This article analyzes musical labor and notions of love in relation to gig work with a focus on musicians in new music in New York City. Working in new music as a gig worker entails many skills, many tasks, and many jobs, which hardly guarantee a release from precarity. Meanwhile the neoliberal myth of a “labor of love” propagates the conviction that love and hard work can overcome any challenge, including those posed by racialized and gendered difference. The account of contemporary musical labor I offer concurs with recent critiques of the complicity of new music discourse with neoliberal agendas. Yet I argue that even as contemporary practices of musical work demonstrate how new music is entrepreneurial work embedded in a capitalist system, the everyday experiences of working musicians confound a totalizing account of the neoliberal agenda. Musical work takes place alongside and despite neoliberalism. Based on ethnography and interviews, I argue that the unsettled norms of musical gig work in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic brought to the fore ways in which musical work is more than the perfect manifestation of exploitable “labors of love.”

You do not currently have access to this content.