Reluctant entrepreneurs: musicians and entrepreneurship in the ‘new’ music industry

Jo Haynes, Lee K R Marshall*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

7 Citations (Scopus)
353 Downloads (Pure)


Changing labour conditions in the creative industries – with celebrations of autonomy and entrepreneurialism intertwined with increasing job insecurity, portfolio careers and short-term, project-based contracts – are often interpreted as heralding changes to employment relations more broadly. The position of musicians’ labour in relation to these changes is unclear, however, given that these kinds of conditions have defined musicians’ working practices over much longer periods of time (though they may have intensified due to well-documented changes to the music industry brought about by digitization and disintermediation). Musicians may thus be something of a barometer of current trends, as implied in the way that the musically derived label ‘gig economy’ is being used to describe the spread of precarious working conditions to broader sections of the population. This article, drawing on original qualitative research that investigated the working practices of musicians, explores one specific aspect of these conditions: whether musicians are self-consciously entrepreneurial towards their work and audience. We found that, while the musicians in our study are routinely involved in activities that could be construed as entrepreneurial, generally they were reluctant to label themselves as entrepreneurs. In part this reflected understandings of entrepreneurialism as driven by profit-seeking but it also reflected awareness that being a popular musician has always involved business and commercial dimensions. Drawing on theoretical conceptions of entrepreneurship developed by Joseph Schumpeter we highlight how the figure of the entrepreneur and the artist/musician share much in common and reflect various aspects of romantic individualism. Despite this, there are also some notable differences and we conclude that framing musicians’ labour as entrepreneurial misrepresents their activities through an overemphasis on the economic dimensions of their work at the expense of the cultural.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)459-482
Number of pages24
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology
Issue number2
Early online date18 Sep 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018

Structured keywords

  • Digital Societies


  • creative industries
  • Creative labour
  • cultural industries
  • entrepreneurialism
  • Joseph Schumpeter
  • popular music
  • work

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