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Life in a Suitcase: Touring in the New Music Industry

Authors: Adam Zendel*, University of Toronto
Topics: Cultural Geography, Economic Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: Music, cultural labour, cultural industries, creative economy, touring, mobilities, digital labour, platform capitalism, precarious labour
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The proliferation of online streaming music has led to a loss of incomes across the industry ​(Eriksson, Fleischer, Johansson, Snickars, & Vonderau, 2019)​. This pressures artists and technicians to find new avenues to earn income, particularly through live performance and touring ​(Prior, 2018)​. Yet, there is little study of how this shift shapes the lives of workers on tour. ‘Tour life’ requires synchronizing the needs of daily life with an extreme form of employment-related geographical mobility — “life in a suitcase” as one respondent describes it. With the need to tour, the working lives of musicians become more temporally and geographically fragmented. Leading to increased insecurity in the predictability of the time and place of their work, wages for their work, the places they live and stay, and how they care for themselves and their bandmates, and how they participate in local music scenes. These forms of insecurity manifest at the scale of the body, heightening the need to negotiate everyday life and the self in new ways.

This paper follows case studies from my doctoral research to consider the lived experience of touring musicians. Taken together, these cases mirror my larger findings and paint a picture of life as a working musician. Their livelihoods are precariously pieced together through tours and live performance. The proliferation of online music streaming, combined with broader structural changes to the economy has fragmented time and space of music work, leading to increased precarity and vulnerability which manifests at the scale of the body

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