The economy’s not just in a downturn. It’s in transition. The rules of the game are changing, industries are transforming, and many jobs don’t feel so secure anymore. This spring, WPLN’s Kim Green is collecting stories of Tennesseans who are learning to survive and adapt to an uncertain marketplace, and an economy in flux.
If you have a story of transition, tell us about it. We may post some of your experiences on our website or use them on the air. Send your emails to
When David Mead was 24 years old, he hit the big-label lottery. In the late 1990s, he scored a recording deal with RCA and a publishing deal with Sony. “Both those things were very lucrative,” he says. “And it meant you didn’t have to deliver sandwiches anymore.” But then the century ended, the music industry got squeezed, and Mead lost his contracts…and with them, a reliable income stream.
Thirteen years later, Mead says he’s “in a completely different tax bracket” than he was as a much younger man. “So I guess because of my economic situation,” he says, “Which is, some people would look at as dire, I’ve sort of been forced to look at other options just to bring in money. Because I guess my primary product, my creative output, is not generating enough income for me to live on right now.”
The Need to Diversify
Mead now works with a small construction crew 25 to 30 hours a week. “It’s long, hard kind of labor,” he says. “And that’s been really good.”
Some days on the job are tougher than others, he admits. He’s had to learn to revise his expectations, to live in the moment instead of focusing on some long-term goal that’s dependent on an uncertain marketplace.
He says it’s all about how you choose to define yourself. “If I want to be major label guy laying the floor, then it’s miserable,” he says. “I can also choose to go in and be like apprentice-slash-novice hardwood floor guy who just got to lay his first room by himself. And it’s like a breath of fresh air.”
That process of re-definition applies to Mead’s musical life as well. When he was still “RCA guy,” he says, he’d often turn down gigs that didn’t fit with the “David Mead brand.” Now he says yes to most anything with a paycheck attached. He sings in an 80s cover band some nights, and he has a children’s band called “Davey Ukulele and the Gag Time Gang.”
“All those things seem to work together in the kind of cobbling-income-sources-together approach to life,” he muses.
Music Isn’t a Job Anymore
Mead’s still a musician to the bone—that will probably never change. But what has changed is the idea that making music can exist for him primarily as a career ladder to climb. “Music is not a job anymore because I make very little money doing it,” he says. “And it doesn’t have as much to do with my sort of identity as a man, human, participant in the–whatever economy we still have left.”
Which is not to say that Mead wouldn’t enjoy reaping financial rewards from his songs. But for now, he’s come to terms with the fact that the changing musical marketplace has forced him to be more than a singer-songwriter.
“If you can really truly ever get to the place where you’re never just one thing,” says Mead, “then suddenly there’s a lot more things you can do than things that you can’t do. In some ways I’m very thankful for the economy that we live in because of that.”
If you have a story of transition, tell us about it. We may post some of your experiences on our website or use them on the air. Send your emails to firstname.lastname@example.org