Just P(l)ay! Music as Labour

Call for Papers

isaScience 2019 Interdisciplinary Conference of mdw – University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna

Call open until 17 March 2019

Conference date: 7-11 August 2019

Conference venue: Hotel Marienhof, Reichenau an der Rax, Austria

Keynote speakers: to be announced

Organisers: Dagmar Abfalter, Marko Kölbl, Rosa Reitsamer, Fritz Trümpi


The history of music as labour and music labour markets in particular is characterised by manifold processes of institutionalisation, globalisation, digitalisation and collaborations. From the mid-nineteenth century onwards, these processes have steadily increased, involving a range of different actors and institutions such as the music and media industries, music conservatories or community music initiatives that are guided by distinct conventions and shared beliefs (“art worlds”) as well as by frequently conflicting (economic) interests that have also resulted in resistance and power struggles as well as divergent practices. The “production of culture” perspective has been helpful to study these processes with respect to the changing roles of professions and educational institutions, to gatekeepers and to mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion.

However, the history of music as labour is also shaped by stark social inequalities based on gender, sexuality, race, class or dis/ability. Subsequently, numerous initiatives such as “Help Musicians UK”, #MeToo or “We Have Voice” have been initiated, fighting discrimination and misconduct and aiming to bring about social change in music labour markets and in broader society. Nonetheless, music remains key for human interactions, often carrying traits of emotional and affective labour. The “affective turn” has drawn attention to the significance of emotions, affect and the body vital for our understanding of music as social and cultural phenomena. In this respect, music can act as e.g. “labour of love”, a technology of identity or enactment of emotion and care, always relying on the human body and its gendered, sexualised and racialized concepts of corporeality.

The conference seeks to address the following three thematic streams and welcomes proposals from any perspective, using any methodology and addressing any kind of music and dance, including the spheres of film and theatre. Topic proposals include but are not limited to:

Music Labour Markets

  • Institutionalisation of musical labour (e.g. laws and regulations; funding; professions; gatekeepers; musicians’ unions; entrepreneurship; etc.)
  • Labour migration/mobility of musicians
  • Music competitions and casting shows in the context of neoliberal changes in society
  • Music education and class in institutionalised settings
  • Labouring in the do-it-yourself music industry
  • Tourism-induced commercialisation of music (e.g. traditional music and dance as paid labour)
  • Non-commercial musical labour and community music

Power Struggles & Political Activism

  • Gendered, racialized and age-related concepts of musical labour
  • Political struggles against precarious working conditions of musicians (e.g. strikes)
  • Queer practices of musical labour
  • Feminist*queer activism fighting gender inequalities, sexual harassment and racism in the music industry (e.g. #MeToo, “We Have Voice”)
  • Musical labour in post-colonial contexts
  • Refugees, migration, diaspora and musical labour

Emotional & Affective Musical Labour

  • Music as “labour of love”
  • Musicians as mood managers
  • Musical labour, sexual availability and sex work
  • Enactments of anger and rebellion in musical performance
  • Corporeality and the embodiment of gender, sexuality and race in musical labour
  • Music as care work (e.g. mourning rituals)
  • Occupational hazards in dancers and for musicians

Abstracts should include (theoretical) background, conceptualisations, methodology and show reference to the conference topic. Please also include a “key word” line.

Please submit your abstracts (max. 300 words) for papers and panels as well as workshops and innovative formats, and a short biography (max. 100 words) and institutional affiliation, in English language until 17 March 2019 to isascience@mdw.ac.at.

Decisions on the acceptance of your proposal will be announced by mid-April 2019.

Complimentary funding will be available to students and scholars in academic precarity after acceptance of the proposal. Please refer to our website for further information regarding the application for the funding!