New Normal or Old Problems? “Hibernation” and Planning for Music Careers in the Victorian Music Industries during COVID-19
Keywords:creative work, neoliberalism, COVID-19, Australia, music work, job security
Compared to many nations in the global metropole, Australia experienced low per capita cases of the novel coronavirus during 2020. However, despite the nation’s geographical isolation, its dependence on international travel did result in a number of infections in early 2020, prompting federal and state governments to impose travel restrictions, social distancing orders, and eventually some state-wide lockdowns. The strategy to help affected businesses and workers was a combination of income support, tax relief and economic incentives to spur on spending as businesses were able to again operate—an approach that became known as “hibernation”. This article examines music workers’ expectations for their future, and the future of the music industries, post-“hibernation”. Through surveying and interviewing workers and business owners from across the Victorian music industries during a period of lockdown, it is explored how workers position themselves in relation to the idea that the sector could return to “normal” post-COVID, and these responses are situated within creative work research. Without common spaces of socialization and common economic objectives, workers within the hibernated music industries have demonstrated individualized approaches to their career planning, fragmented by the breakdown of daily rituals and routines. Some workers are orienting themselves to a future where the sector re-opens mostly unchanged, while others believe that the industry will be fundamentally different post-COVID. Workers’ activities in lockdown are shaped by these beliefs, with many exiting or preparing for an exit from music work, while those who anticipate staying undertake extensive labour to ensure the viability of their careers. The article concludes by considering what this might mean for the future of live music events in Victoria.
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