Tag Archives: Hollywood

The Academy Awards and the Gig Economy

Since its Academy Award season, I thought  it would be appropriate to compare the Gig Economy to Hollywood.  Stephen Kasriel the CEO of Upwork  wrote an article in Fast Company last year called "Why the Future of Work will Look a lot like Hollywood."   I agree wholeheartedly and in fact wrote a similar piece years ago on the  parallels with the movie industry. I elaborated on that idea in my new book, Thriving in the Gig Economy.  Here is a brief excerpt.

"The movie industry  had been a freelance marketplace, since the 1940’s.  From its origins in the 1920’s, it was vertically integrated; actors, directors, writers and technical staff worked for the studios, and the studios owned the cinemas. The time period, referred to as either the studio system years or the Golden Age of Hollywood, was known for formula movies, with actors playing very similar roles in similar stories, because the business formula was to utilize the talent that was on the payroll at the studio. (Think about all those old  Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies…)  The change came in 1948 when a Supreme Court ruling  required  the studio to divest themselves of their distribution operations. At the same time, a threat appeared from another corner, as  technological advances resulted in a new media form -  television.

As the studio system broke down, the talent began to take control of their own careers.  Talent agencies emerged as the market makers in talent, and unions arose to protect various specialties.  In fact, many have pointed to this parallel as a reason why Gig Economy workers may need to unionize. In the movie business today, people come together in all the disciplines, writers, actors, set designers, assistant directors and key grips, to name just a few, to create a film. Once it is over, the various players disband and go on to the next gig."

It is no surprise, that  in the business analog, the first players  to become independent were the stars,  just like in the movie model. Back in 1988  ( before the internet...ouch!) it took me no time to build up a strong network of consultants numbering in the 1000s.  Independent expertise of the most credentialed sort  has been around for decades, well before the advent of what people typically think of as the gig economy,  i.e. the uber drivers or free-lance workers on the Upwork platform. It's the stars, the highly accomplished independent consultants and interim managers,  who wanted to take control of their careers and make choices about how they would use their talents.

 

In the meantime, digital platforms and traditional intermediaries are making it easier for talented independent workers to find that next gig.  One firm, Tongal, which touts its innovative approach to content creation, works with companies and brands to produce TV commercials, digital advertising, and social media videos in crowd sourced competitions with the creative talent on its platforms.  Since 2014, it has held and annual Tongie Award celebration https://tongal.com/tongies to recognize the amazing talents in its network and the just as impressive content they have created.  A 2016 winner, "Children are Children", a video  for the Ad Council and the No Different From Us Refugee Project was very moving.

So when you watch the Academy Awards and think of all those glamorous stars, remember, they have already moved on to their next gig.

 

The Trump Administration and the Gig Economy

The co-founder of WorkMarket, https://www.workmarket.com/about#jeff-wald Jeff Wald, hosted a webinar today on what the new Trump administration will mean for the on-demand economy.  Since I differentiate the Gig Economy from  the On-Demand one in my new book, Thriving in the Gig Economy, which will be coming out next spring, I listened more for the implications for the career gig workers, experts who have chosen to create a careers as  independent workers.

With the disclaimer that no one REALLY knows what may happen, Wald's prediction was two fold - what is likely to happen in 2017 and what may happen in 2018.  Immediately after the inauguration, regulations , especially those resulting from the 2010 Obama task force meant to tackle worker misclassification would be discontinued or not enforced.  The misclassification, of course, refers to the independent contractor vs. employee issue, which I have probably blogged too much about.  ( See my post I am Uber the Uber Lawsuit ) Moreover, he thought the task force would be disbanded immediately. This could bode well for many senior consultants who would like to work independently as an independent contractor but have clients who are wary of the misclassification risk.

Wald did not think the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly referred to as ObamaCare would be repealed, rather he thought it would be revised into "DonaldCare", where certain elements would be maintained, like the coverage of children up to 26 on their parents' plans. The ACA has been a key enabler in the gig economy, since the ability to secure health insurance make the decision to go solo a more viable one.  Although I hope Wald is correct on this prognostication, I am withholding judgement until the Labor Secretary is named.

Perhaps the most important action, and the one which will have the least attention, is the appointment of a new Commissioner for the National Labor Relations Board. (NLRB) One of two recent NLRB decisions adversely impacted the staffing industry, by  increasing the risk of co-employment when using temporary staffing/gig workers.  A new NLRB appointee could reverse that decision, which would be a boon for temporary and specialty staffing firms.

And finally, the Supreme Court  appointment could have a major impact on the workplace. Frederick vs. the California Teachers' Association was denied a hearing in a 4 to 4 decision in June. The case involved mandatory union fees.  The tea leaves Wald reads suggests that a rehearing with a new more conservative court would strike down the mandatory fees, which would be a major blow to organized labor. Since many are suggesting the gig economy should become unionized, much like Hollywood back in the day, such an action may alter that thinking.

Looking into his crystal ball for 2018, Wald thought there could be some movement in the chronic problem of worker classification.  Trump likes to simplify complexity, and the rules governing independent contractor compliance are nothing if not complex.  Wald thought there is a chance that certain benefits, like retirement, may be unbundled from employment.  (Again something I just blogged about as well - Work, Jobs and the Gig Economy ).  Finally, tax reform will likely take until 2018, since it is a complex problem.  Again, in the interest of simplification, the new tax regulations could eliminate many of the business deduction provisions that have been a mainstay of the self-employed career consultants. That said, a lot will happen between now and then.  Time to strap on for the ride.

What is gig economy? - Definition from WhatIs.com

A gig economy is an environment in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements.
What is gig economy? - Definition from WhatIs.com

A gig economy is an environment in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements.

Hollywood and the Future of Work

Stephen Kasriel the CEO of Upwork just wrote an article in Fast Company called "Why the Future of Work will Look a lot like Hollywood."   I agree wholeheartedly and in fact wrote a similar piece years ago on the movie model. I pointed out that It is no surprise, that  in the business analog, the first players  to become independent were the stars,  just like in the movie model. Back in 1988  ( before the internet...ouch!) it took me no time to build up a strong network of consultants numbering in the 1000s.  Independent expertise of the most credentialed sort  has been around for decades, well before the advent of what people typically think of as the gig economy,  i.e. the uber drivers or free-lance workers on the  Upwork platform. It's the stars, the highly accomplished independent consultants and interim managers,  who wanted to to take control of their careers and make choices about how they would use their talents.

 

But there are two salient  but potentially related differences  between the movie world and the high end of the gig economy.  The first is that no one seems to take issue with the movie model.  The fact that talents of all sorts, from cinematographers to actors to musicians, come together for a one year gig  to make a movie and then disband is not derided as a dangerous model. This gig economy is accepted for what it is - the best way to complete a large scale cinematic project. However the other key difference is the fact that  Hollywood is a land of unions. The  writers, composers, actors and directors are all in a union or guild.  Additionally, the agents who represent them are also union members.  Is it this labor affiliation that spares the movie model from criticism?

Just today, the AFL CIO declared that gig workers should be employees.  They implied but did not suggest outright that therefore they should be union employees.

I can't speak to the low level roles in the gig economy, but I can speak to those who represent the most skilled, the consultants who have gone independent by choice.  One once told me she never wanted to be an employee ever again.  I will extrapolate that she wouldn't want a union card either...

 

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