The word “gig,” now commonly applied to any informal form of paid work, as in “gig economy,” was originally specific to musicians.
Shorthand for “engagement,” a gig was a paid performance in a club or other performance venue: the working musician’s bread and butter.
It wasn’t surprising, therefore, that performing artists were the first to feel the sting of the enhanced community quarantine. Overnight, the entire gig economy, on which their fragile livelihoods depended, collapsed.
Writers and painters can continue to create in solitude, and many may even thrive during a lockdown.
The musician’s art, in contrast, comes to life only in performance, for which an audience is vital. Not being able to play live is a double whammy: It hurts the wallet, and it hurts the artist.
Now they really have to get creative.
Lifestyle touched base with a few of the hardest-working artists in the local music scene to see how they’re coping.
Dito makikita na ang artist ay “isang kahig, isang tuka,” dahil ’pag walang gig, walang kakainin o pambili ng pagkain.
I have some savings but no income, so there’s a need to manage the small budget we have. At least my wife and son are working. I’m also trying to collect some payments, but since there’s no work, there’s no one to process the collectibles.
I’m trying to be creative. I’m writing new songs for my upcoming album, learning and relearning new and old songs to add to my gig repertoire.
It is also a time to bond with my family. We have a lot of conversations, something we missed during the time of normalcy because of our busy schedules.
My son and I just did a Facebook Live gig. We plan to do this once a week. Maybe explore the possibility of virtual gigging, but I don’t know how to market that. People are also in a tight situation economically, like the rest of us. They’d rather get free entertainment, I guess.There’s a lot of time now for artists to use their creativity and hone their skills.
This unfortunate experience gives us a lot of things or points for reflection. I recall my parents’ and grandparents’ World War II stories, on how they survived and passed on to us the lessons that the war taught them. It’s the same thing now, but I hope this won’t be a prolonged “war,” because I can imagine widespread chaos if this isn’t solved.
I believe that artists are catalysts for change. Now maybe is the time to write something about this experience. And when this is over, we can sing the lessons about this, or the stories that would arise from this dire situation. And tell the superpowers and greedy corporations to stop messing up the environment. Because this is the consequence.
(D.A.M.O.—the Dong Abay Music Organization)
Of course the lockdown has really taken a toll on live performers like me because music is considered a “nonessential.” Bars are closed, gigs canceled or rescheduled indefinitely, mass gatherings totally stopped.
I’m relying on my little savings and trying to be creative at home. Right now I’m learning woodworking and some other visual art sh-t, listening to music, gardening, biking, doing dancing and movement, meditating, resting on my hammock, playing with my beagles.
I’m also active on social media as a microblogging humorist.
Advice for fellow artists? Just create.
I’m just living the now, always thankful and hopeful.
[Playing music] is not just a bread-and-butter thing, not even just a profession, but a devotion.
Since it will be a monthlong break (we hope) of no gigs and after-gig chill with fellow musicians, I am taking advantage of the lockdown, immersing in reviewing old pieces I haven’t played publicly yet, learning new ones—contemporary and of course unheard-of pieces which is my forte. I’m arranging them to suit my style, not to mention composing my own material—music coming out from these uncertain and bleak times not just in our country but also the world over.
Amid the sea of pessimism, the government circus, fake news, COVID-19 misinformation and paranoia, I remain optimistic in my faith in a Higher Power: that everything will be well for our beloved Motherland in the end.
Skarlet Brown (Put3Ska, Brownbeat All-Stars)
The impact of the lockdown has been hard for me, of course. My Airbnb business has closed down, I had three corporate gigs and four bar gigs canceled. My partner isn’t working so we both had to withdraw money against our insurance.
I can’t gig online, so I’m doing campaigns, posting DIY stuff, help advisories. We are setting up rationing schedules with friends. I have no time yet to sing.
A friend (Joey Bautista of Mulatto) died of COVID-19 so I was sad, but now I’m pumped to start my campaign.
I’m like this when I’m not gigging—my mind goes on “hyper” mode. I read and write poems, I plan, then I write.
I just did a video on social media asking the utilities, banks and service companies to restructure their billing payments, [asking for] a 30-day extension. It is a public service call. (www.facebook.com/pages/category/Musician/Skarlet-Brown-114748101892881)
(Tres Marias, Color It Red)
Before this COVID-19 thing happened I was super busy with shows, a show in Korea with other ’90s artists, with Tres Marias and Color it Red. Nakakapanibago talaga mawalan ng shows.When I became a mom 19 years ago, additional income was a constant concern, so I started applying for jobs. In 2010 someone finally gave me a chance, so I’ve been a part-time librarian/data researcher for International Alert for almost 10 years now.
Since it’s part time, my salary from my office job isn’t that big. The bulk of our monthly expenses for the household, and the help I give my parents and siblings, really come from shows. Now I really have to rely on my savings. Buti na lang hindi ako mahilig mag-shopping at exaggerated ako magtipid, so I get by now that there are no gigs.I try to stick to my daily routine. Before COVID-19 it was 6 a.m. gym, 9 a.m. office, 2 p.m. nap to get ready for the show, then leave at 7 p.m. for the gig. Now I just workout and work at home, rest, then instead of the gig I just do anything related to music, listen to jazz standards or read books.
Psychologically, it’s hard. I’ve been crying for days. I’m a bit prone to anxiety, and I got over depression before with the help of a Gold’s Gym sponsorship—it really is a big help for mental health.
Advice to fellow artists? If we can hold down two jobs, do it because there’s really no security in what we do as musicians. Specially if we have children and family who rely on us. Invest in Philhealth and health cards if possible. Save, save, save. Don’t buy any gear if you don’t have extra cash, and don’t use up your money on vices (that’s why I only drink cheap brandy!).
Most important—never stop playing and creating.
(Juan Pablo Dream, Flippin’ Soul Stompers)
Musicians like myself are greatly affected by the enhanced community quarantine since we depend on gigs for livelihood. I’m trying to fit in whatever savings I have in this monthlong quarantine. I just hope that the government has some measures (relief goods/food packages, etc.) for us musicians to sustain us during this time. My advice to fellow musicians/artists is to not lose hope. Let us protect one another. Stay at home and practice social distancing. We will get through this together. Laban Pilipinas!
Artists usually dig into savings, but not everyone has savings. There are more of us who are marginalized and depend on gigs.
I have a preexisting condition so I have to be doubly careful.
Artists and musicians should consolidate and help each other. Social solidarity is what the organized sector suggests, while maintaining distance during interactions. The future is uncertain for everyone, but the government seems to be unaware of the predicament of our marginalized sectors.
I’m trying my best to push for an HMO (health maintenance organization) for artists with the Department of Labor and Employment, so we can be included in their adjustment measures and programs for affected workers. It’s a long shot, but we need to try everything possible. So many events have been canceled, we need to think of a way to get colleagues through this calamity. Please message all artists you know who need this support. Walang magmamalasakit sa atin kundi tayo rin. (www.facebook.com/chickoy.pura) INQ