Hostname: page-component-77c89778f8-5wvtr Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-07-23T15:04:34.691Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Getting ‘Capital’ in the music world: musicians’ learning experiences and working lives

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 September 2010


This paper discusses an exploration of the working lives of musicians working in a range of musical genres in the North East of England, revealing the factors that contribute to their ability to obtain a musical livelihood. These factors can be understood in terms of various forms of social, cultural and symbolic ‘capital’ (Bourdieu, 1986), which musicians amass throughout their lives, from early childhood and family influences to starting out in the music world and beyond. The accrual of such ‘musical capital’ is shown to be associated with the quality of musicians’ learning experiences and the findings are offered as having potential relevance to music education policy and practice. It is concluded that a wider range of teaching methods, including the recognition of different types of music and ability, could encourage more young people to remain involved in music learning and give musicians clearer signposts for embarking on a career in music.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2010

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


BECKER, H. (1982) Art Worlds. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
BECKER, H. (2002) ‘The life history and the scientific mosaic’, in Weinberg, D. (Ed.), Qualitative Research Methods (pp. 7987). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
BENNETT, D. (2009) Understanding the Classical Music Profession: The Past, the Present and Strategies for the Future. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
BERTAUX, D. (2003) ‘The usefulness of life stories’, in Humphrey, R., Miller, R. & Zdravomyslova, E. (Eds), Biographical Research in Eastern Europe: Altered Lives and Broken Biographies (pp. 3951). Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
BOURDIEU, P. (1973) ‘Cultural reproduction and social reproduction’, in Brown, R. (Ed.), Knowledge, Education and Cultural Change: Papers in the Sociology of Education (pp. 71112). London: Tavistock.Google Scholar
BOURDIEU, P. (1984) Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
BOURDIEU, P. (1986) ‘The Forms of Capital’, in Richardson, J. (Ed.), Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education (pp. 241258). New York: Greenwood.Google Scholar
BOURDIEU, P. (2005) The Social Structures of the Economy. Oxford: Polity.Google Scholar
BURLAND, K. & DAVIDSON, J. W. (2002) ‘Training the talented’, Music Education Research, 4 (1), 121140.10.1080/14613800220119813CrossRefGoogle Scholar
CHAMBERLAYNE, P., BORNAT, J. & WENGRAF, T. (2000) The Turn to Biographical Methods in Social Science: Comparative Issues and Examples. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
COCHRAN, L. (1990) The Sense of Vocation: A Study of Career and Life Development. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
COTTRELL, S. (2004) Professional Music-Making in London: Ethnography and Experience. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
CREECH, A., PAPAGEORGI, I., DUFFY, C., MORTON, F., HADDON, E., POTTER, J., de BEZENAC, C., WHYTON, T., HIMONIDES, E. & WELCH, G. (2008) ‘From music student to professional: the process of transition’, British Journal of Music Education, 25 (3), 315331.10.1017/S0265051708008127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
DAVIES, A. (2004) ‘Preparing professional performers: music students’ perceptions and experiences of the learning process at Birmingham Conservatoire’, International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 17 (6), 803821.10.1080/0951839042000256466CrossRefGoogle Scholar
DAVIES, R. & LINDLEY, R. (2003) Artists in Figures: a Statistical Portrait of Cultural Occupations. Research Report 31. London: Arts Council England.Google Scholar
DCMS (1998) Creative Industries Mapping Document, 1998. London: Department for Culture, Media and Sport.Google Scholar
DCMS (2001) Creative Industries Mapping Document, 2001. London: Department for Culture, Media and Sport.Google Scholar
EHRLICH, C. (1985) The Music Profession in Britain Since the Eighteenth Century: A Social History. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
GARNHAM, N. (2005) ‘From cultural to creative industries: an analysis of the implications of the “creative industries” approach to arts and media policy making in the United Kingdom’, International Journal of Cultural Policy, 11 (1), 1529.10.1080/10286630500067606CrossRefGoogle Scholar
GILL, R. & PRATT, A. (2008) ‘In the social factory? Immaterial labour, precariousness and cultural work’, Theory, Culture and Society, 25 (78), 130.10.1177/0263276408097794CrossRefGoogle Scholar
GRANOVETTER, M. (1995) Getting a Job: a Study of Contacts and Careers, 2nd Edition. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.10.7208/chicago/9780226518404.001.0001CrossRefGoogle Scholar
