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Transposition no 7: The Price of Music

Call for papers

Transposition. Musique et sciences sociales

Issue 7 (2017): The Price of Music

Coordination : Fanny Gribenski et Étienne Jardin

The seventh issue of Transposition. Musique et sciences sociales will be dedicated to the topic of musical economies. Open to all cultural spheres and historical eras, this call for papers invites scholars to submit studies related to the economic issues surrounding artistic creation. The main questions under consideration will be:

How do or did musicians live?

Historiography and the media have had a strong tendency to focus on prestigious aspects of artistic work, the outcomes of which are often more symbolic than financial. What, then, are the musicians’ real sources of income? What portion is made up of royalties, paychecks for concerts, teaching salaries, or the selling of scores and discs?

We would be happy to accept articles that focus on one specific musician in order to answer these questions. One approach might be to carefully interrogate the role of financial criteria in career strategies. By considering the evolution of artists’ financial situations, might we revaluate the outcomes of some of their productions? Systematic studies that consider musicians’ financial situations across broad spans of times or those that address specific periods are equally welcome.

What are the structural and financial constraints that shape musical production?

Beyond discourses on the (economic) disinterest of musical practice, the cost of musical productions has a direct impact on potentially staged musical forms, the frequency of their programming, or ticket costs. For instance, an opera staged at a theater owning a troupe and an orchestra will become more profitable as it is staged more often. On the contrary, in opera houses without a dedicated troupe, a high number of performances can render a project unprofitable because of the multiplication of costs. Contributors are encouraged to highlight the impact of financial constraints on musical offerings as well as on the professional world formed to take care of them (from artistic agents to venues’ production managers).

Public policies and patronage: a regulation of the musical market?

If all musical productions only obeyed the rules of the market, many wouldn’t exist: states (in some countries), local powers, patrons or independent groups have often played a central role in the musical economy. Their role can be encouraging (funding, provision of places or material etc.) or limitative (taxes, privileges, censure etc.). How do actors of the musical life organize themselves in front of plural systems of funding? Researches focusing on the musical policies of one country, one town, or one patron are welcome, as are comparative approaches.

Musical economy and free access

Considering the price of music requires also looking into what happens in instances where there is a lack of charges. For instance, what situations develop when musicians are asked to take part in musical productions for free, or when an audience is offered a free performance? Who benefits from events ruled by the suppression of some financial transactions? Philanthropic or moral conceptions direct a certain number of such initiatives. Imagined as benefitting the musical community or society as a whole, they reveal the functions attributed to music. Here again, propositions confronting conceptions of the utility and virtues of musical art are welcome. For example, the distinction between professionals and amateurs as well as the pertinence of economic criteria in defining the category of musician might be interrogated. Here the question of the importance of the music’s cost for the listener arises as well: does paying for music give it a higher price?

Each of these topics might be explored through analysis of the musical works themselves, which might be understood one of the main sites where the relationship between music and money resides. Another fruitful approach might involve the study of instances when “stories within stories” occur on literary, dramatic, and/or visual levels, for example when the careers of musicians are staged.

Proposals for articles (in French or English) that include both a presentation of the research methodology and the main results of the research must be sent by June 1st, 2016 to the following address: Articles must be submitted by September 15th, 2016.

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