Pre-existing conditions

Precarity, creative justice and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Victorian music industries


  • Catherine Strong RMIT University
  • Fabian Cannizzo RMIT University



COVID-19, Music industries, creative justice, precarity


Prior to 2020, while the music industries in the Australian state of Victoria were gaining in strength and were world-renowned in many respects, they were also characterized as a sector that runs largely on luck and public good will, where many places that had previously offered some security were eroding. This luck ran out in a spectacular fashion with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. This research, based on surveys and interviews conducted during the extended Victorian lockdown, describes the experiences and responses of music workers across the sector to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mark Banks’s concept of ‘creative justice’ is used to examine how the precarious nature of much music-related work prior to COVID-19 created a situation where workers were acutely vulnerable to a crisis of this nature, and where the harms they experienced during this time were compounded by how precarity positions them both financially and discursively. The understanding of precarity as a pre-existing problem in the industry discussed here makes it clear that although the pandemic was experienced as an unprecedented and unique event, the impact that it had on many in the music industries represented an exacerbation and continuation of already-existing issues. Suggestions from participants about how they can be supported in a rebuilding music sector show that questions of justice are forefront in their minds, and should be considered in decisions around rebuilding to prevent talent loss and maintain a diverse music scene.

Author Biographies

Catherine Strong, RMIT University

Catherine Strong is a Senior Lecturer in the BA (Music Industry) program at RMIT University in Melbourne. Her work focuses on forms on inequality in music, particularly gender, and popular music as a form of collective memory and heritage. Recent publications include the edited collection Towards Gender Equality in the Music Industry (with Sarah Raine) and articles in Gender, Work and Organisations, Cultural Sociology, and Continuum, along with an industry report on the effects of COVID-19 on Victorian music workers. She is co-editor of the journal Popular Music History.

Fabian Cannizzo, RMIT University

Fabian Cannizzo is a sociologist with an interest in the careers and governance of creative workers. His work includes research of the Melbourne music industries, academic careers and the culture of creative work. Most recently he has co-authored a special issue of the Journal of Sociology, ‘Meaningful Work in Late Modernity’, with Sara James.


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How to Cite

Strong, C. ., & Cannizzo, F. . (2021). Pre-existing conditions: Precarity, creative justice and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Victorian music industries. Perfect Beat, 21(1), 10–24.

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