Artistic Professionals in a 21st century Service Economy: Pursuing the American Dream
Dan Cornfield, Professor of Sociology at Vanderbilt and Director of the Vanderbilt Center for Nashville Studies, addresses how artistic professionals conceive of the American Dream, and how they combine entrepreneurship, professionalism, trade unionism, and their own creative talent to pursue that dream. Cornfield addresses these questions through 3-hour, confidential interviews with 100 Nashville music professionals, including artists, session musicians, producers, engineers, A & R people, song writers, publishers, labor representatives, and music executives. The project examines how Nashville models an “artistic scene” for the training and professional development of independent artistic professionals in a twenty-first century service economy. Nashville music professionals conceive of the American Dream as artistic freedom and lifelong artistic expression, and they feel that Nashville is a collegial scene for launching and sustaining artistic careers. They are discontented with the costliness of health insurance and opine that labor, professional and business organizations need to improve access to affordable health care. As the industry restructures and job security is threatened by digital downloading, enterprising music professionals increasingly pursue the American Dream by availing themselves of home production technology to diversify their artistic portfolios in non-union settings. These findings suggest that entrepreneurship is eclipsing trade unionism as the chief strategy for pursuing an artistic American Dream in an increasingly dynamic, if uncertain, music industry.