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Unfree Masters : Popular Music and the Politics of Work - Matt Stahl

Unfree Masters

Popular Music and the Politics of Work


Published: 21st November 2012
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In Unfree Masters, Matt Stahl examines recording artists' labor in the music industry as a form of creative work. He argues that the widespread perception of singers and musicians as free individuals doing enjoyable and fulfilling work obscures the realities of their occupation.

"Unfree Masters is an informative, intellectually engaging book. What really impressed me is how much I learned about copyright law, recording contracts, and music industry labor practices - subjects I thought I already knew a great deal about." Kembrew McLeod, co-author of Creative License: The Law and Culture of Digital Sampling "What makes Unfree Masters so significant is the fact that public struggles between musicians and the recording industry play out in less visible ways across all fields of employment. This is not simply a work of popular music studies. It is a major critique of the dominant relations between labor and capital in a postindustrial economy." Barry Shank, co-editor of The Popular Music Studies Reader "Here is a book that does several things at once. It explains the current status of recording artists, both as subordinated employees and as free entrepreneurs who license rights to intellectual property, namely their music compositions and recordings. It also shows how, from the standpoint of labour politics, these cultural workers are not so different from other workers in a neoliberal political economy: competing individually while dreaming of autonomy, and contractually tied to a record company that snaps up their creative output for exploitation and keeps them indebted while offering little security... Unfree Masters extends its focus beyond US recording artists to a detailed critique of the neoliberalisation of the workplace, arguing that financialisation causes high unemployment, in turn enhancing individualisation and casualisation at work, which allows employers to demand more and give less. Stahl shows that "the marginal status of present-day popular musicians enables them to serve as a lens through which we may perceive otherwise obscure truths about our own economic and cultural systems", in which the notion of liberal democracy seems like an oxymoron."--Hillegonda Rietveld, Times Higher Education, February 7th 2013

Acknowledgments ix Introduction: Popular Music and (Creative) Labor 1 Part I: Representation 31 1. American Idol and Narratives of Meritocracy 36 2. Rockumentary and the New Model Worker 64 Part II: Regulation 101 3. Carving Out Recording Artists from California's Seven-Year Rule 105 4. Freedom, Unfreedom, and the Rhetoric of the Recording Contract 143 5. Recordings Artists, Work for Hire, Employment, and Appropriation 182 Conclusion: "I'm Free!" 226 Notes 235 Bibliography 269 Index 283

ISBN: 9780822353287
ISBN-10: 0822353288
Series: Refiguring American Music
Audience: Professional
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 304
Published: 21st November 2012
Publisher: Duke University Press
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 23.5 x 15.88  x 2.03
Weight (kg): 0.57