Call for chapters – Work, Rest, and Play: examining work and labour relations in arts, sports, and entertainment

Closes: 10 January 2025

Editors: Gretchen Purser, Rick Delbridge, Markus Helfen, and Andi Pekarek

Deadline: 10 January 2025

How to submit

Arts, sports, and entertainment make up a critical and growing segment of the economy, employing millions of workers across the globe. Employment growth in these fields reflects what some scholars view as a shift from a service economy to an emergent experience economy, characterised not only by live concerts and mass sporting events, but immersive escape rooms, themed dining, and "shoppertainment."

Creative labour is expected of an ever-widening swathe of workers, sometimes blurring the line between work and play and expanding the terrain of struggle over creative control. In this volume, we turn attention to the work experiences, labour processes, and employment relations of those working in the arts, sports and entertainment sectors of the economy.
Few figures are more glorified than those celebrities performing at the pinnacle of their careers on the front stage of the arts, sports, or entertainment industries. But the pursuit of these rewards – of money, fame, and recognition – usually necessitates an embrace of considerable risk. Indeed, a career in these fields of cultural production entails long spells of irregular and nonstandard forms of employment. Gig work, freelancing, multiple job-holding, and self-employment are the norm and not an aberration. Meanwhile, corporate concentration and control are ever-more pronounced across arts, sports, and entertainment, tilting the playing field away from workers and toward owners. This has prompted renewed interest in alternative models of funding, organisation and governance, as exemplified by nonprofit cultural organisations, public procurement schemes and various "underground" arts scenes.

Nevertheless, many who aspire to work in these industries are not only underappreciated and under-protected but are expected to put in years of unpaid labour, whether as interns in music production, volunteers at art galleries, or "student-athletes" at U.S. colleges and universities. Indeed, before their first professional contracts, many artists, entertainers, and athletes struggle to be recognised as workers at all, their labour belittled as a calling, hobby, or act of leisure. Additionally, these are fields characterised by "hockey stick" distribution in pay and protections, fueling further disparities based on race, ethnicity, and gender. Beyond the front stage, very little is known about the backstage workers enabling the performances and experiences of spectators and through ongoing support: the crews, agents, security, catering, cleaning, ticketing and merchandise. Here, too, in many instances, atypical work and self-employment abound.

Some of the most vigorous labour disputes in recent years have taken place behind the screen and off the field. In Hollywood, for instance, the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) and Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) simultaneously went on strike in 2023, bringing TV and movie production to a halt. These workers eventually secured better pensions, stronger intellectual property rights, and a modest degree of protection from the threat of generative AI. Videogame designers across the world have also joined together to contest being overworked and underpaid, forming new unions and securing contracts in Korea, Sweden, France. And in the multibillion-dollar field of collegiate sports in the U.S., athletes are legally contesting their longstanding "amateur" status and demanding recognition as employees, entitled to unionise and collectively bargain.
This volume of Research in the Sociology of Work invites papers that explore any topic related to work in the fields of arts, entertainment, or sport. We welcome both empirical and conceptual papers. Articles may address a wide range of topics, including but not limited to the following:

  • Work in the cultural industries (including film and TV, music, theatre, dance, gaming, animation, writing, live performance, and sports)
  • The experience economy
  • The arts and entertainment workforce: frontstage and backstage
  • Athletic labour and labour relations
  • Artistic labour and labour relations
  • AI and the future of artistic labour
  • Organisational contexts of creative labour
  • The impact of changing technology on work in the arts, sports, and entertainment
  • Careers in the arts, entertainment and sports
  • The nature of work-life balance and experiences beyond work in these sectors
  • The physical nature of work in these sectors and its implications for workers
  • Worker organising in the fields of the arts, entertainment, and sports
  • Labour market intermediation in the fields of the arts, entertainment, and sports
  • Fans, spectators, audiences, and the consumption of athletic and artistic labour
  • Labour classification struggles in arts, entertainment, and sports
  • Racial, ethnic, and gendered disparities in pay, promotion, and protections
  • Struggles for creative control
  • Struggles over occupational legitimacy
  • Comparative state policies regarding work in the arts, sports, and entertainment
  • Alternative organisational models for the arts: public and "underground".


How to submit

Submissions may be made at any time up until January 10, 2025.

Please submit your manuscript to [email protected] and include "Work, Rest, and Play" in the subject line.