Freelancing 2020 and Beyond

A full indoor wedding gig during COVID…a bad decision.

It is hard to know where to start when discussing the *new* freelancing situation many of my musical colleagues and I find ourselves. We have been put in a near impossible position to choose between our financial livelihood and our health and well-being. I realize that musicians and artists are not the only people having to make this terrible decision and I in no way want to trivialize anyone else’s position. I can only speak to my experience and my thoughts when making a decision to work or not.

I could go on about what my normal schedule would have looked like this fall, and how great 2020 was looking in general (way above average), but that milk has spilled and I’m not counting it before it hatches.

Instead, let’s talk about what one has to consider now when being offered a gig in 2020 and beyond:

  1. Indoor or Outdoor?
    • Outdoor gigs are preferable. More space allows for proper social distancing between audience members and players.
    • Now that the weather has turned colder here in the Mid-West for Fall, most gigs offered will be held indoors.
    • If the gig is indeed indoors, is there proper ventilation? Will the room be large enough to accommodate the amount of people in attendance and in the band?
  2. How many people?
    • The amount of people that attend an event can affect the amount of aerosols lingering in the air.
    • Size of the ensemble makes a big difference as well as the instrumentation. Certain instruments (flutes and trumpets) spread aerosols around more than others, and many instruments (guitar, violin, bass, piano, etc) can be played while wearing a mask!
  3. How long is the gig? How large is the space?
    • The amount of time within a space can dramatically increase your risk of exposure.
    • The larger the space the better. The less time spent inside, the better.
  4. Who else is playing?
    • Some people aren’t taking the GLOBAL PANDEMIC seriously. Since musicians are people too, this means some musicians aren’t taking the necessary precautions needed to create a safe playing environment. I’ll find out who is on the gig before accepting/declining to make the best choice for the health and safety of myself and everyone around me.
  5. Are proper COVID-19 precautions taking place?
    • Are the hosts of the event, and contractor of the musicians REQUIRING face masks? Or simply RECOMMENDING face masks?
    • Will there be enough space for the proper amount of social distancing to take place?
    • Will there be plenty of hand sanitizer and places to wash hands?
  6. Easy entrance/exit and separate room for musicians?
    • Having a separate space for the musicians to safely congregate and having easy access to an exit/entrance, can ease some anxiety

I think the thing that bothers me the most is the fact that I even have to take the above considerations into consideration when booking or accepting a gig. I shouldn’t be in this position to decide between paying bills and keeping myself and my family safe. But, since there is an abject dereliction of responsibility from the top of our government, and decisions have been passed from one official down to the next, these literal life and death decisions are being made by people at the bottom just trying to get by.

I never thought I would have to take on this decision making process at the beginning of 2020. Things started off so well. Now, making decisions about accepting a gig can not only change my life, but change the lives of those around me.

Thankfully, the people calling to hire me are taking great care in ensuring my safety and the safety of others. With that said, I have still turned down more work over the past 6-7 months than I have accepted. The reward is certainly not worth the risk.


For more information about how COVID-19 is spread, how to make smart informed decisions, and the best way to stay safe while playing, check out these links:

Performing Arts Aerosol Study

How Safe Is Your Instrument?

Deciding to Go Out?

Guidelines for Vocalists and Musicians

2 thoughts on “Freelancing 2020 and Beyond

Add yours

  1. Well written Rich. Appreciate your perspective, and I understand the reality we are living in. Continue safe practices, in spite of those who think they shouldn’t have to.

  2. Excellent discussion of our new dynamics. Stay the course

    Thank you for helping think through our decisions too.
    Regards Harold Brown

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