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Participating In The New Gig Economy

March 25, 2020

I went to a concert today. It was a concert by Rachel Solomon. She wouldn’t have called it a concert. In fact it was really a piano bar. Well, I guess actually it was virtually a piano bar. In fact, that’s what it was called Rachel’s Virtual Piano Bar(c). I’m not really sure how many people were there. I couldn’t really see anyone else. I suppose I could have but I didn’t bother clicking on anyone’s profile picture.

Before the concert I had to go to work today. The first call came in at 5:45 AM. I joined a meeting at 8:00 AM and was on one or more more calls all the way up until about 9:00 PM. I was a little late to Rachel’s concert as a result. I attended both work and the concert in my pajamas.

Welcome to the new reality. My job, fortunately, is secure. I am a Technical Program Manager for a large telecommunication company. I’ve spent the last few weeks building a work-at-home strategy for our call center agents. We are spending 12-13 hour days getting it done. My job is classified as essential. I guess that means I can go into work at the call center if I choose to.

I don’t.

I’m working from home.

Not everyone is as lucky as me. And I really am lucky to be working 12-14 hour days. I have plenty of family and friends who are not nearly as fortunate as I am. They are either out of work or struggling on reduced hours.

Some of my friends who are hardest hit are entertainers. The writers are doing okay. David Farland, creator of Runelords, and I have been friends for decades. He posted,

Due to the Covid-19 virus, I plan to stay home and write for a few weeks.

Then in the comments he added, “So not much different than normal.”

But performers like Rachel have lost their jobs without ever being fired. I met her when she was performing on a ship with another artist Pierson Keating. I love live performances. And piano bars, especially. I spent a lot of time listening to their dueling pianos. I became friends with both Rachel and Pierson during the week at sea.

I have another friend, Steve Hofstetter. Steve is a Mets fan, a sometimes TV personality and a fulltime travelling stand up comedian. He travels about 300 days per year and does tours all over the world.

But, not this month. The comedy clubs closed their doors and Steve found himself in quarantine like the rest of us. An artist without an audience.

My daughter-in-law and her husband both lost their jobs. They had entry level jobs. She was a temp CNA. He worked at McDonalds. Now they are both out of work. Them and indirectly my eight month old granddaughter.

Mark has been my friend longer than anyone else I know. We met in the 5th grade at Lakes elementary in Lacey, Washington. Mark is one of the smartest guys I know. He was much smarter than me in school. But, we were both kind of nerdy that way.

Mark has carved out a nice business for himself teaching Wilderness First Responder classes all around the world. At least that’s what he was doing last month. This month he’s unemployed. And having been self employed, he’s not eligible for unemployment. He’s not even sure he’ll get part of the stimulus money, although even if he does, $1200 won’t go far.

Mark will figure something out. He’s always resourceful like that. And being my age, that is to say closer to old than young, he’ll probably work until he dies. He’s divorced with two grown daughters. He also owns a track of land and is well skilled in the art of survival. He’s one of the few people I know who can safely can salmon. (You do that wrong and you won’t just get sick, you’ll die.) Mark will be okay.

My daughter and son-in-law will do what young married couples have always done. They’ll scramble and keep going until they can find something better. In fact, my son-in-law immediately applied as a call center agent at my company. And then asked me for a recommendation. Smart kid. I really like this one.

But, the entertainers have always lived on the financial fringes of society. Historically artists often were supported by a patron. Modern performers sometimes turn to the a similar model. Steve Hofstetter, for example, has an account on Patreon is a website where you can choose to support an artist for as little as $1 per month, or as much as you’d like. The idea is that you want your favorite independent artist to continue to create, so you throw some money at them each month.

Now many artists are also turning to online performances. Sometimes they are pay-per-view type of arrangements, but for struggling artists often their best option is to create compelling content and offer it up for free. . .with an option to tip.

I tipped during Rachel’s performance. It was about the same amount I’d pay for a local comedy show. I have no idea how much Rachel made from her tip jar. I don’t imagine it was anywhere near as much as she’d earn on the ship. But, I do know that I’m probably going to weather this current economic crisis reasonably well.

And if I truly believe that arts are important, and that my friends are important, it’s my job to help where I can, even if that means paying for free online concerts.

You can find Rachel Solomon’s page here.

Pierson Keating’s music can be found here.

Steve Hofstetter’s comedy content is available here. (NSFW)

David Farland’s home page is here.

And finally, you can read a review I did of Rachel’s excellent second album “Right On Time” here.

If you are doing okay in this economy, try to help others, whether it’s supporting local shops, or paying for free concerts.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2020 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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