Musings on Musos: A Thematic Analysis of the Working Conditions Experienced by New Zealand Musicians

Smith, Ximena
Nairn, Angelique
Nelson, Frances
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Master of Communication Studies
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Auckland University of Technology

The labour conditions in creative industries, such as the music industry, are complex. For instance, the deterioration of the 9-to-5 workday and the rise of project-based work has given creative workers more autonomy and pleasure in their work (Florida, 2002, 2005; Howkins, 2001; Leadbeater, 1999). However, other conditions that accompany creative work, such as precarity and insecurity, can result in stressful experiences for creative workers (Banks & Hesmondhalgh, 2009). The purpose of this research, then, is to explore the conditions and subjective experiences of three musicians working in the New Zealand music industry, and to obtain an account of the challenges these workers may face. Developing a deeper understanding of creatives’ experiences in the music industry is useful, because a significant amount of public money is given to New Zealand On Air and the New Zealand Music Commission to support the growth of this industry (New Zealand Music Commission, 2013; Scott & Craig, 2012). However, these government bodies have not published any research regarding the lived experiences of New Zealand music workers, or investigated the personal issues musicians may face when it comes to working successfully in the industry. The research is therefore intended to shed light on the upsides and downfalls of working in the industry, and is guided by the question: What are the experiences of New Zealand musicians regarding the labour conditions in the New Zealand music industry?

In order to answer this research question, one-on-one responsive interviews were conducted with three self-identified musicians who work in New Zealand’s music industry (Rubin & Rubin, 2005). Braun and Clarke’s (2006) thematic analysis was then used to analyse and interpret the data set. Five major themes were found to be present in the data. These include the sense among the musicians that the New Zealand music scene is small; the presence of career uncertainty; the importance of authenticity; cultural entrepreneurialism; and the existence of cultural intermediaries in the musicians’ working lives. Overall, it was found that the music industry provides significant opportunities for musicians to have positive working experiences. However, these experiences may not be felt by other musicians in different circumstances, who may not be able to manage the challenges of the industry as easily as those musicians interviewed. This research therefore ends with the recommendation that further measures by the government could be taken, such as the reinvigoration of the PACE (Pathway to Arts and Cultural Employment) scheme (Shuker, 2008), in order to make good work experiences more widely accessible to those working in the music industry.

Music industry , New Zealand music industry , Working conditions , Labour conditions , Creative work , Creative labour , Musician , New Zealand On Air , Cultural policy , Creative economy , Musician work experiences , Thematic analysis
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