CFP: Producing concerts, working in live music
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
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
To be sent at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org 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
Alexandre Camus (Metamedia Center, EPFL/CSI, Mines ParisTech) et Loïc Riom
(CSI, Mines ParisTech)
Becker Howard S (2010), Les mondes de l’art, Paris: Flammarion.
Behr Adam, Brennan Matt et Cloonan Martin (2016), Cultural value and cultural
policy: some evidence from the world of live music, International Journal of Cultural
Policy, 22(3), pp. 403–418.
Behr Adam, Brennan Matt, Cloonan Martin, Frith Simon et Webster Emma (2016),
Live concert performance: An ecological approach, Rock Music Studies, 3(1), pp. 5–
Bennett H. Stith (2017), On becoming a rock musician, New York: COlumbia
Cloonan Martin et Williamson John (2017), Introduction, Popular Music and Society,
40(5), pp. 493‐498.
Frith Simon (2007), La musique live, ça compte…, Réseaux, 2, pp. 179–201.
Guibert Gérôme et Sagot-Duvauroux Dominique (2013), Musiques actuelles: ça part
en live, Paris : IRMA, Centre d’Information et de Ressources pour les Musiques
Hesmondhalgh David et Meier Leslie M (2018), What the digitalisation of music tells
us about capitalism, culture and the power of the information technology sector,
Information, Communication & Society, 21(11), pp. 1–16.
Holt Fabian (2010), The economy of live music in the digital age, European Journal
of Cultural Studies, 13(2), pp. 243–261.
Kealy Edward R (1979), From craft to art: The case of sound mixers and popular
music, Sociology of Work and Occupations, 6(1), pp. 3–29.
Menger Pierre-Michel (2002), Portrait de l’artiste en travailleur, Paris: Seuil.
Perrenoud Marc (2007), Les musicos: Enquête sur des musiciens ordinaires, Paris:
Perrenoud Marc et Bataille Pierre (2017), Être musicien· ne interprète en Suisse
romande. Modalités du rapport au travail et à l’emploi, Swiss Journal of Sociology,
43(2), pp. 309–333.
Théberge Paul (2012), The end of the world as we know it: The changing role of the
studio in the age of the Internet, in Simon Frith et Simon Zagorski-Thomas (Éd.), The
art of record production: An introductory reader for a new academic field, Londres et
New York : Routledge, pp. 77–90.