The study

The study is based on new quantitative data on the demographic background of students on relevant degree programmes in higher education, members of orchestras, and teaching staff at conservatoires. This new data is based on a range of sources: information from Statistisches Bundesamt (the German equivalent to the Office for National Statistics) and the German Orchestra Union; data purchased from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (UK); and internet-based analysis of the demographic background of orchestral musicians as well as conservatoire teachers in Germany and the UK.

The study also draws on 64 in-depth interviews that on average lasted one hour and fifteen minutes. Research participants were based in London (n=32) and Berlin (n=32) and the project addressed various issues that relate to the precarious nature of work in the field of classical music, inequalities in the classical music profession, and the ways in which entrepreneurialism is registered and lived out.

The research participants

The majority of research participants were in their late twenties/early thirties and therefore at an early stage in their career.  Some were still students and only a handful had permanent positions in orchestras or at teaching institutions. Most research participants were self-employed and frequently held multiple jobs ranging from teaching to performing. My sample consisted of musicians who played a range of instruments (string, woodwind, brass, piano, organ, percussion), as well as singers, conductors, opera directors and composers. Although they predominantly worked in classical music, some played across various genres to supplement their income.

If not raised during the interview, participants were invited to provide me with demographic information – such as age, class, racial background, and nationality – at the end of our conversation. Reflecting the under-representation of working-class and black and minority-ethnic players, 44 musicians in my sample identified as middle-class, 7 as working-class, and 2 as lower middle-class. 11 were not sure how to describe their socio-economic background, which resonates with broader arguments that popular awareness of class seems to wane. 56 described their racial background as white, 4 as mixed-race, 1 as black, 1 as Asian and 2 as East Asian. Also resonating with wider trends in the industry, the sample was international with participants from former West and East Germany, Britain, the Netherlands, Finland, Turkey, Poland, Serbia, Lithuania, Spain, Ireland, Italy, Singapore, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and the US.

Research Ethics

Prior to each interview, I informed the research participants about their right to withdraw, as well as other ethical issues such as confidentiality, anonymity and the use of pseudonyms.


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