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Journal of Youth Studies Vol. 8, No. 1, March 2005, pp.

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Subcultures, Scenes or Tribes? None of the Above


David Hesmondhalgh

The concept of subculture has been criticised a great deal in recent research on youth and popular music. Two concepts have emerged as offering new ways of conceiving musical collectivities, particularly among young people: scenes, and tribes (or neo-tribes). I offer criticisms of the work of advocates of both terms. I also argue, however, that there is no possibility of a return to the concept of subculture in any adequate sociology of popular music, even if the concept may have some residual use in the sociology of youth. I discuss the potential advantages of the concepts of genre and articulation as a way of at least beginning to address some of the problems raised in the literature on subcultures, scenes and tribes, concerning the politics of musical collectivities. The common feature of the three terms under discussion is that they have been discussed by those concerned with the relationship between youth and popular music, and I close by reflecting on the relationship between the study of these two entities. I suggest that the assumption that there is a close relationship between youth and popular music was the result of particular historical circumstances and I argue that, while the study of young peoples relationships with popular music remains a topic of interest, the privileging of youth in studies of music has actually become an obstacle to a more fully developed understanding of music and society. Introduction Over the past few decades, it has often been assumed that the study of popular music is intimately connected to the study of youth culture. It is hard to imagine a major survey of the field of popular music studies that would not, at some point, pass through an examination of research that has also been important in the study of youth culture. The relationship is not quite one of equals, but popular music has been important to the study of youth too. Many key studies have something to say about
Correspondence to: David Hesmondhalgh, Faculty of Social Sciences, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK. Email: d.j.hesmondhalgh@open.ac.uk. The author thanks Johan Forna s, Keith KahnHarris, Brian Longhurst, Jason Toynbee and an anonymous reviewer for their comments on this paper. ISSN 1367-6261 (print)/ISSN 1469-9680 (online) # 2005 Taylor & Francis Group Ltd DOI: 10.1080/13676260500063652

