As the end of work approached this evening I was stuck with two options: go home, finish my Master of Arts assignment, or go and listen to a panel about music and fashion. So I found myself in attendance of the first Musical Stimulants panel on the Turbine Platform down at Brisbane Powerhouse. The session was presented by QUT Creative Industries Faculty and the Institute for Creative Industries and Innovation‘s Independent Music Project (IMP). Andy Arthurs from Music at QUT Creative Industries and Head of the IMP was maestro of the line-up of ladies: on stage was musician and QUT academic Kiley Gaffney, Patience Hodgson from The Grates and Suzi Vaughan, Head of Fashion at QUT Creative Industries. Here’s some thoughts about that session:
False dichotomies: music/fashion, creator/fan
Interestingly, the panel’s position orientated mainly around the interrelations (or not) between music and fashion as experienced by creators of such content. Naturally, I guess since they are all cultural producers in their own right. Fair call. There are plenty of music types who you naturally think of their look and their style. Names were thrown about: David Bowie, Boy George. For these people, their clothes, their persona, becomes intrinsically tied to their music. After all, it is all expression of themselves.
But this is no different for the fanbase either. In fact, it is likely more so for them. Here’s a little exercise: I want you to think generally about emo bands, punk rock and indie rock. What did you think of?
Was I right? Something like this? I think there is an equally interesting conversation to be had around the relationship between fans of music and fashion. Many musical genres have an natural association to fashion. Punks with mohawks, indie rockers in too-tight-jeans, r&b with a bit of bling and the goths in eyeliner and black jackets. Kiley Gaffney talked about the concept of style as the arbiter between art and commerce. Too true. When I started considering the topic, I was focused on the user (or consumer) of these cultural products. From this position, there is a natural and fairly obvious link between music and fashion because things we choose to purchase are identity markers. And who is it that is consuming the cultural products of music and fashion? The fans.
‘Ya sell out’
The panel’s creator-focused position would of course eventually lead to “sell out” being mentioned as well. What a surprise? Not.
But to be honest I hoped for more. I thought this would be the kind of group who would have already seen past the ‘downloading is stealing and it hurts my CD sales’ syndrome but alas not the case. To some extent I can see Patience’s point when she threw (basically) the entire Hip-hop genre into the ring. Sure, they are among the most likely musicians to have clothing lines, video games (and contollers!) and fragrances; go on, think Eminem‘s Shady Ltd clothing company and Wu-tang Clan‘s Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style and the Def Jam triology (Def Jam Vendetta, Def Jam Fight For NY, and Def Jam Icon) video games and Wu-wear clothing company? And then there’s 50 Cent‘s entire catalogue of products that would rival Krista Now’s (from Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales) including his 50 Cent: Bulletproof and 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand video games, 50 Cent: The Money and The Power reality television program, Pure 50 RGX body spray, his G-Unit clothing company, two film companies, a book imprint, Glacéau Formula 50 vitamin drink, the G-Unity charity foundation, and (if the list wasn’t already ridiculous) Magic Stick condom range. But what about the pop-princesses—Britney‘s swag of scents or Kylie’s bod and bed threads (even a stint with The Wiggles)?! If this is the marker of ‘sell out’ I suspect these two are stamped. Kiley Gaffney mentioned Chicks on Speed as an interesting merge of music, fashion and visual arts. Chicks on Speed have collaborated with serveral fashionistas to create fashion lines (like Insight51, Garcia Marques, Lee Cooper), exhibited as visual artists widely and operate a record label oozing with indie-cred. Now don’t get me wrong, I like anyone else who doesn’t play guitar, but where is this proverbial line in the sand drawn? What makes Ice-T and Hilary Duff sell-outs and Chicks on Speed not?
A final remark: I was very interested in Suzi Vaughan’s comment about the fashion industry having to deal with ripping-off and piracy since (she says) they don’t get copyright. (This is of course not entirely true, but fashion and copyright is a complicated area, as I have said before). She made the argument that the reason that fashion seems so fickle and orientates itself around seasons is because you are so likely to be ripped-off that the only thing to do is keep creating, to stay ahead of the crowd.
After the talk session, Megan Shneck and John Dunlop did an awesome live performance using looped pre-records and a violin.
On a side note, normally if feel like the youngest person in the room at things like this, not the case for this session. It turns out that the event intentionally coincided withsome events being run for the school children taking part in Education Queensland‘s Creative Generation Excellence Awards in Instrumental Music.