All of me: art, industry and identity struggles

Hoedemaekers, Casper and Ybema, Sierk (2015) All of me: art, industry and identity struggles. In: Organising Music: Theory, Practice, Performance. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, pp. 172-180. ISBN 9781107421677

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Work is an area in which we spend a large part of our lives, and in which we invest a lot of our ideas about who we are in life. This might involve ideas about building a career, professional aspirations, the social relations we build in the workplace, status, and so on. Who we are, what we are capable of, and how we fit in are central questions posed to us already when we enter an organisation, via a recruitment and selection process based on an applicant profile and a job description. As such, it should come as no surprise that identity is a major part of our working life, and that those who study work and organisation consider it important to examine (see also Coupland, chapter X, this volume). But how does identity come into the work of creative and independent workers? How do identity issues affect those in the music sector, who often work autonomously? For them, there is no clearly delineated identity carved out within a formal organizational setting. At the same time, however, identity can play an especially significant role for them, since their output is often seen as an extension of the inner world of its creator(s) and a symbol of their identities, both by creators themselves and by audiences or consumers. Like any product of our professional, artistic, or commercial endeavours, for a singer-songwriter making and performing music is a project of self-realization. Probably, this is why a conversation about a person’s artfully designed creations tends to turn into attempts to make sense of his or her self – what they find essential about themselves, how they view themselves in relation to others, how they present themselves to the outside world, how they are being seen by their ‘audience’, and what produces pride or doubts about their ‘selves’. In this chapter we draw close to workers’ lived experience and sensemaking efforts by adopting a perspective that places identity questions centre stage. We illustrate our identity perspective on work and management by delving into the music industry and, specifically, by using examples from interviews with Ben Talbot Dunn, a singer-song writer who performs his work mainly as part of a band, Open Swimmer. Analysing this singer-songwriter’s identity work offers a window onto some of the recurrent dilemmas in the music industry and in people’s identity work more generally. In his account, we can explore different aspects of his identity talk, different roles to which he aspires, and different narratives along which they are structured. In our analysis, we will look at a number of tensions that emerge from his identity accounts, which we place within the context of a romantic ideal dominating discourse in the (independent) music industry that emphasises ‘art for art’s sake’ and denounces commercialism. First, however, we briefly introduce our approach to identity and identity talk.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Additional Information: This material has been published in Organising Music: Theory, Practice, Performance edited by Nic Beech and Charlotte Gilmore. This version is free to view and download for personal use only. Not for re-distribution, re-sale or use in derivative works. © Cambridge University Press 2015.
Keywords: cultural inustries, identity, tension
Faculty: ARCHIVED Lord Ashcroft International Business School (until September 2018)
Depositing User: Prof Sierk Ybema
Date Deposited: 31 May 2018 14:21
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2021 19:01

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