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the role of music in the lives of young people, even if youth researchers have left the theorisation of this role to music studies. On the face of it, there are good reasons for this link. Popular music is very important in the lives of young people. People seem to lose touch with innovations in popular music as they get older. The most famous popular music of the past decades seems to have been created mainly by young-ish people for young people. But these ideas rely on particular notions of what popular music is, which are derived from an era, that of the 1960s and 1970s, when popular music became tied commercially and discursively to youth. In contrast, I want to suggest later in this article that popular music should not be conceived as the privileged domain of young people. The high point of the relationship between the sociology of youth and the sociology of popular music was the work on youth subcultures carried out in the 1970s by various researchers associated with the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS). Music often featured in these studies * although far less prominently than might be assumed. As the years went by, however, there have been signs of strain in the relationship. Birmingham subcultural theory has been attacked for a variety of sins by scholars of popular music and of youth (of which, more later). In the light of dis-satisfaction with work carried out under the banner of subculture, those concerned with youth and popular music have tried to find a new term to replace it. This is apparent from the title of a recent conference organised by the youth study group of the British Sociological Association, Subcultures, Scenes and Tribes (held in Northampton, in September 2003). Scene is a term that has become increasingly prevalent in popular music studies in recent years. In fact, it is common for it to be talked about among popular music academics as a term that has replaced subcultures as the key way in which musical collectivities are conceived. The term tribe, meanwhile, has been the basis of a recent effort, by Andy Bennett, to rethink the relationship between youth, style and musical taste in the wake of increasing criticisms of subculture-based research. Whereas tribe, or neo-tribe, has emerged from the longstanding interplay between youth research and popular music studies, the concept of scene has been developed in versions of popular music studies more influenced by cultural studies and cultural geography. Nevertheless, the abiding concern with popular music among youth researchers has made the concept of scene an object of interest for them. The terms scene and tribe, then, indicate a potentially fertile area of debate about the problems with the concept of subculture in research on youth and popular music. More significantly still, they raise important questions about the best way to conceive of musical collectivities, or collective musical identities, in the light of such problems. This is my main focus in this article, and I want to argue that the concepts of scene and tribe are not, ultimately, useful ways to conceive of musical collectivities in modern societies, whether of youth or of any other group. I also have a secondary, and more polemical, concern. What unites the three terms under discussion here, and at the Northampton conference, is a shared concern with youth and popular music. This suggests that a quest has been under way for concepts that will continue to bring
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together the study of youth and popular music, under the sign of a new paradigm, one that will replace subculture. But I want to claim that such a quest is misguided and, furthermore, that we should question the assumption, implicit in much teaching and research in these areas, that there is a privileged relationship between the two fields of study. I will begin with a critical reading of Andy Bennetts adaptation of the term tribe from the work of Michel Maffesoli (Bennett 1999). I concentrate on Bennetts article because this is by far the most substantial attempt I know to develop a theory of neotribalism in relation to music [1]. I agree with Bennett that subculture has problems as a concept in the study of youth and popular music, but I will argue that there are better reasons for thinking that subculturalism is flawed than the ones he offers, and that the criticisms he makes are based on problematic theoretical assumptions. These problems in my view undermine his proposal of neo-tribalism as a new theoretical framework for the study of the cultural relationship between youth, music and style (Bennett 1999, p. 614). I will then go on to offer an assessment of some work carried out using the much more fully developed concept of scene. Collectively, work done under this rubric has offered useful insights into the role of place and space in musical production and consumption. But I will argue that scene is a confusing term. It suggests a bounded place but has also been used to refer to more complex spatial flows of musical affiliation; the two major ways in which the term is used are incompatible with each other. In the third section, I ask whether we should return to subculture. There is a case that it might be useful to hold on to the term, in a limited way, for analysing certain youth groups. But I argue that subcultural analysis has never really been of much use in studying popular music. The article therefore questions the search for particular terms that can reunite the study of youth and popular music, and indeed the attempt to reify individual terms as theories. But I recognise that the debates about subcultures, scenes and tribes throw up important questions about musical collectivities. I offer some thoughts on a better way to conceive of the relationship between music and collective identity, based on the concepts of genre, articulation and homology. Finally, in the light of debates about these terms, I close with some observations about the close relationship between the study of youth and the study of popular music, and about whether this close relationship is desirable. Tribes and Neo-tribalism Andy Bennett has argued that neo-tribalism, a concept he derives from Michel Maffesoli, via some comments of the British sociologist Kevin Hetherington, provides a much more adequate framework for the study of the cultural relationship between youth, music and style than does the concept of subculture (Bennett 1999, p. 614). Bennett identifies two main problems in uses of subculture as a framework for studying youth, music and style. One is that the term is used in increasingly contradictory ways. The second is that the grounding belief of the subculturalists,

