This discussion paper feeds into our wider research on freelancers, considering the employment conditions and wages of freelance musical theatre performers.
The paper compares the employment situations of musical theatre performers in London’s West End with those working on New York’s Broadway. Based on a combination of in-depth interviews, ethnographic research and sector-specific data, it shows that freelance performers in the UK are paid less and experience greater job insecurity than their counterparts in the US. Further analysis shows that the employment conditions for UK musicians in the West End are more favourable than those of other performers. The paper offers insights into the reasons for these disparities through an exploration of business strategies, employment relations and political structures. It suggests a range of responses to address the problem.
Heidi Ashton is Assistant Professor at the Centre for Cultural and Media Policy Studies at the University of Warwick with over 25 years of experience as a freelance worker.