GREEN, L. (1997) Music, Gender, Education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.10.1017/CBO9780511585456CrossRefGoogle Scholar
GREEN, L. (2001) How Popular Musicians Learn: A Way Ahead for Music Education. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
GREEN, L. (2006) ‘Popular music education in and for itself, and for “other” music: current research in the classroom’, International Journal of Music Education, 24 (2), 101118.10.1177/0255761406065471CrossRefGoogle Scholar
HADDON, E. (2006) Making Music in Britain: Interviews with Those Behind the Notes. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
HALLAM, S. (2002) ‘Musical motivation: towards a model synthesizing the research’, Music Education Research, 4 (2), 225244.10.1080/1461380022000011939CrossRefGoogle Scholar
HALLAM, S., ROGERS, L. & CREECH, A. (2008) ‘Gender differences in musical instrument choice’, International Journal of Music Education, 26 (1), 719.10.1177/0255761407085646CrossRefGoogle Scholar
IVALDI, A. & O'NEILL, S. (2009) ‘Talking ‘privilege’: barriers to musical attainment in adolescents’ talk of musical role models’, British Journal of Music Education, 26 (1), 4356.10.1017/S0265051708008267CrossRefGoogle Scholar
JAFFERS, S. (2004) ‘The impact of informal music learning practices in the classroom, or how I learned how to teach from a garage band’, International Journal of Music Education, 22 (3), 189200.10.1177/0255761404047401CrossRefGoogle Scholar
KINGSBURY, H. (1988) Music, Talent, and Performance: A Conservatory Cultural System. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
LIN, N (1999) ‘Social networks and status attainment’, Annual Review of Sociology, 25, 467487.10.1146/annurev.soc.25.1.467CrossRefGoogle Scholar
LIPS-WIERSMA, M. & MCMORLAND, J. (2006) ‘Finding meaning and purpose in boundaryless careers: a framework for study and practice’, Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 46 (2), 146167.10.1177/0022167805283776CrossRefGoogle Scholar
MACDONALD, R., HARGREAVES, D. & MIELL, D. (2002) Musical Identities. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
MACMILLAN, J. (2004) ‘Learning the piano: a study of attitudes to parental involvement’, British Journal of Music Education, 21 (3), 295311.10.1017/S0265051704005807CrossRefGoogle Scholar
MARTIN, P. J. (1995) Sounds and Society: Themes in the Sociology of Music. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
MENGER, P.-M. (1999) ‘Artistic labor markets and careers’, Annual Review of Sociology, 25, 541574.10.1146/annurev.soc.25.1.541CrossRefGoogle Scholar
MILES, M. B. & HUBERMAN, A. M. (1994) Qualitative Data Analysis: An Expanded Sourcebook. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
MILLS, J. (2004) ‘Working in music: the conservatoire professor’, British Journal of Music Education, 21 (2), 179198.10.1017/S0265051704005698CrossRefGoogle Scholar
MILLS, J. (2006) ‘Working in music: the pianist’, Music Education Research, 8 (2), 251265.10.1080/14613800600779568CrossRefGoogle Scholar
MILLS, J. (2007) ‘Working in music: the violinist’, Music Performance Research, 1 (1), 7689.Google Scholar
PAYNTER, J. (2002) ‘Music in the school curriculum: why bother?’, British Journal of Music Education, 19 (3), 215226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
RICHARDS, T. & RICHARDS, L. (1995) ‘Using hierarchical categories in qualitative data analysis’, in Kelle, U. (Ed.), Computer-Aided Qualitative Data Analysis: Theory, Methods and Practice. London: Sage.Google Scholar
RIMMER, M. (2006) Songs in the Key of Life: The Musical Habitus and Young People's Community Music Participation. Unpublished PhD Thesis, University of Newcastle.Google Scholar
ROBERTS, B. (2002) Biographical Research. Buckingham: Open University Press.Google Scholar
ROGERS, R. (2002) Creating a Land with Music. London: Youth Music.Google Scholar
ROSENTHAL, G. & FISCHER-ROSENTHAL, W. (2004) ‘The analysis of narrative-biographical interviews’ in Flick, U., von Kardoff, E. & Steinke, I. (Eds), A Companion to Qualitative Research. London: Sage.Google Scholar
SHARMAN, A. (2008) ‘Conservatoire says yes, yes, yes to pop’, The Independent, 18 September 2008.Google Scholar
SLOBODA, J. (2001) ‘Conference Keynote. Emotion, functionality and the everyday experience of music: where does music education fit?’, Music Education Research, 3 (2), 243253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
SMILDE, R. (2009) Musicians as Lifelong Learners: Discovery through Biography. Delft: Eburon.10.1007/978-3-531-91520-3_10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
SMITH, L. (1998) ‘Biographical method’, in Denzin, N. K. & Lincoln, Y. S. (Eds), Strategies of Qualitative Inquiry. London: SageGoogle Scholar
WRIGHT, R. (2008) ‘Kicking the habitus: power, culture and pedagogy in the secondary school music curriculum’, Music Education Research, 10 (3), 389402.CrossRefGoogle Scholar