Coronavirus plays havoc with a gig economy—what can you do?

Photo of Atlantic Beach, FL by Indie Art South
Atlantic Beach, FL. (Photo: Indie Art South)

We were on our way to Atlantic Beach—Rebecca was playing at Ragtime Tavern on Wednesday. We always leave way ahead of the gig for two reasons. Traffic and parking when we arrive.

Ironically Rebecca was concerned about a pleasant surprise.

Traffic was light, a rarity for those heading to the beach at 5 p.m. on a weekday. Even though we were glad traffic was light, Rebecca worried people might be afraid to come out because of the Coronavirus. I didn’t think so.

“School’s out this week because it’s spring break for a lot of kids,” I said. “And frankly, when times are hard for whatever reason, bars often benefit.” I told her I thought it would be a busy night.

And it was. The place was super busy from the time she started until she stopped around 11 p.m. The whole beach was busy that night.

With each day, though, news media have ramped up dire warnings about this virus. I wrote about the fear factor earlier. We fear this because it’s new. The fact the virus originated in a country ruled by the Communist Party doesn’t exactly calm our fears. In that country, allegiance is to party and there’s only one party you can safely vote for. Meanwhile the US is marching towards a presidential election, and politics figure significantly in the fear game here at home.

Many of us are already doing what experts tell us to do, such as washing our hands frequently, keeping distance between ourselves and others in public, and avoiding unnecessary travel. If you’re a working musician without a day job, one who doesn’t just do music on the weekends for fun, you’re probably, like Rebecca, very concerned about your business.

Large festivals are being canceled right and left. I know how that hurts because those festivals not only usually pay better than other venues, they offer exposure to a wide audience. Even smaller bars and restaurants are being urged to keep some space between customers. Will live music be next on the chopping block?

I don’t think so. I think small businesses have to stay open to stay alive. Most small businesses can’t go for days without revenue. Outdoor shows where you are removed from the audience, and where there’s ample space between the attendees, can conceivably go on and that might be a good thing for the spirit.

Music, is, after all, comfort food for the soul.

Other avenues for your revenue include product sales. Now might be a good time to offer product at reduced prices. Doing a show online might also work, if you can get your supporters to tip. That’s a hard one, I know.

Cutting costs is a given. Saving money on gas, food, travel, lodging, and any other flexible expenses may help offset that rent you still have to pay whether your shows gets canceled or not.

For telecommuters, this virus may make little difference. Writers, graphic artists, accountants, website developers, and other creatives are accustomed to working in a more or less isolated environment unless they have to personally interview someone or participate in a meeting.

Once the virus abates, I’d like to see the music community here do something to raise money for the fellow musicians who may lose work, but I’m not sure how that would work organizationally because there’s no group to disburse the funds once they’re raised.

What we have to do is weather this challenge just as we’ve weathered so many challenges in the past. There’s no magic bullet for surviving an interruption like this. This time it’s a virus.  Last year it was a hurricane—some of those storms have cost Rebecca thousands of dollars.

We’ll get through it, but it will take patience and compassion.

Here’s hoping measures officials across the nation are taking to mitigate the impact of this virus will stem the tide. The gig economy is tough enough as it is already.

As with all hardships, if you can help someone, do so, if you’re willing. In times of need, coming together does a lot to ease the pain.

(Kay B. Day/March 13, 2020)

Derelict by Rebecca Day
Image of ‘Derelict’ book cover courtesy of author.

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