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From Record Contract to Artrepreneur? Musicians’ Self-Management and the Changing Illusio in the Music Market

Holger Schwetter


This article contrasts present conceptions of pop musicians’ career development with ideas from the 1960s to 1990s. It identifies two divergent key concepts: the artrepreneur and the record contract. As a counterpart, the article evaluates empirical findings from an interview study with German and US-American musicians to answer the following research question: How are concepts of career management advocated and how are they related to the musician’s practices? This research suggests that in the 1970s to 1990s, self-management was regarded as a necessary evil before getting a recording contract, which was seen as a central aim for musicians. This widespread concept stood in stark contrast to the actual conditions of work in the field and can thus be described as forming an important part of the illusio (in Bourdieu’s sense), motivating participation while at the same time masking the actual working conditions. Today, in the age of digital communication networks, the record contract is no longer as crucial as it used to be. Instead, self-management is presented as a new, central, and legitimate strategy to push musicians’ careers forward even though studies show that the chances for independent musicians have not grown. The concept of the musician as artrepreneur replaced the hopes that were connected with the record contract. This shift is part of a new illusio that now motivates the musician’s participation in the music market. This paper attempts a small contribution
toward unmasking the illusions that are connected with the illusio, which for Bourdieu is
among the central functions of sociology.


digital music market; internet platforms; musicians; music distribution; record labels

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13185/KK2019.03210