DMV Music Alliance

The DMV Has Become a Region of Caregivers

Earlier this month, Yahoo Finance writer Tanya Kuashai shared an article called The U.S. ‘has become a nation of caregivers,’ expert says. The article rightly points out, “The cost of caring for children, growing old, being ill, or otherwise needing care has never been higher.”

A young woman comforts an elderly woman.

Photo credit: Andrea Piacquadio

For many in the creative or entertainment industries and the financial struggles commonly associated within the independent communities built around those industries, the costs of caregiving, in most cases, is equal to or higher than the income earned.

With Mother’s Day having just passed, and Father’s Day around the corner, conversations have sprung up within DMV Music Alliance Focus Group meetings with regards to some strategies around caregiving, available resources, and creating a dialogue between artists, venues, and industry providers around making information more transparent.

Often, the situation calls for making arrangements for a caregiver to be available while gigging. During my time as a single father, I was fortunate to have my parents’ help watching my little one. Sometimes I’d be greeting my parents with a car load full of gear as they would come home from work and I would head to load-in and soundcheck in the late afternoon or early evening; performing until the early morning and commuting back home in time for a short nap before the next day begins.

In these kinds of situations it is imperative that communication around caregiving becomes part of the booking process. Even though a performance might last two or three hours, the childcare requirements could easily become eight hours or more after accounting for load-in, soundcheck, load-out, and the time it takes to commute. This kind of situation also calls for having a caregiver willing to provide care until 2 a.m. or 3 p.m. which means interrupting natural sleep cycles if you are picking up your child at that time, or maybe even requiring a place where the child could sleep overnight. If you’re aren’t fortunate enough to have amazing parents like me, coordinating these plans and having clear terms and expectations can become as significant of a strain as vetting and finding a caregiver.

Maria Roberts of Blank Tape Studios, one of our focus group attendees from NoVA, had a unique situation resulting from the fact that some of her children were in the band (Queens Over Kings). Look no further than Bethesda, MD darlings The Sidleys, or Southern Maryland’s Flippin’ Eyelids for other acts containing young people playing all sorts of regular performances long before graduating high school. Because some of the performers were underage, there was always the possibility they would be required to stay outside of the venue except for official business such as sound check or the actual performance. Maria would enlist the services of in order to have a reliable caregiver when the adults in the party were unable to keep an eye on the kids. Alternatively, she points out that as a family act, there were times when aunts, uncles, and other extended family might join the tour–being willing to assume responsibility for the underage performers when necessary.

A young girl sings with a seated guitar player.

Photo credit: Gustavo Fring

Some venues have a very firm and strict policy around underage attendees, typically determined by the show details itself. If the show is targeted for audiences 18+ or 21+ then that rule of thumb typically applies to the performers themselves as well. Exceptions can be made on a case by case basis, but it is usually up to the act (or the parents of the act) to be able to argue their case with the venue or showrunners themselves.

As my children got older, I often found myself hunting for all ages performance opportunities. For a while, it became a part of my paradigm to produce the kinds of shows that my children would at least have the possibility to be in attendance. I also felt that it was important to give my fans the opportunity to bring their whole family to the experience if they chose.

On the flip side of this conversation, is the acknowledgement that many in the entertainment community put off having children for years because they are aware of the added stress that children can add to the artistic workflow. Many of these artists are also working day jobs and/or developing careers in their fields. With music acting as an aggressively pursued hobby for some and a primary or second job for others it doesn’t leave a lot of time for proper parenting. For many, the temporary decision to put off having children results in later deciding never to have children.

In terms of age, if you are caring for an adult you might have the option of bringing them with you to the venue. However, for anyone with special needs or those requiring regular medical care or equipment, age may not be the most relevant factor to take into account. Many cities have older buildings that were completed before things like The Americans with Disabilities Act and are able to operate without basic infrastructure like elevators as these venues are ‘grandfathered’ into new laws when they go into effect.

As expressed by the White House’s Executive Order on Increasing Access to High-Quality Care and Supporting Caregivers states, “The need for long-term care is likely to become more acute as our Nation’s population ages.” defines The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) as a federal law that “provides certain employees in all states up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year to care for themselves, a sick family member (limited to a spouse, child or parent), or a new child without losing their jobs or health care insurance.” This is indeed a help for those sectors that are able to benefit from it. However, for the average independent musician, taking twelve weeks of unpaid leave would mean the beginning of the end unless that musician has managed to set aside a nest egg of sorts to subsidize the time off.

Kids play while a mom works at her computer.

Photo credit: Ketut Subiyanto

The Great Work From Home Experiment we all participated in did reveal that professionally we are able to tolerate, deal with, work around, and even accept the fact that U.S. workers have responsibilities outside of work. Even with the potential interruptions that come with being a caregiver, the workforce has proven it can still be effective and efficient. More and more workers are also steadfastly refusing to compromise their personal and familial responsibilities in the face of corporate backlash. So, the present time is as good as any for artists, venues, and industry providers to come together for a more transparent conversation around accommodating caregivers and those in need throughout the performance or other professional process and circumstances. This might mean: bringing more venues up to current accessibility standards, designing green rooms to have more functionality for children, the elderly, and those with special needs; or perhaps simply being more transparent in the booking and confirmation processes about what resources are readily available.

Are you a musician or work in the music industry? How have you dealt with being a caregiver and an artist? What advice might you give to others facing similar situations? How do you feel the DMV music scene can better address these kinds of concerns collectively and collaboratively? What information or resources can the DMV Music Alliance gather that will help you address your unique personal circumstances?

We’d love to hear from you.

Daniel Warren Hill is an American Musician, Media Developer, and Entrepreneur. He is best known as the frontman for Washington DC area Alternative Rock band YellowTieGuy; owner of music news and entertainment outlet Alchemical Records; and co-founder of the diverse and inclusive musician empowerment organization, Capitol Groove Collective. Daniel’s life-long vision has been to set an example of how to achieve creative, financial, and spiritual success by tapping into the value of your own creative outlets and artistic endeavors.

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