Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2022-05-16

Living the Dream: Precarious Labour in the Live Music Industry

Document type Thesis
Author Zendel, Adam Michael
Degree Masters, Geography
Publisher University of Toronto; Toronto
Date 2014
Pages 100 pages


This thesis explores the precarious nature of backstage work within the live music industry. Live music is replacing recorded music as the economic core of the music industry. Live music is a unique sector, in that it is valued for its ephemerality. Given the ephemerality of concerts, new frameworks are required to understand technical and logistical production of live music. Labour arrangements in live music reflect sweeping trends in the labour market. Backstage workers are employed in flexible, contract and contingent arrangements leading to precarious livelihoods. This thesis argues that labour precaritization in the live music industry is part of an accumulation strategy by suggesting that employers exploit the affective, emotive and cathartic nature of live music to reduce wages and extract surplus from workers. Essentially, workers are willing to accept a psychic wage in lieu a living wage. This arrangement can be called `lifestyle labour' in that workers are willing to accept lifestyle components as part of their wage.