musician
Q: What did you experience when you started looking for a job post-college?
A: I faced the same challenges as everyone who graduated in 2010. There were lots of talented people and very few jobs. The developing renewable energy and sustainability movement is the most important historical contribution of our generation, and I wanted a job in the green industry. I studied it in college, worked five internships in various fields, and educated myself about every possible outlet. Sadly, searching for a position in this field is very frustrating for three reasons.
- Scale – For the most part the people I contacted would have loved to hire me. The size of their business and the state of their balance sheets, however, prevented them from offering me a living wage.
- Skills – I have a degree in Business Administration with a concentration in entrepreneurship from The College of Charleston. The skill set most in demand right now in renewable energy fields is scientific, rather than business related. The people being hired for business related positions are much more experienced than your average entry level worker. Heck, when an “entry level” employee has as much job experience as a CEO, you’re probably not going to hire a sharp young gentleman fresh out of college.
- Opportunity – The utilities world is all about profit. Profit is determined by how much it costs to produce 1kW of electricity vs. what we, the public, are willing to pay. The technology to produce clean energy is currently more expensive than the existing older dirty technologies. Until clean tech can compete financially with existing sources of power, entry level positions and long term career opportunities will be few and far between.
Q: What happened next?
A: I had just returned from an amazing trip across Central America, and I was back in Charleston looking for my dream job and not finding it. Every now and then, some of my friends would put on an event, and I would get a chance to MC, DJ, or even play some of my original productions. These same friends eventually started a small business called Inkahootz to make their events and merchandise sales more legit. I joined on, helping them using the skills I learned in business school. At the same time, Max Cobb and I founded the tragically short lived band Sonoplex. Max was a good friend and a creative mind behind Manic Motion. Sonoplex took its final form when we included Davis Goeforth and Kevin Djordjevic, two musicians who also played in Manic Motion. I was working with three brilliantly talented musicians, and together we created some amazing compositions. In September of 2010, I started my own event production business called Generation Binary. My temp job had expired around November, so, after Thanksgiving, music related activities became my only means of income. I lived fully immersed in music culture and had a truly epic time.
Q: What are the pros and cons of being an artist?
A: The artist lifestyle was fun, but it was never easy. Money would dry up fast. If it rained and no one showed up to my show, or the doormen decided my cut was too big, that little bit of cash I needed to buy food next week went poof. So by summer 2011, I started contemplating finding a steady job again. Jaded by the struggles of the green world, I was ready for anything so long as it put a good meal on the table. I lived on the beach with some of my best friends, played music all day every day. I met incredible people from every walk of life, all connected to each other by the love of sonic vibrations. It was my introduction into a world only few are able to see behind the scenes. For a while, the love of music and alternative culture kept my belly full – that and Ramen Noodles.
Q: Now that you don’t have to play music to eat or pay for your central heating, what changes have you noticed in your creativity?
A: Creativity abounds when stress fades from art, at least for me. Now that I have a stable job at Word Wizards, I can make music on a long-term schedule. When performing is your bread and butter, you can’t play the same songs every week and expect people to come back to your shows. When each song and each DJ set has to be prepared in a very short time span, perfection yields to the necessity of productivity.
Now I can spend months on a single track until it’s perfect. I have the luxury of time again. Sure DJing paid the bills and got me backstage, but it was other people’s music I was playing. Now I handcraft every tone, every sound, and every note myself.
Q: What is some advice you’d give to a person wrestling to build a stable life while pursuing the arts or some other hard to profit off passion?
A: There is no shame in comfort. Have no shame in wanting a life of stability and peace. Follow your passion with full vigor and make the sacrifices that will bring you to your goal. Find what you love to do, and then find a way to keep loving it while you do it. I didn’t make the decision to make music on the side to turn my back on my dream. I decided my dreams were so big they were worth taking my time to accomplish.