Unpaid labour in the Danish music industry: A qualitative study of Danish record companies and venues

Charlotte Østergaard Jørgensen

Student thesis: Master thesis


The music industry is challenged due to the digitalisation and bad economy at several music venues. In a situation like this, skills are needed. However, the music industry is as many other creative industries, using substantial amounts of unpaid labour. Is that the best point of departure for a challenged industry? In this thesis I examine the role of unpaid labour in the Danish music industry. With a focus on internships and volunteers at the Danish record companies and at the venues, I have chosen to make an explorative study based on qualitative interviews conducted with 15 people from various parts of the Danish music industry. With an inductive approach and a theoretical framework consisting of neo institutional theory, sensemaking, logics, capitals and the inducement‐contribution balance I have reached the following findings. From analysing the interviews it becomes clear that the majority of the Danish music industry uses unpaid labour in some form and the use is widely accepted. There appears to be a division of the record companies using limited amounts of unpaid labour, usually interns, and the venues using substantial amounts of unpaid labour, usually volunteers. This difference can be explained by several factors such as size of the company, different logics and different ways of legitimating the use of unpaid labour. Furthermore I have established that unpaid labour presently is the most important recruitment tool in the industry, and also an important educational tool. The use of unpaid labour brings along many positive aspects such as engagement, new ideas and it creates new possibilities for the industry in form of local venues, concerts with up‐coming bands etc. However, it also has some negative side effects as the use of unpaid labour may impede professionalisation of the industry as well as create artificial market conditions. I find the obtained knowledge useful for the music industry as well as the different stakeholders such as educational organisations; interest organisations etc. as it can contribute to a renewed awareness of the matter, in order for the industry to be better equipped to deal with the current challenges.

EducationsMSocSc in Management of Creative Business Processes , (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2009
Number of pages100