Punk Record Labels And The Struggle For Autonomy

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This book describes the emergence of DIY punk record labels in the early 1980s. Based on interviews with sixty-one labels, including four in Spain and four in Canada, it describes the social background of those who run these labels. Especially interesting are those operated by dropouts from the middle class. Other respected older labels are often run by people with upper middle-class backgrounds. A third group of labels are operated by working-class and lower middle-class punks who take a serious attitude to the work. Using the ideas of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, this book shows how the field of record labels operates. The choice of independent or corporate distribution is a major dilemma. Other tensions are about signing contracts with bands, expecting extensive touring, and using professional promotion. There are often rivalries between big and small labels over bands that have become popular and have to decide whether to move to a more commercial record label. Unlike approaches to punk that consider it as subcultural style, this book breaks new ground by describing punk as a social activity. One of the surprising findings is how many parents actually support their children's participation in the scene. Rather than attempting to define punk as resistance or as commercial culture, this book shows the dilemmas that actual punks struggle with as they attempt to live up to what the scene means for them.

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Editorial Reviews

Holly Kruse
Alan O'Connor's Punk Labels and the Struggle for Autonomy is an important, detailed, and long overdue account of the business of hardcore and punk music in North America. By focusing on the business and personal relationships, and the ethics, that govern the labels that put out the music, and by telling the story through personal narratives, O'Connor puts a human face on businesses integral in the emergence and growth of the hardcore scene. Particularly significant and groundbreaking in O'Connor's research is his examination of the relationships among occupation, class, race, and gender in the American punk scene, and what these relationships portend for the possibility of social change through DIY values in punk. Using the work of Pierre Bourdieu as a guide, this book views the problematic punk identity through the prism of the labels that produce it and the companies that distribute it, and it is a must-read for anyone interested in the struggle for independence in the business of cultural production.
December 2008 Razorcake
O'COnnor examines how DIY record labels behave socially, then plots, graphs, and explains his findings. It's an interesting take.
William Straw
Too many of those writing about punk merely gesture towards independent labels and their importance. Alan O'Connor delivers the full and detailed story. Punk Record Labels and the Struggle for Autonomy is a comprehensive look at what independence means for punk music in economic, social, and cultural terms. O'Connor has done his homework, expertly tracing the relationships between record companies, distributors, musicians and the music press over a thirty-year period. The book is analytical without being pedantic, and O'Connor has found a style which is both elegant and accessible. One of the book's many strengths is the way it brings the story of punk labels into the present, rather than stopping, like others do, when punk seemed to lose pre-eminence. O'Connor is up front about his personal commitments to cultural autonomy, but never loses his clear-headedness here. The result, in my view, is the first full-length political economic study of punk music, a very useful and well-researched work, which is never dull.
O'COnnor examines how DIY record labels behave socially, then plots, graphs, and explains his findings. It's an interesting take.
Scanner Zine
O'Connor has come up with an intelligent and insightful analysis on what makes a DIY Punk Label not just something that exists as a counter-culture venture sitting outside the recognized music industry, but something that is the epitome of the Punk movement; a movement that still has the desire to smash the music industry rather than be a part of it. . . . The book takes an original and inspired direction by analysing the social structure of a label and how each style of label fits into a self-imposed, social Punk Rock network.
Journal of Popular Music Studies - Peter Dale
O'Connor's contribution to this scholarship is his emphasis upon the persistence of such DIY punk-inspired labels during the 1980's and, perhaps most surprisingly, their enormous growth during the 1990's.
Equalizing X Distort
There is a fascinating amount of history around punk labels written here and make the book read as well as any historical account of punk....This book covers it all.
Journal Of Popular Music Studies
O'Connor's contribution to this scholarship is his emphasis upon the persistence of such DIY punk-inspired labels during the 1980's and, perhaps most surprisingly, their enormous growth during the 1990's.
— Peter Dale, 2010
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780739126608
  • Publisher: Lexington Books
  • Publication date: 5/1/2008
  • Series: Critical Media Studies
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 158
  • Sales rank: 1,163,786
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Alan O'Connor is associate professor in the cultural studies program at Trent University in Canada.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Table of Contents Chapter 2 Epigraph Chapter 3 Introduction Chapter 4 1 The Struggle for Autonomy Chapter 5 2 Commercial and DIY Labels Chapter 6 3 The Problem of Distribution Chapter 7 4 Punk Labels and Social Class Chapter 8 5 The Dynamics of Record Labels Chapter 9 Conclusion: What about the Music? Chapter 10 Appendix A: Interview with Lengua Armada Chapter 11 Appendix B: Record Labels Interviewed and Statistical Data Chapter 12 Bibliography Chapter 13 Index Chapter 14 About the Author

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