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



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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Comedian Hannibal Buress working the drive-in circuit, starting with North Ridgeville gig | Entertainment




A calming voice during the chaos of life.

That’s what irreverent and satirical comedian Hannibal Buress brings to the stage.

Nowhere was this comedic aesthetic more on display than at one of Buress’ favorite Northeast Ohioappearances. His memory of the 2013 show at the Grog Shop in Cleveland Heights remains as vivid as ever.

“At the time, I was doing my song ‘Gibberish Rap,’” said Buress, calling from the Chicago. “I was really into the production of it, so we hired a lot of local costumed characters in each city. In Cleveland, we got this Incredible Hulk who was really dancing. I think we also had a Mario.

“(Lorain-based comedian) Ramon (Rivas II) had a couple of friends agree to come on stage and do balloon animals. It was chaos. That was a fun one. I had a great time.”

Getting his start nearly 20 years ago, the Windy City-based comedian’s resume includes brief stints writing for “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock.” He also appeared in the hilarious “The Eric Andre Show” and feature film “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” as well as made the late-night talk show rounds.

While Buress wasn’t the first person to speak out about rape allegations against Bill Cosby, it was his viral set that started the dominoes to fall and helped lead to “America’s Dad” going to prison. (Unfortunately, Buress’ publicist requested no Cosby questions in this recent phone interview.)

Hannibal Buress-v

Comic Hannibal Buress says you’re not looking for jokes related to the novel coronavirus pandemic, so he’s not doing any. 

That turned out to be just fine because the timing of his most recent special “Miami Nights,” which debuted on YouTube this summer, couldn’t have been any more apropos considering the current climate in the country.

The centerpiece of the special is his unlawful 2017 arrest in Miami.

“There are some people in those positions, police officers, who aren’t really emotionally suited to be in the spot — including this guy that I interacted with,” Buress said. “With everything that’s happening, it forces them to really look within at how people are being evaluated when they go into those positions, because it’s a very important position. You want folks who are stable.

“The thing with [the police officer who arrested him] is he had been disciplined. He had off-duty incidents where he ran from the police. He was a fugitive, and I got arrested by him somehow. It’ll take some time for things to fix themselves, but there’s a lot of work being done and there’s a lot of work to do.”

Speaking of work, Buress remains as busy as possible during the pandemic. Not only did he recently release the first episode of his new gambling-centered podcast, “Splitting 10s,” but he’s also looking to get back on the road.

Buress’ “Let’s See How This Goes” drive-in theater tour kicks off in Northeast Ohio with a gig Sept. 22 at North Ridgeville’s Auto-O-Rama Twin Drive In.

Mind you, Buress admitted it’s been decades since the last time he visited a drive-in theater, but everyone has to get a bit out of his or her comfort zone these days.

“I saw that Marc Rebillet and Bert Kreischer did a drive-in theater tour, so I decided to try it out,” Buress said. “It’s something new. Some comedy clubs are open, but you’re not really able to do full capacity. The drive-in-show experience is still something that’s kind of fresh, so I think it’ll be dope for people.”

While fans attending the show can expect new material, there’s one fresh topic he won’t be talking about. Buress said he doesn’t have any COVID-19 material.

“Hell, no,” Buress laughed. “Nope. No pandemic jokes. People don’t want to hear that.”

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Gig workers like and want flexibility, that’s why they became gig workers – Orange County Register




Are gig workers ⁠— think Uber drivers or Door Dashers ⁠— seeking to trade their flexible occupations for a full-time, 40-hour-week job?

Two recent surveys suggest they’re not interested. A survey of 1,000 on-demand drivers, commissioned by Uber and conducted by a duo of polling firms representing clients on the political left and right, finds that 85 percent prefer some version of their current flexible arrangement. Another survey ⁠— this one of 1,000 independent contractors, and commissioned by Lyft ⁠— concluded that 71 percent want to retain their current status.

