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.