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that subcultures are subsets of society, or cultures within cultures, overestimates the coherence and fixity of youth groups (Bennett 1999, p. 605). The main way in which Bennett wants to move beyond these perceived limitations is to find a term that will capture the unstable and shifting cultural affiliations which characterise late modern consumer-based identities (Bennett 1999, p. 605). He finds the basis of such a term in Michel Maffesolis concept of the tribe in his book The Time of the Tribes (1995), published in French in 1988. For Maffesoli, the tribe is without the rigidity of the forms of organization with which we are familiar, it refers more to a certain ambience, a state of mind, and is preferably to be expressed through lifestyles that favour appearance and form (Maffesoli, quoted by Bennett 1999, p. 605). Bennett marshalls two Anglophone commentators to back up his view that Maffesoli usefully focuses attention on the temporary and fluid nature of modern group identity. One is Hetherington, who finds the concept of tribalisation useful because it involves the deregulation through modernization and individualization of the modern forms of solidarity and identity based on class occupation, locality and gender (quoted by Bennett 1999, p. 606). The other is the Canadian geographer Rob Shields who argues that the performative orientation among tribes produces temporary groups and circles, rather than the supposedly homogeneous identities of a perceived mass (Bennett 1999, p. 606). Maffesoli and Shields are directing their criticisms at the sociology of mass culture * Shields (1992, p. 108) writes of the Reismanian vision of a faceless mob of anonymous strangers * whereas Bennett is directing his critique towards subculturalists. But beneath the theoretical language, a simple duality is shared by these writers: fixity and rigidity versus instability and fluidity [2]. For Bennett, fixity and rigidity are associated with the old language of structural Marxism, and its concern with class, whereas the concept of tribes or neo-tribalism offers a recognition of instability and the temporary nature of group affiliation. In my view, this is too polarised a presentation of the alternatives. The CCCS subculturalists might have overestimated the boundedness and permanence of the group identities they were studying, but simply to offer instability and temporariness as alternatives does not get us very far. We need to know how boundaries are constituted, not simply that they are fuzzier than various writers have assumed. And confusingly, tribes carries very strong connotations of precisely the kind of fixity and rigidity that Bennett is troubled by in the work of the subculturalists. Indeed, it would be hard to find a concept more imbued with such connotations than tribe. The term has been widely used in dance music culture, but as with a great deal of dance music discourse it represents a projection of premodern symbols on to putatively new phenomena (see Hesmondhalgh 1995). It would be a great mistake for sociologists to take such projections at face value. Underlying Bennetts criticisms of subcultural theory is a particular interpretation of the historical development of youth culture and a particular view of personal identity. Bennett offers what he describes as a related concept, lifestyle, in order to provide a basis for a revised understanding of how individual identities are constructed and lived out (1999, p. 607). Drawing upon the work of David Chaney,
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Bennett explains how the concept differs from what he describes as structuralist interpretations of social life (although, in fact, his objection seems mainly to be to the Marxian elements of subcultural theory, rather than to the elements associated with structuralism and post-structuralism). The concept of lifestyle, according to Bennett,
regards individuals as active consumers whose choice reflects a self-constructed notion of identity while the latter [structuralist interpretations of social life] supposes individuals to be locked into particular ways of being which are determined by the conditions of class. (Bennett 1999, p. 607)

Once again, we have a polarity: the term lifestyles emphasises activity and agency, whereas structuralism emphasises determination and that old devil called class. This is an odd characterisation of some subcultural theory, such as the work of Paul Willis, which was at pains to draw attention to the creative ways in which individuals made use of commodities drawn from consumer society. It is true to say that class underpinned Birmingham CCCS theory as an explanatory factor, and it might be fair to argue that the CCCS subculturalists paid too much attention to class as a factor in understanding individual and collective identity, at the expense of other factors. But it is not clear that Bennetts emphasis on active consumers whose choice reflects a self-constructed notion of identity (Bennett 1999, p. 607) is a more satisfactory view of the relationships between consumption and modern personhood. Bennett offers what is in effect a celebration of consumerism. For example, he glosses a passage from Maffesoli as implying that a fully developed mass society liberates rather than oppresses individuals by offering avenues for individual expression through a range of commodities and resources which can be worked into particular lifestyle sites and strategies (Bennett 1999, p. 608) and it is very clear that Bennett is endorsing this view. He anticipates the objection that the concept of lifestyle does not pay adequate attention to structural issues (it is not altogether clear what this might mean beyond class) and makes the counter-claim that consumerism offers the individual new ways of negotiating such issues (Bennett 1999, p. 607). Tied to this celebration of consumerism is a voluntaristic conception of identity, whereby lifestyle is defined as a freely chosen game and identity is self-constructed (Bennett 1999, p. 607). The references to choice help to reveal Bennetts uncritical view of consumerism. But what of the factors that might limit or constrain such choice: poverty, addiction, mental illness, social suffering, marginalisation, disempowerment, unequal access to education, childcare and healthcare, and so on? [3]. All such states and processes seem to be consigned by Bennett to the category of structural issues, negotiable by self-creating subjects. Bennetts conception of the cultural relationship between youth, music and style that he is trying to theorise appears to be that youth can do whatever they want with music and style. There is no need to take an orthodox Marxist or neo-Marxist position to find such notions troubling. A more satisfying account of youth and identity has been offered, for example, by the Swedish writer Johan Forna s. For Forna s, modern life has seen a marked increase in the importance of aesthetics and culture, and young people are

