Creative Labour or Service Work? Live Music in Leisure Venues

Anjeline Eloisa Javate DE DIOS

Research output: Other Conference ContributionsConference Paper (other)Researchpeer-review


This paper considers the labour of leisure through the workplace geographies of live music entertainment in Asia. Though music is a primary sector of the creative industries, research is limited by an implicit bias towards musicians who make “original” or “authentic” content. This perpetuates a narrow (mis)understanding of creative labour as solely high-skilled, i.e. mental, work. In contrast I show that, situated in particular workplaces, creative labour inevitably assumes the modality of embodied service work. The case of music entertainers in hotels, theme parks, and cruise ships illustrates this, as they labour through musical performance and social interaction to enliven affective atmospheres of belonging, diversion, and enjoyment. The extent to which they produce in audiences the experiential shift from indifferent customer to special guest hinges upon their own labour of performing enjoyment whilst complying with the multiple demands of employers, colleagues, managers, and guests. Drawing from interviews with and observations of Filipino entertainers at work in Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, and Malaysia from 2012-2013, I make a second contention that, particularly in Asia, live music entertainment relies on a racialised migrant labour pool amenable to its highly precarious and unequal conditions of contractual, short-term work. That it is flexibility, rather than authenticity or originality, that shapes the worth and work of music performance underscores the necessity of workplace geographies in critically assessing the ways by which we make sense of the changing nature of life in labour.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 30 Aug 2017
EventRoyal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) Annual International Conference: RGSIBG17 - London, United Kingdom
Duration: 29 Aug 20171 Sept 2017


ConferenceRoyal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) Annual International Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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