The (re)marketing of disability in pop: Ian Curtis and Joy Division

Martin James, Mitzi Waltz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


In this article we examine the relatively new use of disability as a marketing device in pop music. Our analysis makes specific reference to how the career of Ian Curtis and Joy Division has become overshadowed by his epilepsy, depression and subsequent suicide, with comparison between early press and promotional materials from 1979–1980 and more recent materials created to promote reissues and films about Curtis. It also references other relevant individuals from the pop music sphere and marketing campaigns created around them that ignore or highlight issues of disability. Using these examples, we examine the ways in which messages about disability are packaged and presented within pop marketing discourses and discuss the issue of ‘acceptable’ and ‘unacceptable’ disability identities in pop, which have been created through a largely marketing-driven discourse. Finally, we briefly explore how the deployment of ‘disabled’ identities impacts on the musicians so identified, as opposed to on the sales of products.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)367-380
Number of pages13
JournalPopular Music
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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