What did it mean to be a musician in the French-speaking part of Switzerland in 2010? How could a person make a living from it? Marc Perrenoud and Pierre Bataille, members of NCCR LIVES - Overcoming Vulnerability: A Life Course Perspective, examined the professional trajectories of musicians in French-speaking Switzerland. Their book Vivre de la musique? describes three ways of being a musician differentiated not by musical genres or training, but by sources of income.
The music community and careers in music present a wide variety of organizational modes and forms of employment. The Musicians' LIVES' study identified three occupational categories:
- Creators, who play their personal compositions, often at concerts or shows. They represent about 25% of the study’s respondents.
- Artisans, who perform in public, generally in contexts where music is secondary, such as commercial events or private parties. This group represents about one-third of the Musicians LIVES sample.
- Teachers, who derive their income mainly, if not exclusively, from teaching music, although they remain well integrated into the musical milieu. This path is also a possible end-of-career reconversion for artisans and creators. These respondents comprise the remaining 40% of the study’s subjects.
This classification derives from the income type of female musicians, namely copyright, fees and teaching related income. Indeed, researchers have found that pathways differentiate relatively early into one category or another and remain there. In addition, these pathways provide insights into individuals’ social origins. Thus, the education level of “artisans” is, on average, lower than that of the other two categories.
The Musicians' LIVES' study - 4 years listening to 123 music professionals
For 4 years, University of Lausanne sociologist and anthropologist Marc Perrenoud, University of Grenoble-Alpes sociologist Pierre Bataille and their team met and interviewed people who make a living from music in French-speaking Switzerland to learn the details of these individuals’ varied, touching and sometimes chaotic life paths. Some of these trajectories illustrate the three professional categories in the book Vivre de la musique?, which is the fruit of their work and rendering of the study Musicians’ LIVES’. This rich field research analyses the characteristics of this environment as well as the inequalities that can result from it.