Volunteering in the Danish live music venue field: A qualitative study of volunteering at the venue `Spillestedet Stengade´

Dorte Hartmann Larsen

Student thesis: Master thesis


This study examines volunteering in practice in a Danish live music context, more specifically at the Copenhagen underground live music venue Spillestedet Stengade. The aim is to shed light on the different theoretical understandings of volunteering and art production within governmentality theory. The understandings consist of underlying rationales and intentions, manifested in discourses, which are played out in practice. The study is based on an ethnographic fieldwork, which enables an exploration of the volunteers’ experiences and perspectives and how they are expressed in relation to the fusion of the understandings of volunteering and art identified in the literature. This leads to the identification of two dominating rationales; the economic and the moral, which both occupy different intentions manifested in practice at Spillestedet Stengade. This apparent dichotomy brings clarity to how the volunteers identify and adopt rationalities, which create different particular realities on the ground, which volunteers live out in their everyday life and activities at Spillestedet Stengade. On behalf of empirical examples I identify a range of unintended outcomes like burnout, stress, self-blame and conflicts. These downsides of volunteering have rarely been illuminated, as volunteering is perceived as a neutral, natural and necessary part of contemporary society, which benefits both the society as a whole and the individual. I argue that it is necessary to understand volunteering in a more nuanced manner. Whilst there is much research in relation to volunteer motivations, hardly any research examines rationales and intentions outplayed in context, which is the primary incentive to conduct this study. By applying a structural analytical framework that enables the examination of the interactions between agency and structure, I have been able to illuminate the relationship between the government, the organisation and the individual. Thereby I have been able to argue that volunteering in practice at Spillestedet Stengade is constructed on discursive structures and subjected to power relations, that impact the volunteers’ apparent field of possible action and their perception of the particular reality. Volunteering is based on the notion of uncoercion, which I argue is an illusion, because it neglects the power structures inherent in volunteering when outplayed in practice in an art-production context at the live music venue Spillestedet Stengade.

EducationsMSocSc in Management of Creative Business Processes , (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2011
Number of pages82