At this conjuncture, where digital technology has facilitated the production of musical products in unimaginable quantities and where the international copyright system is being stretched to its limits, many argue it is contractual regulations that are attempting to shape this complex web of creativity and commerce (Dean, Fisher, Gilbert). From the Copyleft movement to anti-piracy regulations and the problems of policing the digital ecosystem have tended to dominated industry, academic and policy discussions. More recently the attention has turned to the impact of the growing ‘gig’ economy and the boundaries of what is even understood as work in the digital age (Dean, 2013, Fisher, 2009, Fuchs, 2014). This paper seeks to turn the focus onto the place of contracting in the music ecosphere, paying particular attention to how the spectre of contracts impact on the creative process and the way in which music producers experience and give meaning to their work through contracts.
Contracts symbolise unions, they are an exchange of promises, they should contain equal complementary obligations, made of free will between consenting adults. They mark significant moments in time and in our lives both personal and professional. Yet signing contracts in the creative sphere is often extremely difficult and full of contradictions, they often mark great moments of highs and lows for music makers and music producers alike. This qualitative research based on interviews with music makers and music professional seeks to analyse how the processes of contracting impacts on the affective realm of those seeking to create and work
within the music ecosphere. In our recent study into the mental well-being of music professions we found that music creators and music workers always cite the significance of signing contracts (Gross, S. Musgrave, G 2017) 1, these contracts appear to have significant symbolical meaning. And there is clearly a hierarchy of contracts that map out different stages of creators and music professional’s lives (Laing, D. Greenfield, S. Osbourn, C ) 2. Thus being sign or unsigned still appears to hold great significance in the way music workers talk about their work. Here I investigate what this significance is for music producers across the music supply chain from singers, writers, band, music producers and music managers and music industry professions.