Dissonant Harmony: Challenges of Professionalization of the Work of Musicians in St. John's, Canada

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 16:15
Oral Presentation
David CHAFE, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada
Lisa KAIDA, McMaster University, Canada
Professions literature has addressed common traits of established professions, including the acquisition of expertise and licensure and the practice of social closure as means of safeguarding access to labour markets for formal membership. More recent literature brings attention to occupations (i.e. semi-/para-professions), such as dental hygienists and software engineers, which are likewise moving towards social closure to form new professions but facing interprofessional conflict. We argue this literature also requires consideration of contextual factors – namely the precarious labour market and the place where the process of professionalization takes place. This paper focuses on the challenges of professionalization of local self-employed musicians in St. John’s – Canada’s easternmost city with a population of 200,000 in the geographically isolated province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Our interview with 54 local income-dependent musicians shows musicians who earn some or all of their livelihood from performing often refer to themselves as professionals, as a means of distinguishing their work from that of their unpaid fellow musicians. The unpaid are variously referred to as casual, community or amateur musicians. While they might accept remuneration for performing, they do not depend on this work for income to the extent of self-proclaimed professional musicians, yet they participate in the same employment field. Restricted to local communities, intra-professional conflict may be one outcome of such delineation. This study contributes to existing literature by drawing attention to this underexplored open work, including individual and collective tendencies to publicly uphold professional traits in an effort to safeguard jurisdiction over fragile labour markets amidst austerity and economic restructuring in a remote mid-sized city.