Abstract: ARI Roundtable on Transnational Mobilities (2012)

I’m taking part in the graduate research segment of a workshop organized by the Asia Research Institute, “Transnational Mobilities and the Evolving Regulatory Regimes: Southeast Asia and Beyond”, this 17-18 August. Here’s the abstract of my presentation, which explores the notion and significance of intermediaries in the niche sector of migrant musicianship:

Moving Sounds: Cultural and Migrant Intermediaries in Overseas Filipino Musicianship

For musicians and other creative workers, migration is an integral strategy for maintaining a sustainable career in a complex market defined by temporary and flexible employment (Bennett, 2012). In spite of the prevalence of mobility in musical careers, however, there has been little research into the factors, patterns, and processes of creative migration. Rather than assume that all music professionals are independent, self-directed agents who simply go where the ‘gigs’ are, I suggest that intermediaries—recruitment and booking agents, managers, and trainers—play a crucial role in shaping the conditions, opportunities, and constraints faced by border-crossing musicians, both as migrant and cultural workers.

Using the case of overseas Filipino musicians (OFMs), I investigate how the transnational niche market of live cover musical performance in Asia (in hotels, bars/clubs, cruise ships, and theme parks) has emerged from two factors: the historical connections, informal and profit-oriented networks, and everyday practices of migrant and creative intermediaries who have facilitated Filipino musicians’ labor movement in East and Southeast Asia since the 1880s (Yu-Jose, 2007); and the contemporary regimes of transnational labor brokerage facilitated by the Philippine state (Guevarra, 2009). By exploring this interface between creative work and transnational labor migration, I hope to bring attention to a unique regulatory regime whose transformations are symptomatic of broader shifts in transnational mobilities, particularly in emergent markets for creative migration in Asia.


Bennett, D. 2012. Creative migration: A West Australian case study of creative artists. In Creativity in Peripheral Places: Redefining the Creative Industries, ed. C. Gibson, 117-128. Abingdon Oxon: Routledge.

Yu-Jose, L. 2007. Why are most Filipino workers in Japan entertainers? Perspectives from history and law. Kasarinlan: Philippine Journal of Third World Studies 22:61-84.

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