Packaging talent : the migrant creative labor management of overseas Filipino musicians

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In recent years, research into labor market intermediaries in migration has sought to move away from the conventional image of the unscrupulous and exploitative recruiter, toward a more nuanced understanding of the role, function, and significance of third-party processes in the mediation of migrant labor across borders. This chapter contributes to this field of critical inquiry through an analysis of the agents and managers who facilitate the employment of overseas Filipino musicians (OFMs) in hotels and cruise ships in Asia. I contend that as a sector of migrant creative labor, the provision of live music entertainment in these themed leisure venues constitutes a unique form of high-skilled, specialist labor (music performance) in work conditions characteristic of low- and semi-skilled migrant labor namely, hyperflexible and racialized. Using the concept of migration infrastructure, I frame the work of OFM agents and managers as a process of packaging talent. The process of packaging is further subdivided into the organizational practices of recruitment and training of OFMs’ aesthetic and affective labor for the particular requirements of live music entertainment; and the representational strategies of “grooming” and branding to strengthen the racialized and gendered reputation of OFMs as competent yet low-cost providers of creative labor. Beyond merely facilitating the movement of workers between origin and destination countries, or between the spheres of production and consumption, OFM agents and managers are actively involved in shaping the demand for migrant creative labor, responding to and ultimately seeking to profit from the paradoxical tension between high skill and low cost which constitutes the employment context of OFMs.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Migration in Southeast Asia : Continuities and Discontinuities
EditorsKwen Fee LIAN, Md Mizanur RAHMAN, Yabit bin ALAS
Place of PublicationSingapore
Number of pages29
ISBN (Print)9789812877116
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Asia-Pacific
  • Creative labor
  • Labor market intermediaries
  • Migration
  • Music


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