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Musicians, photographers and others in Danville’s gig industry feeling fallout from virus | Business

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The spring and summer are supposed to be Matt Crowder’s busy seasons.

As a professional musician for the past five years, Crowder has made his living only through his music, traveling around as the front for a band that bears his name and as part of The Megan Doss Band, which specializes in cover songs.

When the weather gets nice, he plays almost every night of the week in bars, breweries and restaurants throughout the Dan River Region, with just a few days off per month.

But social distancing orders to stop the spread of the coronavirus prevents all establishments from serving in-house patrons or holding events, which means Crowder and fellow local musicians are suddenly without venues to perform in, and there’s no telling when that may change.

Many workers elsewhere in the gig economy — such as independent contractors, freelancers, small business owners and on-call workers — are seeing similar strains on their ability to work and earn money.

“When it’s your only source of income,” Crowder said, “and it gets taken away — I understand why, it’s all about the health and safety of the community — it’s a little scary wondering how you’re going to pay your bills, and whatever you might have saved up isn’t going to last forever.”

As a relief of sorts, new legislation has made it possible for gig workers to access unemployment insurance.

Typically, workers without a direct employer cannot apply for unemployment benefits, according to Hunter Byrnes of Byrnes Gould Law in Danville, but the recently passed CARES Act made it a point to include those workers as eligible for government assistance if their work has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The CARES Act significantly expanded unemployment benefits [extra money per week and extra weeks of eligibility] and simultaneously expanded the classifications for workers that are eligible for the benefits,” Byrnes wrote in an email.

Workers who might qualify should consult with the Virginia Employment Commission and the Department of Labor, Byrnes wrote. The nonprofit Longwood Small Business Development Center also has professionals available for free consultations with small business owners who have seen their opportunities to work diminish.

Mike Spangler, the sole proprietor of Mike’s Home Repairs in Danville, said he is fortunate to still have some work around town — primarily doing home remodels but sometimes also as a general handyman — but he recognizes that others are not as lucky.

“If we don’t get the work, we’re just as out as anybody else is,” he said.

In the last couple of weeks, Spangler has made calculated changes to what type of work he accepts while trying to be mindful of clients’ budgets and health.

“I have cut my hours back considerably to conserve their funding because I don’t want to drain them,” he said. “I’ve been advising my clients that unless these [tasks] are emergency situations, don’t spend your money on it.”

Like Crowder, the spring is also a busy time for Catherine Hairston, who owns Your Vision Photography Portrait Studio in northern Danville.

“It’s Easter season, so normally I would be overflowing with stuffed bunnies and fake eggs,” she said.

Under normal circumstances, Hairston said she could expect four days a week with one or two appointments for maternity shoots, senior pictures, family portraits and the like. Now, she only does two or three shoots per week if she’s lucky.

“The bookings are still coming in, but they’re not flowing in like they used to,” she said.

Hairston is still under contract for several weddings in the coming months, but those might also get pushed back based on each couple’s plans.

Her biggest concern, though, is paying the overhead costs for her studio.

“The studio lights aren’t even on right now,” Hairston said. “I’m only doing [shoots] outdoors. That’s how serious it’s gotten.”

As for Crowder, he and many other local musicians have resorted to performing through Facebook streams and collecting tips through apps such as Venmo, Cash App and PayPal. He’s missing out on the rates paid by venues for him to perform, but any money at this point is better than none at all.

“That’s not what we normally make, but all the tips and stuff are appreciated, and it really does make a difference,” he said.

To bring in more money, Crowder is now commissioning songs and offering guitar lessons.

He’s also attempting to record a new album in his home with the help of his brother, Jason, on drums and their father, Michael, on a variety of instruments. That task is proving difficult with just one microphone and an iPad, but being productive and creative while stuck at home feels good.

The album is his way to thank the fans who have tipped him during online shows.

“People have really stepped up and shown us a lot of love as far as trying to help out when they can,” he said.

Parker Cotton is a sports reporter at the Martinsville Bulletin and Danville Register & Bee. You can reach him at (276) 638-8801 ext. 215. Follow @ByParkerCotton.

Parker Cotton is a sports reporter at the Martinsville Bulletin and Danville Register & Bee. You can reach him at (276) 638-8801 ext. 215. Follow @ByParkerCotton. 

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Drive through gig returning to Southampton after successful launch

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ONE of the country’s first drive-in concerts was a huge success and another sold-out gig is taking place later this week.

For the first time since lockdown, live music returned to Southampton on Friday June 19, as hundreds of people rocked up to a live, socially distanced gig from the comfort of their cars at the Royal Victoria Country Park.

Around 80 cars filled with music fanatics watched as Sean McGowan headlined the unique event, supported by “Bash” and “Me and the Moon”.

Peter Nicholson, founder of Sound Level – the Southampton-based company who launched the event – was delighted with how well the event went, and is looking for the next gig on Friday July 3.

He said: “The gig went superbly, everything went 100% according to plan and we didn’t get one single bit of negative feedback. It was amazing, it felt like such an intimate event.

