In a new series launching amid the coronavirus pandemic, Billboard is asking individuals from all sectors of the music business to share stories of how they work now, with much of the world quarantined at home and unable to take in-person meetings, attend conferences or even go into the office. Submissions for the series can be sent to HowWeWorkNow@Billboard.com. Read the full series here.
This installment is with Jarred Arfa, the general manager at Artist Group International, who contracted COVID-19 at the end of March and has since recovered from the illness. Here, he shares his journey to recovery and how he’s doing his job now.
Jarred Arfa: We shut down the office on March 23. Most agencies had shut down a few days earlier than us. We had already given people the option of whether to come in or not, but as the news kept breaking it was inevitable that we had to close. We had at least a few days to set everyone up with technology so that they could access everything they needed to work from home. It was a couple of IT-heavy days, making sure everyone could get onto the server. We were pretty nimble with that.
I felt sick two days later, exhibited symptoms and got tested on Saturday and found out the following Monday that I was positive. The first week for me just felt like the regular flu, so I was able to work through it. When I told people, they were super sensitive and everyone was very accommodating. So I was working that week.
Unfortunately, the second week the virus took a turn where I really couldn’t function at all. I wasn’t working. I had to quarantine so I was isolated for three weeks. I was lucky enough to have a nurse for a few days during the worst part of it, but other than that I was on my own.
It’s a weird virus. There are moments when you feel like it is going in the right direction and then all of a sudden you feel sick again. It’s like a rollercoaster. You’d have a few hours where you’d say, “Oh I’m better,” and then it was like, “No, you’re not.”
I have a wife and three-year-old and I obviously didn’t want to infect them. With a three-year-old you feel guilty because they don’t understand why you aren’t there. But at the same time, you’re feeling so sick you wouldn’t want them to feel like that.
About two and a half weeks into it [I started feeling better]. I can’t even tell you the number of people in the industry who have reached out that I would have never expected to hear from, just expressing support. Knowing someone who has it makes it so much more real. I can’t speak enough for how people around me were supportive during the process.
The difference in how I work from home now is managing the business, figuring out how to keep expenses in line and different things like if we’re covered by the government. It’s a different kind of busy. You aren’t normally looking into the laws on rent abatement and things like that.
We have been fortunate. We haven’t cut any personnel. We haven’t cut salaries and we’re looking to keep it that way, so any assistance [from the government] the better.
We’re doing weekly agent calls [to stay connected], which is all the agents plus myself and our vp of operations. In addition to those, each agent’s department is sending daily updates on what’s going on with each tour, whether it’s postponing, cancelling and that sort of thing. That’s how we’re staying in touch. No video — it’s just been one conference call each week. As great as our roster is, we’re a smaller company, so it’s easier for everyone to stay in touch than it would be at a larger company. This is all new stuff that we have implemented to maintain continuity because we’re not seeing each other every day.
Our agents are every day either postponing or cancelling. They’re all very busy doing that on a daily basis. I have kept regular contact and they have been as busy as ever because they’re undoing so much of what they did. And then it’s a puzzle to put it back together without knowing what the future holds.