Both surveys suggest that workers are happy with their “gig.” Don’t tell that to labor unions and their allies. To bolster their opposition to Proposition 22 ⁠— an initiative on the fall ballot that would solidify on-demand drivers’ and shoppers’ status ⁠— labor has pointed to a handful of comforting studies suggesting that gig workers are exploited.

The first, released through a San Francisco city commission, claimed that most gig workers work full-time schedules and earn poverty-level wages while doing so. But records requests, reported by the Washington Free Beacon, discovered that this conclusion was based on a convenience survey of respondents identified by a labor group–many of whom were paid for their answers. The study organizer acknowledged that the survey–which was drafted to “support organizing” ⁠— was “not representative” of gig workers’ experiences.

Speaking of unrepresentative: Labor and its allies have also hinged their case on a 2019 working paper from Veena Dubal, a law professor at the University of California-Hastings. In her paper, Dubal dismisses the numerous statistical surveys showing that on-demand drivers don’t want to be employees. Her own conclusions are based on “unstructured conversations with drivers in driver organizing meetings” ⁠— among other unrepresentative sources.

Got that? Having sought out the unhappy few among the on-demand shopper and driver community, Dubal concludes that all drivers in the state must feel similarly.

This anti-empirical stance by labor and its academic allies, and their unwillingness to acknowledge that shoppers and drivers prefer their “gigs,” has dangerous consequences.  In a recent legal brief, rideshare company Uber described in damning detail what would happen should it be forced to convert its independent drivers into full-time employees.

An estimated 75 percent of current drivers would lose access to the Uber employment model–resulting in one million lost employment opportunities. (The legal brief notes that these facts are undisputed by the company’s opponents.) Prices would increase for riders by anywhere from 20 to 120 percent; the company further explains that “at least a quarter of rides would no longer be available, with certain cities experiencing a decrease of 40-60 percent.”

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Collaboration in the Gig Economy keynote day one




18 September 2020

Hiring managers already have a much more complex choice than in the past. It’s not just whether to hire a traditional employee to get a job done — the procurement supply chain is much larger. Today’s choices include using a staffing agency temp, engaging an independent contractor, calling in an SOW consultant or turning to an online work platform. And technology continues to bring changes — with Covid-19 speeding up the evolution.

“I would argue that times of crisis and times of change, like we are in today, will help propel the next stage of digital transformation,” SIA President Barry Asin said in a keynote speech Thursday kicking off the Collaboration in the Gig Economy virtual conference.

Asin cited technological change wrought by the last recession: In 2007, only 24% of large companies had a VMS in place at its start in 2007; by 2020, the percentage had grown to 64%.

Fast forward to today — there was $1 billion in venture capital funding focused on the HR tech space in the second quarter alone.

Large companies that use staffing are more and more turning to tech. SIA data found 43% of large staffing buyers foresee an increase in usage of online staffing/talent pool in the next 10 years. Evolving concepts such as direct sourcing are already used by 30% of buyers, and 49% plan to put a direct-sourcing program in place within the next two years; much of it fueled by new tech offerings.

“I think that what we’re seeing — particularly for the traditional service providers in the talent supply chain — is a real digital transformation, and the current crisis is accelerating that digital transformation,” Asin said. “And it’s accelerating it for all the players involved at the different points of that supply chain.”

Already, 54 million Americans did gig work in 2019, approximately 34% of workforce, according to SIA data. That amounts to $1.3 trillion in spend with the largest share going to independent contractors. SIA defines the gig economy as including all types of contingent work, including

  • staffing agency temporary workers
  • SOW consultants
  • directly hired temporaries
  • online platform workers
  • independent contractors

The Collaboration in the Gig Economy Conference brings together all parts of the ecosystem to talk the latest trends and advances. Attendees include enterprise buyers, staffing suppliers, VMS/MSP companies, human cloud/on demand platforms and technology solutions providers.

“There is a wave and a transformational change that we are seeing in society,” Asin said. “Many of you are on the leading edge of that change.”

The virtual event continues through today.

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