A Whole Life Job: the complex working lives of musicians in North East England
Sociology and Social Policy Newcastle University Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
The North East of England is a formerly heavily industrialised region where culture/the arts now occupy a central place on the policy agenda. Little, however, is known about the lives of the cultural workforce on whom such policies depend, despite their being held up as exemplars of the new"creative class" ? autonomous, adaptable, entrepreneurial, innovative. Drawing on research involving all genres of musician in the North East region, this paper reveals a more nuanced picture, highlighting the ambiguities of a musician's working life. Musicians must reconcile the pursuit of an aesthetic calling with survival in a highly contingent and overcrowded market; learn to compete in the music world while building a reputation based on collaboration and cooperation; and maintain a long-term attachment to their chosen occupation in the face of unstable incomes, low pay and fragmented and discontinuous career trajectories. A musician's working life is experienced as a "whole life job", enacted across formal and informal sectors, the public domain and the household; and constrained by place, time, gender, taste and prevailing discourses. Musicians are sustained through some of the more negative aspects of an artistic career by the intrinsic rewards of their work and what some call a sense of vocation. It is this aspect that calls into question the extent to which the notion of the"creative worker" as exemplified by musicians/artists can successfully be translated into other contexts.