“It was so heart warming seeing everyone have fun because it was such hard work to organise and set everything up. The social distancing rules worked really well with everyone either standing to the left of their car, or sitting on top of them, and everyone who attended was very respectful of the venue, there wasn’t a single piece of litter left on site.”

The upcoming gig on Friday July 3 will see another 110 cars full of music lovers rock up to the same venue to watch south coast Indie band Wild Front perform, with supporting artists Mauvey and Grace Savage.

While this event is sold out, it has been confirmed that yet another drive-in concert will be taking place later this month on Friday July 17, with the line-up set to be announced shortly.

Tickets cost £40 per car, with a maximum of five people per car, and all social distancing measures must be followed.



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Knoxville gig worker wins unemployment after weeks of waiting

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — For months, a gig worker, or independent contractor, has waited for her pandemic unemployment check through the federal government.

To apply for it, she had to go through the Tennessee labor department’s unemployment website, but the check never came.

Since she qualified for compensation, she called WATE 6 On Your Side’s Don Dare asking for help.

Nancy Snowden, a widow, has been out of work since mid-March. She’s an independent contractor. A gig worker who demonstrates food and drinks at places like Kroger and Walmart.

Under the federal disaster unemployment assistance program for COVID-19, she is eligible for benefits. Months ago, she went to the Tennessee Department of Labor’s website to register.

Gig workers are not eligible for Tennessee unemployment compensation, but they are eligible for federal pandemic compensation.

“They stated that gig workers were going to qualify for this. I’m a gig worker. Therefore, go ahead and send your application in. That is what I did. It took me 20 hours to navigate their system with my Smartphone,” Snowden said.

Snowden registered in April, but heard nothing. She contacted the state again in May. Same frustrating result.

“I couldn’t reach anybody, I couldn’t call anybody.  I sent emails, there was no answer. I got on their website to their chat room for them to talk to me about my problem,” Snowden said. “It listed that I was the 1,060th-some person. I thought ‘I’m not sitting here for that.’ “

The state has added hundreds of workers in Nashville to handle thousands of people filing for unemployment compensation. Being on hold for a long time is not unusual.

“I thought I did everything right,” Snowden said.

When Snowden contacted us yesterday. We sent an email to the state explaining her situation. Within two hours, there was a response.

“Oh, they said they had approved my application. I was really sweating this. I didn’t know what I was going to do,” Snowden said.

Soon, her unemployment check from the federal government will be on its way — within a few days.

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Ringo Starr to reunite with Paul McCartney for 80th birthday gig

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Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney are joining forces to celebrate Ringo’s birthday (Picture: Rex)

Sir Ringo Starr will be reuniting with Sir Paul McCartney to celebrate his 80th birthday and now all we can hear are the screams of Beatles fans.

The legendary musician will join forces with his former bandmate for his annual ‘Peace and Love’ livestream charity concert on 7 July.

Ringo – who has held similar gigs on the same date for the past 12 years – is bringing together the likes of Sheryl Crow, Joe Walsh, Ben Harper, Gary Clark Jr. and more.

‘Ringo’s Big Birthday Show’ – which will raise money for Black Lives Matter Global Network, MusiCares, The David Lynch Foundation and WaterAid – will air on 7 July on his YouTube channel.

There’s going to be at-home performances, previously unseen footage and all the nostalgia a Beatles enthusiast can muster.

The change to this year’s event comes amid the coronavirus pandemic, with concerts cancelled across the world due to social distancing measures.

Discussing his upcoming bash in a video on Instagram, the iconic musician said: ‘We’re doing something for my birthday, but it’s a little different than usual.’

Explaining how it’s going to work this year, he added: ‘Anyway I’m having fun and I hope you are.’

Ringo signed off: ‘Peace and love. That’s all I ask. Wherever you are – on a bus, down the mine, in a spaceship, in a rocket.’

Last year, the drummer was joined by the likes of David Lynch, Peter Jackson, Nils Lofgren, Sheila E., Benmont Tench and Ed Begley, Jr. as he celebrated his 79th birthday in style.

The same year, he reunited with Paul McCartney for a special rendition of John Lennon’s track, Grow Old With Me.

Ringo and Paul reunited last year too to cover a John Lennon song (Picture: Bettmann Archive)

The song was included on the former’s 20th studio album What’s My Name and also featured a musical line from Here Comes The Sun, which was penned by Fab Four bandmate George Harrison for the group.

Ringo said at the time: ‘I sang it the best that I could. I do well up when I think of John this deeply. And I’ve done my best. We’ve done our best.

‘The other good thing is that I really wanted Paul to play on it, and he said yes. Paul came over and he played bass and sings a little bit on this with me. So John’s on it in a way. I’m on it and Paul’s on it.’

He went on: ‘It’s not a publicity stunt. This is just what I wanted. And the strings that Jack arranged for this track, if you really listen, they do one line from Here Comes The Sun.

‘So in a way, it’s the four of us.’

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