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Pop Brands

Branding, Popular Music, and Young People


Nicholas Carah and Nicholas Carah

Corporations engage young people and musicians in brand-building activities. These activities unfold in media-dense social spaces. Social networking sites, the user-generated content of web 2.0, live music events, digital cameras and cell phones are all used in constructing valuable brands. This book addresses the integration of popular music culture, corporate branding, and young people’s mediated cultural practices. These intersections provide a rich site for examining how young people build brands within spaces and practices that they perceive as meaningful. The book is based on extensive ethnographic empirical research, drawing on participant observation, textual analysis and interviews with young people, musicians, marketers and other participants in the cultural industries. Contemporary theories of marketing and branding are brought together with critical and cultural accounts of mediated social life. The book explores the distinctive concerns and debates of these different perspectives and the lively interface between them.


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Preface xi


ii 1990; Harvey 1989, 2003; Jameson 1991; 1998; Schiller, 1999; Thomp- son, 1995). Experiential branding is a new strategy for capital accu- mulation, but it is also situated historically within capital’s accumula- accumulation of physical, mediated and social space. Brands are de- veloped in physical retail spaces, clubs and music festivals. They are also constructed through interactive websites, social networking sites and other forms of media production. Branding entwines the physical and mediated production of space. In the first chapter I engage with multiple approaches to young people, popular culture and branding. I draw on cultural and media studies, marketing and branding literature, critical theory (including contemporary critiques of branding and audience labor) and the polit- ical economy of communications. These perspectives serve as a theo- retical framework to critically engage with empirical material collected through ethnographic fieldwork between 2005 and 2009. The ethnographic approach engages participant-observation at live music events, retail spaces and online, analysis of cultural and branded texts (print, broadcast and online), and interviews with young media- makers, music fans, musicians, culture industry workers and brand builders at global corporations. I trace the intersections between corporations, popular music cul- ture and young people. They intersect in highly regulated, physical and mediated social spaces. Spaces like corporate websites and music events are publicly accessible but privately owned and operated. The social action occurring in these spaces is contingent upon the commu- nicative architecture of the space. Following a contemporary ethno- graphic method I aim to demonstrate the ‘relationship...

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