On The Road: Precarious Work and Life in the Live Music Industry

Authors: Adam Zendel*, University of Toronto
Topics: Cultural Geography
Keywords: music, precarious labour, labour geography, cultural industries, cultural economy, creative economy, creative industries, music industries, music geography
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Oakley, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The emergence of disruptive digital technologies has led to a reconfiguration of capital and labour in the music industry. Following the Mp3 crisis (Leyshon, 2014), musicians and technicians have turned to touring in order to make a living. Yet, little research exists examining the living and working conditions of these road bound workers and this turn to touring (see also: Hracs, 2010). This paper presents preliminary findings from interviews with 30 musicians, technicians, and tour managers. As a result of the turn to touring, touring musicians and workers organize all aspects of their lives to be able to tour. This means finding low-cost living arrangements when not on tour, or frequently going ‘homeless’ for extended periods. A number of interviewees describe how touring strains their relationships both with their families and with their fellow tour mates. Solo artists describe extended periods of loneliness and isolation, while individuals on larger tours describe the inability to be alone. Touring is immediately precarious, as workers are exposed to the dangers of driving and stage work. However, interviewees describe exhaustion, depression, and burnout as the most difficult part of touring. As such, a number of interviewees reflect on the social and personal costs of being a musician in the post-Mp3 music industry as stemming from the need to tour.

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