The Upsurge in Uncertain Work

As Labor Day looms, more Americans than ever don’t know how much they’ll be earning next week or even tomorrow.

This varied group includes independent contractors, temporary workers, the self-employed, part-timers, freelancers, and free agents. Most file 1099s rather than W2s, for tax purposes.

On demand and on call – in the “share” economy, the “gig” economy, or, more prosaically, the “irregular” economy – the result is the same: no predictable earnings or hours. 

It’s the biggest change in the American workforce in over a century, and it’s happening at lightening speed. It’s estimated that in five years over 40 percent of the American labor force will have uncertain work; in a decade, most of us.

Increasingly, businesses need only a relatively small pool of “talent” anchored in the enterprise –  innovators and strategists responsible for the firm’s unique competitive strength.

Everyone else is becoming fungible, sought only for their reliability and low cost.

Complex algorithms can now determine who’s needed to do what and when, and then measure the quality of what’s produced. Reliability can be measured in experience ratings. Software can seamlessly handle all transactions – contracts, billing, payments, taxes.

All this allows businesses to be highly nimble – immediately responsive to changes in consumer preferences, overall demand, and technologies.

While shifting all the risks of such changes to workers. 

Whether we’re software programmers, journalists, Uber drivers, stenographers, child care workers, TaskRabbits, beauticians, plumbers, Airbnb’rs, adjunct professors, or contract nurses – increasingly, we’re on our own. 

And what we’re paid, here and now, depends on what we’re worth here and now – in a spot-auction market that’s rapidly substituting for the old labor market where people held jobs that paid regular salaries and wages.

Even giant corporations are devolving into spot-auction networks. Amazon’s algorithms evaluate and pay workers for exactly what they contribute.

Apple directly employs fewer than 10 percent of the 1 million workers who design, make and sell iMacs and iPhones. 

This giant risk-shift doesn’t necessarily mean lower pay. Contract workers typically make around $18 an hour, comparable to what they earned as “employees.”

Uber and other ride-share drivers earn around $25 per hour, more than double what the typical taxi driver takes home. 

The problem is workers don’t know when they’ll earn it. A downturn in demand, or sudden change in consumer needs, or a personal injury or sickness, can make it impossible to pay the bills. 

So they have to take whatever they can get, now: ride-shares in mornings and evenings, temp jobs on weekdays, freelance projects on weekends, Mechanical Turk or TaskRabbit tasks in between.

Which partly explains why Americans are putting in such long work hours – longer than in any other advanced economy.

And why we’re so stressed. According to polls, almost a quarter of American workers worry they won’t be earning enough in the future. That’s up from 15 percent a decade ago.

Irregular hours can also take a mental toll. Studies show people who do irregular work for a decade suffer an average cognitive decline of 6.5 years relative people with regular hours.

Such uncertainty can be hard on families, too. Children of parents working unpredictable schedules or outside standard daytime working hours are likely to have lower cognitive skills and more behavioral problems, according to new research

For all these reasons, the upsurge in uncertain work makes the old economic measures – unemployment and income – look far better than Americans actually feel.

It also renders irrelevant many labor protections such as the minimum wage, worker safety, family and medical leave, and overtime – because there’s no clear “employer.”

And for the same reason eliminates employer-financed insurance – Social Security, workers compensation, unemployment benefits, and employer-provided health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

What to do?  Courts are overflowing with lawsuits over whether companies have misclassified “employees” as “independent contractors,” resulting in a profusion of criteria and definitions.

We should aim instead for simplicity: Whatever party – contractor, client, customer, agent, or intermediary – pays more than half of someone’s income, or provides more than half their working hours, should be responsible for all the labor protections and insurance an employee is entitled to.

Presumably that party will share those costs and risks with its own clients, customers, owners, and investors. Which is the real point – to take these risks off the backs of individuals and spread them as widely as possible.

In addition, to restore some certainty to peoples’ lives, we’ll need to move away from unemployment insurance and toward income insurance.

Say, for example, your monthly income dips more than 50 percent below the average monthly income you’ve received from all the jobs you’ve taken over the preceding five years. Under one form of income insurance, you’d automatically receive half the difference for up to a year.

But that’s not all. Ultimately, we’ll need a guaranteed minimum basic income. But I’ll save this for another column.

Ed Sheeran...I HAD To Blog This - Brilliant...


So, Ed Sheeran is doing a free gig at the Barfly in Camden on Tuesday April 12th 2011. 

He has just updated his status on Facebook saying that he is “thinking, if some of you guys don’t get into the gig, I’ll do the gig, clear the room, and let more people in and do the gig again, and just repeat this til we are chucked out, sound good?" 

Now THIS is a display of pure class, THIS creates positive emotional associations, THIS shows respect to his fans and by doing THIS he WILL get it, not just from fans but from anyone else who hears this story.

Gestures like these put certain artists to shame.


The Deep South Valleys: Henry's Funeral Shoe*

If you have not heard of the two-man-band, Henry’s Funeral Shoe (you soon will), think Black Keys meet White Stripes. Their blend of the thumping blues and the 70s punk is one of the main reasons they headlined our May gig. 

They ditch the traditional folk sound of the Welsh-language music scene, the popular american pop rock sound of the Valleys, and the alternative electro rock of the north and really head out over the pond towards this deep southern blues rock. 

