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Pop Brands

Branding, Popular Music, and Young People


Nicholas Carah

Edited By 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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Chapter Two


Music…as It Should Be: The Work of Meaning Making Meaning making The meaning-making activity of music fans is a form of immaterial labor. Their activity produces the immaterial content of commodities and the social context of production (Arvidsson 2005, Hearn 2008, Terranova 2000). In this chapter I explore the affective product of young people’s labor. By affective I mean the enjoyment, shared meanings, values, and mythologies of authenticity produced by young people through their involvement with popular culture. Young people’s taste and meaning-making practice is central to making brands valuable mobile media objects. In chapter three I extend this argument by illustrating how meaning-making is channeled into me- dia-making practices. These two chapters explore Coca-Cola’s Coke Live and Virgin’s V music festivals. I begin with Virgin’s and Coca- Cola’s manifestos of authenticity before exploring the way young people engage with these brands’ rhetorical claims around the per- formance of live music.1 This enables an examination of the contrived and constructed character of authenticity within popular culture. The real music manifesto For the 2009 V festival, global brand Virgin attempted to rehabilitate pop music pariah Vanilla Ice. As part of Virgin’s Right Music Wrongs campaign Vanilla Ice was contracted to publicly repent for his musical sins. Right Music Wrongs set out to have snarky and cynical fun with musical taste. Vanilla Ice was put ‘on trial.’ If the public voted him innocent he would play live at the V festival, if he was voted guilty he would be forced to...

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