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prominent in this: not simply, however, because they have more spending power and access to consumer goods, which is the basis of Bennetts account, but also because the demands of goal-oriented self-control made on young people by school and work create compensatory needs for escape and freedom. Unemployment and marginalisation can lie behind an investment in leisure and style too. Most important of all in explaining the increased centrality of culture among young people (as well as adults, Forna s is careful to note) is the problematization and intensification of identity work (Forna s 1995, p. 216). Engaging with the commodities produced by the cultural industries is a response to this problematisation, as traditional positions within family, school, work and community are lost. There are losses and gains; Forna s is registering the ambivalence surrounding changes in youth culture. The study Forna s carried out with two colleagues, published as In Garageland , provides a more detailed account of post-war Swedish youth. Whereas Bennett provides an account that portrays post-war history as one of continuously rising standards of living, Forna s et al . write of how the young rock musicians they studied were, unlike their parents, who lived through the boom years of the 1950s and 1960s, stamped by a new kind of uncertainty and irremediably chronic awareness of crisis (Forna s et al . 1995, p. 151). How does music fit into Bennetts theory of neo-tribes? Bennett draws on his own fieldwork on urban dance music to elucidate the framework. His claim is that musical taste, in keeping with other lifestyle orientations and preferences, is a rather more loosely defined sensibility than has previously been supposed . . . Music generates a range of moods and experiences which individuals are able to move freely between (Bennett 1999, p. 611). The basis for this claim is that DJs mix different styles into their sets, including pop songs; that clubs offer different musical genres in different rooms; and that young Asians do not just like bhangra, they like Western pop too. Bennett does not specify which researchers have assumed that musical taste was a tightly defined sensibility, but we can assume that he means the Birmingham subculturalists. Now Bennett might be right to say that some Birmingham subculturalists did not have enough to say about the variety of musical affiliations that the young people they studied might have (see the later discussion of Paul Willis) but the uncontroversial idea that people like different musical genres does not sustain a theory of neo-tribalism, which in Bennetts version implies that all relations between taste and identity are pretty much contingent, or at least dependent on the whims of individuals. The much more difficult and controversial questions about musical taste, and cultural taste in general, have tended to concern the degree to which sets of musical likes and dislikes can be correlated with other key variables, such as age, class, gender and ethnicity. These questions can only really be addressed using a combination of quantitative and qualitative data, but Bennett is using only a particular type of qualitative evidence here. The theoretical framework remains unsupported. Later, I will draw on recent work on music and identity to argue for a theoretical framework that makes it possible to examine different kinds of relations between taste and musical genre, without losing the idea that collective identity can be expressed through music.

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Scenes: A Fruitfully Muddled Concept? Does the concept of scene offer more as a new key term in popular music studies? Every two years since 1981, the main international organisation promoting the study of popular music, the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM) has held an international conference. In his comments on the 1993 event, published in the conference proceedings, Simon Frith observed that [t]he long domination of IASPM (sociology division) by subcultural theory is over. The central concept now (a fruitfully muddled one) is scene (Frith 1995, p. iii). Ten years later, IASPM chair Anahid Kassabian commented, in her introductory remarks at the 2003 conference in Montreal, that scene was one of the few concepts that popular music studies had made its own. There are two main sources for the widespread use of the concept of scene in popular music studies. One is an influential article by Will Straw, first published in 1991, the other is Barry Shanks book on the rock and roll scene in Austin, Texas (Shank 1994). Straw examined the difference between two ways of accounting for the musical practices within a geographical space (a country, a region, a city, a neighbourhood). He set the notion, prevalent in rock culture, of a stable community that engages with a heritage of geographically rooted forms (Straw refers to the very North American concept of heartland rock to evoke such a link) against the idea of a scene , which for Straw has the advantage of taking account of processes of historical change occurring within a larger international music culture (Straw 1991, p. 373). There are echoes in Straws piece of the emphasis in much recent cultural geography on the complexities of space and place, and of the local and the global. Straw, like cultural geographers such as Doreen Massey, draws attention to the way that local processes are dependent on a vast complexity of interconnections (Massey 1998, p. 124). Straw in fact developed his use of the term scene from an earlier paper by Barry Shank, and in 1994 Shank produced a substantial study of the rock n roll scene in Austin, Texas. Shanks book treats scene in an equally interesting but very different way. Shank develops a theory of the positively transformative aspects of rock scenes such as those of Austin, a theory that is based on French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacans account of how individual subjects attempt to achieve wholeness, mastery and plenitude, but constantly fail to do so. To summarise somewhat brutally, this results, in the context of a scene, in a series of temporary identifications, which create a productive anxiety (Shank 1994, p. 131), which in turn provides the impetus to participate in a live, face-to-face scene. In Shanks words, spectators become fans, fans become musicians, musicians are always already fans (ibid .). In effect, Shank is celebrating this productive achievement, but unlike other studies of local musicmaking, is grounding it in a (Lacanian) theory of human subjectivity. For Shank, drawing on the work of feminist theorists Julia Kristeva and Jacqueline Rose (who are themselves indebted to Lacan), a signifying community is produced based upon new enunciative possibilities within and among individual subjects (1994, p. 133).