The two brothers are geniuses on their instruments, Brennig (the drummer) even does a few tricks with his drumsticks, and I think it is safe to say that everyone at The London Welsh Sessions were blown away with the thumping psychedelic grunge! Like, seriously! They bring electricity to an audience, an energy that I have definitely not seen at The London Welsh Session yet.

They are far from a back garage band with a soundcloud page! They have an incredible album called Donkey Jacket (expect a few quirky names), but most of all, their brilliant single, Dog Scratched Ear (a song that is its own experience when watched live) was featured on the new Fiat advert starring Charlie Sheen. As a result they are now touring America this moment in time.

Get ready for them. 

Check out their website

* = TLWS Top Bands 2012

Musicians should say no to free gigs for 'exposure'

Musicians should say no to free gigs for ‘exposure’

If you’re a singer or musician, you will inevitably be asked to perform somewhere for some audience for free. In other words, the event organizer will say, “Come do the show; it’ll be ‘great exposure.’”

Exposure for what, I ask? I know friends who’ve played on stage with Stevie Wonder and opened for Sir Paul McCartney and they’re no more exposed now than they were before those ‘great exposure’…

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Gigs // 26th June - 2nd July


M. Ward - KOKO

Japanther - Birthdays

Metric // Chew Lips - Shepherd’s Bush Empire

The Tallest Man on Earth - Rough Trade East (Free - 7pm)

Dot Rotton // Big Cake // Haze - Cargo

Rich Aucoin // Vio/mire // Looking Glass - Electricity Showrooms

Parakeet // Traams // Honeyslide - The Old Blue Last (FREE)



Music Film All-Dayer - The Strongrooms

Garbage // The Jezabels - Brixton Academy

Badbadnotgood - The Barfly

Frankie Rose // Novella // Mickey Gloss - Brixton Windmill



Splashh // Death at Sea // The Summer Breeze - The Old Blue Last (FREE)

Bis // Ace City Rockers // McDonalds - Buffalo Bar (Sold Out)

A*M*E - Studio Spaces

Dems // Courts // Look, Stranger! // Tiny Dragons - Queen of Hoxton

Tribes // Grace and Control - Dirty South

Flash Fiktion // Safari - The Nest

Way Through // Flamingods // Halo Halo - Power Lunches



Cheetahs // Colours // Omi Palone - The Shacklewell Arms (FREE)

BIS // Ace City Rockers // No Cars - The Lexington (Sold Out)

V&A - Lates (FREE)

Kyla La Grange // Bwani Junction - KOKO

MJ Cole // Nightwave - The Lock Tavern (FREE)



Milk Maid // Honeyslide // Gum - The Shacklewell Arms (FREE)

Virals // Sserpress // Slaves - The Old Blue Last (FREE) (Vice Issue Launch)

Macy Gray - Jazz Cafe (Sold Out)

The Wet Nuns // Godzilla Black - The Black Heart

Saint Saviour - St Pancras Old Chruch

William // Breathe Out // YRRS // Playlounge - Power Lunches

Frankie Rose // Fear of Men // Death At Sea - The Lexington

Sunless ‘97 // Zebra Katz - Notting Hill Arts Club



Casiokids // Becoming Real // Sarah Williams White - The Barfly

AlunaGeorge - Sanderson Hotel (FREE)

Howling Bells // Steve Smyth - The Lexington

Science Museum - Lates (FREE)

Zambri // Plant plants // Crash & the Coots - The Old Blue Last (FREE)

Real Estate // Frankie Rose // Gross Magic - Electric Ballroom

Casiokids // Becoming Real // Sarah Williams White - The Barfly

Macy Gray - Jazz Cafe (Sold Out)

Saint Saviour - St Pancras Old Church

Faye // Azure Blue // Flowers in the Air - Hoxton Bar and Kitchen

Alanis Morrisette - Brixton Academy

Nordic Giants // Monsters Build Mean Robots - The Queen of Hoxton



My Sad Captains // Race Horses // Teleman - The Shacklewell Arms (FREE)

The Lovely Eggs // King Twit // Sheen - The Social

Zambri // Paper Crows // Torches - Madame JoJos (White Heat)

Secret Headliner (Wavves?) // Vuvuvultures - Hoxton Bar and Kitchen

The Pierces // James Levy // The Blood Red Rose - Union Chapel (Sold Out)

The Minutes // Girls Names - Hotel St

Damon Albarn’s Dr Dee - London Coliseum

Saint Etienne - London Palladium

UMEZ // Bbblood // Star of the Kings - Power Lunches

Eugene McGunniess - The Lexington

Francobollo // Hella Better Dancer // Lucy Kitt - The Old Queens Head

Yesterday I saw the promo concert of a band from Milan, named Calibro 35. This is the second time for me to see them playing live. I’ve seen their concert last summer in Carroponte in Sesto San Giovanni. They were projecting an Italian crime movie from the seventies called “Milano Odia : La Polizia non Puo Sparare” in which the whole soundtrack of the movie was played live by Calibro 35. Total bliss.
That live concert confirmed me how cool they were that a chance like their free gig at fnac Milano was something I impossibly would miss *even if I arrived home catching cold*.

Calibro 35 was born in 2007 in Milan, and they play funk-jazz alternative rock genre, and adapted the style of 70’s typical soundtrack of crime/action movies. They also make the remake songs from the same era.

I love the beat played with strong bass influence, the organ, the funky flute and saxophone sound.

And when I’m in need of energy, I can always turn into some of the songs they play. It’s really pumping that power inside.