“The message I would just want to keep putting out there is that whatever you’re doing, especially if you’re in the gig economy, in service or in creative fields, in performance and music and arts, your work is worthy of high value. And you’re a worker. You’re a worker. You deserve to be treated with the dignity and respect of someone who works and contributes to your world around you.”~Michele Thomas, jazz musician, singer, songwriter
Good enough. That phrase has been playing on a loop lately. Maybe you’ve asked yourself the following questions about good enough:
How much of that unpolished content is good enough to share now?
How much social media posting is good enough to remind followers that you’re there to help, but not overwhelm them (or you)?
Whose contribution to society is good enough to earn them a decent living wage or housing stability or healthcare?
Didn’t think we’d go deep, huh? That’s ok. This pandemic has laid bare myriad imbalances and forced many of us to reconsider the answers to weightier questions:
Why is the only route to security through a traditional payrolled job?
Why aren’t the services or art that gig workers provide deemed good enough to earn them in place in the national conversation about income equality and similar protections?
Michele Thomas is a Chicago-based jazz singer and voice teacher who knows what it means to gig. It was artists, after all, who created the original gig economy long before mobile apps co-opted the idea.
Up until last month, Michele was busy hustling that gig life when her calendar suddenly fell apart thanks to the Coronavirus outbreak here in the US. The subsequent weeks have been a mixed bag of worry, optimism, introspective creative projects, and…worry.
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“It’s just interesting to me that you’re suddenly seeing more in the media about the concept of gig economy…It’s just like, man, if you talk to artists and musicians we know the gig economy. That’s been a standard, that’s our lives. We’ve lived that since the dawn of time…If they’d only talk to us, we could have told them how bad it’s gonna be, how vulnerable everyone would be.”~Michele Thomas
She’s watched DJs go virtual with house party sets and followed musicians of other genres pick up where they left off, recording tracks in isolation and editing as usual. But jazz is like the friend whose job doesn’t allow them much of a work-from-home option. The energy is derived from the interplay between ensemble members making live music together – often in front of an audience.
Beyond the logistics of where to perform now and how to deliver that sound, jazz musicians like Michele are grappling with how these emergency methods might forever change the genre itself.
Without the hustle to keep her busy, Michele’s had time to reflect on how much of her art and her happiness relies on her audience. She’s also protective of that connection, deeply concerned about how gig workers and traditional employees fair after the pandemic. She hopes all the time spent sheltering in place consuming art and unable to support our local services will lead to a collective reckoning about who and what constitutes good enough.
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