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Shank owes a great deal to a type of cultural studies briefly prevalent in the 1970s and 1980s, which developed out of Screen theory (i.e. it was initially developed in the film studies journal Screen ) and which saw (sub)cultural processes as valuable where they interrogated, transgressed or transformed dominant cultural forms (Hebdige [1979] is the classic study). Such transgression and transformation were linked to libidinal excess. These features are clear from the passage where Shank most fully discusses the notion of scene.
The most interesting and vital musicians of Austin are produced as such within and by that intensity of fan commitment and cultural production known as a scene. A scene itself can be defined as an overproductive signifying community: that is, far more semiotic information is produced than can be rationally parsed. Such scenes remain a necessary condition for the production of exciting rock n roll music capable of moving past the mere expression of locally significant cultural values and generic development */that is, beyond stylistic permutation */toward an interrogation of dominant structures of identification, and potential cultural transformation. (Shank 1994, p. 122)

Shanks approach is in marked contrast to Straws in a number of ways. Whereas Straw shows a Bourdieu-an concern with processes of legitimation and the competition for cultural prestige, and looks upon musical practices from a distance, so to speak, Shank is working within a framework that draws a contrast between these transformative practices and the dominant or mainstream culture. More fundamentally still, Straw seems to be advocating scene as a word that questions the notion of local community that Shank celebrates, and which Straw associates specifically with the rock genre. In a brilliant comparison of the spatial and temporal dynamics of alternative rock and electronic dance music, Straw (1991, p. 381) argues that the constantly evolving nature of electronic dance music (at the time he was writing) ensured the simultaneous existence of large numbers of local or regional styles, such as Detroit techno, Miami bass, and so on. This resulted in an interest in a cosmopolitan transcending of place that allowed electronic dance music to bring together the dispossessed and the marginalised across many places. Rock, according to Straw, had become static, lacking in innovation, and oriented mainly towards the white male musical connoisseur. Shank, by contrast, is a rock advocate. He sees the Austin rock n roll community as a refuge for the alienated and the dispossessed. My point here is not to adjudicate between these two approaches to the concept of scene, but to point out their pronounced discrepancies, not only in how they read the politics of local music-making, but also * and more importantly * in how they theorise this music-making. Both Shank and Straw borrow this vernacular musical and cultural term and put it to stimulating use, but they do so in widely disparate ways. These differences could of course be read as two sides of a productive dialogue. The problem is that, as noted earlier, the concept of scene has become very widely used in popular music studies as a result of these two crucial contributions, and in many cases the term has been presented as a superior alternative to subculture (for example, Harris 2001). But its use has been very ambiguous, or perhaps more
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accurately, downright confusing. In many cases, the term seems to be used to invoke a notion of the musical (and music-associated) practices occurring within a particular geographical space. This ambiguity is present in Straws original article, but Straw is able to bring to his analysis a highly nuanced sense of the politics of cosmopolitanism. There is a danger, however, apparent at popular music conferences over recent years, that other researchers might use the term merely to denote the musical practices in any genre within a particular town or city. Such local musical practices are no doubt worth studying, but sometimes the term scene is used to make studies of particular locales sound more theoretically innovative than they really are. Meanwhile, other writers are using the term to denote a cultural space that transcends locality. The most important example of this approach is Keith Harriss lucid and compelling study of the global extreme metal music scene. For Harris, the major advantage of the term over alternatives such as subculture and tribe as ways of conceiving of musical collectivities is its inclusivity, which allows a holistic approach to musical practices, seeing extreme metal as the locus for a huge range of practices, texts, institutions and social phenomena (Harris 2000, p. 17), including the analysis of production and consumption in relation to each other. This is indeed attractive, but the same holism is possible via other, less confusing terms, such as genre, which in my view has much greater theoretical potential, as I shall explain later. Harris also points to the fact that scene is a vernacular term, used by musical participants. But this can actually be a disadvantage, if such uses create further confusion around an already overly polysemic word. So is this a fruitful ambiguity, or simply a confusion produced out of the over-use of a fashionable term? Will Straw has recently returned to the notion of scene, and has responded to some criticisms. How useful, he asks, is a term which designates both the effervescence of our favourite bar and the sum total of all global phenomena surrounding a subgenre of Heavy Metal music? (Straw 2001, p. 248). Straw proceeds to defend the term by observing that the concept persists within cultural analysis for a number of reasons. The first is the terms efficiency as a default label for cultural unities whose precise boundaries are invisible and elastic (ibid .). My concern is that this might be evasive. Even if boundaries are invisible or hazy, processes of distinction and definition need to be captured in analysis. Perhaps a perceived elasticity is a result of the very imprecision of the concept itself? The second defence of the term scene that Straw offers is that it is:
usefully flexible and anti-essentializing, requiring of those who use it no more than that they observe a hazy coherence between sets of practices or affinities. For those who study popular music, scene has the capacity to disengage phenomena from the more fixed and theoretically troubled unities of class or sub-culture (even when it holds out the promise of their eventual rearticulation). (Straw 2001, p. 248)

