“£5 for the Record and £7 for the T-Shirt”: Music Merchandising, Fashion, and the Rise of Sign Value

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

Band t-shirts have traditionally been a garment worn by music fans. Band t-shirts were bought at concerts, in a record shop, or from an artist’s fan club, and people wearing them were proclaiming their love for a certain artist and their attachment to a certain kind of music and the values which went with it. However nowadays band t-shirts can be bought from high-street clothing chains such as Primark, H&M or Topshop. This move from the sphere of music to the sphere of fashion is extremely meaningful and deserves to be analysed. Primary research was conducted in order to determine what the cha racteristics of band t-shirts sold on the high street are and to compare them to band t-shirts sold at concerts. It showed how shop-sold band t-shirts use the aesthetic of traditional concert t-shirts, while at the same time hiding their connection with music and instead playingon the attraction of a flattering design and on the representation of young and “cool-looking” characters. A survey was also organised, which confirmedthat band t-shirts sold in shops are not being sold to fans but instead are reaching a brand new market of people who are not familiar with the band or its music and are more interested in being fashionable. Drawing on the theories of Jean Baudrillard and other theorists, we argued that the move of band t-shirts away from music and towards fashion is accompanied by the loss of noneconomic values linked to the music such as knowledge, subcultural capital and cultural capital. These noneconomic values appear to be still present but they have in truth been replaced by simulacra, and this thesis shows how sign value is the only value to have resisted this evolution – something which did not happen in a vacuum but reflects the evolution of the capitalist system.
Date of Award7 Sep 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Goldsmiths, University of London
SupervisorMark Fisher (Supervisor) & Scott Lash (Supervisor)

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