Why is there no Uber for live music?

As digital platforms like Uber continue to proliferate and expand the gig economy into new areas of work, some industries, like live music, have structural characteristics that prevent them from adapting well to online platforms. .

The difficulty of quantifying value, the complexities and contingencies of the task at hand, and the fragmentation of the organizational field make some industries resistant to platformization, according to the article, “Why is there no Uber for live music? The digitization of intermediaries and the limits of the platform economy.”

The document was co-authored by Ian GreerMS ’03, Ph.D. 05, teacher-researcher at the ILR school, and published in the March issue of the journal New Technology, Work and Employment.

Co-authors include Dario Azzellini from the University of Zacatecas and Charles Umney from the University of Leeds.

On the face of it, the live music industry seems ripe for the platform, stemming from a long history of gig economy with bands and musicians performing a series of one-off engagements with infrequent long-term jobs. Likewise, other aspects of the music industry – such as recorded music – have long been available on various digital platforms.

However, through interviews and a systematic review of 168 “intermediate websites” – including agent websites, platforms and referral sites allowing individuals to connect offline – in Germany and the UK , the authors identified external problems that limit the growth of the platforms.

Valuation is a first problem. Usually, platforms take intangible qualities and simplify them into some form of numerical scores, such as star ratings, which can then be quickly compared. In the case of judging musicians, many intermediary websites expected visitors to review audio files, press photographs, video clips and select customer testimonials, which “undermines the speed-up function platform transactions”.

Additionally, live music, as a set of tasks, is complex, and a live music transaction involves contingencies that vary widely from engagement to engagement and are inherently unpredictable. As a result, the service and its price – as well as contingencies such as food, drink, cloakroom, assembly and disassembly of equipment – are subject to ongoing negotiations, which are severely limited by intermediary websites. .

Finally, the fragmentation of the field prevents live music platforms from achieving economies of scale. The authors explain that “function” gigs (i.e. a wedding or corporate retreat) and “creative” gigs (i.e. playing original compositions at a festival ) involve fundamentally different expectations on the part of the client, and although the same musicians may work in both areas, the gigs are radically different. These differences make a single platform aimed at all market segments impractical.

“While our selected industry is distinct and specific, this general point merits much broader consideration,” the authors concluded. “Another noteworthy finding from the study is that the platforms we discovered almost all operated on business logic. None of them displayed the “sharing economy” philosophy…and we found no no evidence that unions or collectives were creating platforms to improve trading conditions in live music markets. This surprised us because, although very rarely organized collectively, the historical evidence gives many examples of mobilization collective on the working conditions of musicians.

Julie Greco is a communication specialist at the ILR school.

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