Here again, we see confirmation that scene is being presented as a replacement for the term subculture. And the pairing with class is revealing here. For studies of scenes seem to have been mainly confined to the bohemian metropolis. This is true even of

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Shank, who is rarely clear about the social class of his interviewees (see also, for example, Stahl 2001). The rearticulation of scenes to social class seems to be deferred endlessly. Finally, Straw observes that scene seems able to evoke both the cozy intimacy of community and the fluid cosmopolitanism of urban life. To the former, it adds a sense of dynamism; to the latter, a recognition of the inner circles and weighty histories which give each seemingly fluid surface a secret order (Straw 2001, p. 248). But how does the term achieve this metaphorical work? Of course, analytical concepts work via metaphor and association (think of Bourdieus field, or Habermass public sphere) but in my view scene has gone beyond the point where such metaphorical associations can aid in the analysis of the spatial dimensions of popular music. The term has been used for too long in too many different and imprecise ways for those involved in popular music studies to be sure that it can register the ambivalences that Straw hopes it will. Back to Subcultures? The two fashionable concepts, tribes and scenes, posited as replacements for the notion of youth subcultures, are both plagued by difficulties. So should we return to youth subcultures? In his recent book, Goth: Identity, Style and Subculture , Paul Hodkinson, responding to the point made by Bennett and others that the concept of subculture overstates the degree to which young people remain fixed in particular groups, argues that we need to differentiate those groupings which are predominantly ephemeral from those which entail far greater levels of commitment, continuity, distinctiveness, or, to put it in general terms, substance (Hodkinson 2002, p. 24). And Hodkinson proceeds to offer criteria for understanding such substance, including consistent distinctiveness of a group over time, commitment, autonomy from wider social and economic relations, and a sense of like-mindedness with others of the same group (Hodkinson 2002, pp. 28 33). Subculture, he argues, is still a relevant term for certain groups, such as the goths he studies, who display all these features to a high degree. A number of questions arise. How typical are these substantive groupings? To what extent have we seen a shift in their numbers and typicality? Are they now mainly nostalgic and highly self-conscious recreations of a lost era of collectivity? How should we conceive of the more fluid groupings who do not fall into the now more narrowly defined category of subculture? These are all important questions for the study of youth culture, in the wake of criticisms of subcultural theory, and assertions of the decline of youth subcultures. Hodkinsons book is very useful in provoking such questions, and in clarifying the notion of stability through the study of one notable remaining spectacular youth style. However, it is not clear that Hodkinsons book has a great deal to contribute to the sociology of popular music [4]. Music is just one of a large number of cultural practices that bind together goths, and there are only scattered references to goth music. Hodkinson lays greater (and useful) stress on friendships, special goth events
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(such as the annual Whitby Gothic Weekend), DIY media, clothing and the Internet. There is no real sense of why the goths liked the particular types of music that they liked, other than their darkness (Hodkinson 2002, p. 47). What musical elements and processes constituted that darkness, and how did they come to be understood in that way? How did musical darkness evoke emotions and identities in the private and collective lives of goths? For all its strengths, Hodkinsons book is a reminder that subcultural analysis was in fact never able to offer much insight into music. And perhaps we should not be too surprised about this. After all, the CCCS work on youth subcultures was never really about music, it was about youth collectivities that