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Producing concerts, working in live music

Posted: February 25th, 2019 | Filed under: Calls for Papers | No Comments »

Congress of the Swiss Sociological Association 2019
The Future of Work
September 10-12 2019, University of Neuchâtel

Live music has long been neglected by music scholars (Frith, 2007); however it is now subject to renewed interest. Recently, researchers have focused on the economics of live music (Holt, 2010; Guibert and Sagot-Duvauroux, 2013; Behr et al., 2016) and the work of musicians (Perrenoud, 2007; Bennett, 2017; Perrenoud and Bataille, 2017). However, the “support personnel” (Becker, 2010) needed in order to produce concerts is still not frequently studied. Little is known about the different occupations (technicians, bookers, programmers) and organizations (festivals, ticket
retailers, public funders) required to produce concerts, but also to market live music, and to exploit it in other formats (e.g. live broadcasting, recording). In order to address this gap, this workshop proposes to explore three areas of investigation.

Axis 1: From amateurs to professionals

The question of professionalization is a central issue in the live business. While many individuals still continue to receive on-the-job training, the aim here is to examine the forms of learning specific to concert professions, but also their transformations brought about by the gradual implementation of training programs. In addition, a large proportion of concert organizers work on a voluntary basis (from small associative structures to larger events). Since the 1990s, for example, the Montreux Jazz Festival has made extensive use of this workforce to ensure the running of the event. What are the forms of engagement of these volunteers? How do these forms of
employment shape the functioning of concert organization and production structures? What are the boundaries between volunteers and professionals in terms of practical knowledge?

Axis 2: Working in the gig economy

The aim here is to reflect on the forms of employment specific to the live world, which are characterized by short-term contracts and intermittency. While some research has been done on this issue from the perspective of artists and musicians (Menger, 2002; Perrenoud and Bataille, 2017), we believe it necessary to extend this question to all the occupations involved in producing concerts. For example, since the 1960s, the Montreux Jazz Festival has used audiovisual service providers to massively recruit technicians on fixed-term contracts to record concerts during the festival.
Moreover, while the gig economy model has long characterized music employment (Cloonan and Williamson, 2017), the influence of GAFAs (Hesmondhalgh and Meier, 2018) or start-ups from the sharing economy, such as AirBnB or Sofar Sounds, have put back to work the question of the integration of professionals into the live music industry. Moreover, if these new forms of live music market bring in new actors, don’t they dispose with others?

Axis 3: A shifting concert ecology

If the concert is an ecology (Behr, et al., 2016), it is undergoing transformation. The successive introduction of different technical devices reworked both the forms of work organization and professional skills. These innovations have given rise to new businesses and new distribution formats. We may think, for instance, of the widespread use of live broadcasts, whether on the now indispensable screens that surround stages, or remotely in cinemas (as it is done in many cities by the
Metropolitan Opera of New York). The aim here is to examine the transformations of knowledge linked in particular to the digitization of working tools (Théberge, 2012), but also to place these transformations in the long history of the co-evolution of music professions and technical devices (Kealy, 1979).

This call relates to the activities of the Research Comity of Sociology of the Arts and Culture (CR-SAC) that celebrates its 10 years of foundation in 2019. It is linked to two further calls: “The Future of Work: Art and Artists?” and “Artistic work in an entrepreneurial context”.

Abstract submission:

To be sent at [email protected] and [email protected] by 20 April 2019 with title of the presentation and a summary stating the research question, the theoretical framework, the method, the fieldwork and the main results (maximum 500 words, excluding references). Please specify full name, institutional affiliation and email address.


Alexandre Camus (Metamedia Center, EPFL/CSI, Mines ParisTech) et Loïc Riom (CSI, Mines ParisTech). Contact: [email protected]

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