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Are you a musician working in performance or teaching, working with community groups or working in the health sector or retail? Do you self-manage, self-produce or even self promote? Do you work a regular day job while pursuing your music?

To sustain successful musical lives at the beginning of the 21st century, most musicians combine a range of music and music-related activities, while continuing to draw an income from work outside of the sector. This phenomenon – known as a portfolio career – is widespread but not well understood. This project explores conditions and strategies needed for Australian musicians to sustain successful, dynamic, careers.

The project, which has received financial support of an ARC Linkage Grant (LP 150100497) is being led by the Queensland Conservatorium Research Centre, Griffith University (ethics approval 2016/524), with industry partners at the Australian Council for the Arts, Create NSW, Creative Victoria, Culture and the Arts (WA), a division of the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries, and the Music Trust, as well as colleagues at Curtin University and the University of South Australia.

Making Music Work will undertake a major national survey of musicians from around the country, as well as a dozen in-depth case studies, in order to create a comprehensive and detailed picture of the working lives, career trajectories, and economic circumstances of portfolio musicians in Australia.

In examining the ways in which musicians navigate their careers, this research not only looks at how long musicians have been working in the sector, but – most critically – the diversification of roles that they hold, the ways in which they balance doing so, and ultimately how they sustain their livelihoods.