In November 1865, the membership of New York City's Musical Mutual Protective Union went on strike. Spurred by low wages and professional disrespect, union men came together around an ensemble ethic emphasizing mutual obligation among players. This powerful code of conduct—enforced through the union's internal structure and the musicians’ employment model—sustained several weeks of strike action in the face of public indifference. It also pushed musicians to close their ranks and ensured the homogeneity of the orchestra pit. The strike invites us to historicize the “creative economy,” with equal attention to the material conditions of workers and the durable conceptual categories created by the culture industries.