used music, among other means, to construct their identities. Only in very rare cases (for example, Chambers 1976) did the subcultural theorists deal with popular music in any depth at all. By far the most developed account is that of Paul Willis in his analysis of bikers and their preferred music in Profane Culture (1978), and it is worth returning to this account to examine its conception of the relationship between music and the social. Williss main analytical thrust is to emphasise the creativity and activity of the biker boys in forging connections between pop music and their own lives * and this sits uneasily with criticisms of subculturalism for its over-emphasis of structure, and downplaying of agency. Williss account very much fits with the CCCSs attempt to construct a theory of popular culture that would not pathologise that culture or its users. The main way in which Willis does this is to emphasise that the relationship between bikers and their preferred music was much more than an arbitrary or random juxtaposition (Willis 1978, p. 62). Rather, there was a real, though limited, dialectic of experience based on a relationship between the music they liked and their own exact and searching selection of music. For Willis, the bike boys musical preferences were based on their identification of objective features of the music that could parallel, hold, and develop the security, authenticity and masculinity of the bike culture (Willis 1978, p. 63). Part of this was about their love of 78 RPM records (associated with tradition and authenticity) over 45 RPM ones (associated with modernity and soullessness). But it was also about specifically musical features. Willis outlines a framework for analysis of the musical characteristics of the bikers preferred genre, rock and roll, and he discusses its specific ability to hold and retain particular social meanings (Willis 1978, p. 76). Willis concludes by suggesting that the dialectic of experience involved in the biker culture brought about very clear basic homologies between the social group and its music. The term homology is significant here. It derives from the Greek for same relation, and was developed in the natural sciences to denote a correspondence in origin and development, but it was adapted in the Marxist sociology of art (see Williams 1977, pp. 103 107). Whereas Marxian sociology used the term to refer to relationships between art and society, Willis uses the term differently, to refer to relationships between collectivities of people, on the one hand, and cultural forms, such as music, on the other [5]. The term has been heavily criticised, and certainly, as the musicologist Richard Middleton has shown, there are problems with the socio/ /

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musical analysis that Willis carries out in relation to the term. Williss musical analysis is largely based on the idea that in rock n roll, regular beat, rather than harmony or music, is the basic organizing structure of the music (1978, p. 76). Middleton (1990, p. 161) finds it hard to accept that harmony and melody are as unimportant as Willis suggests. And while Willis detects a resonance in the music with the biker boys aggression, much of the music they listen to (Buddy Holly, for example) is very hard to interpret as aggressive. As Middleton argues, the connection between rock n roll and the rockers is much looser than Willis seems to believe. The music was more diverse than Willis implies; and many other groups were finding pleasure in this music. For Middleton, the quest for homology leads the sociomusical analysis astray. Middletons analysis suggests that subculture should not be revived as a key concept in the analysis of popular music (although it may have its uses in the sociology of youth) because it was never a concept of much use to socio-musical analysis anyway. But if the proponents of the various terms under discussion in this article fail to offer adequate theorisation of the relationship between musical practice and social process, especially in terms of the collective experience of music, what more promising avenues of investigation might there be? Understanding Musical Collectivities: Genre and Articulation One conclusion to be drawn from my discussion of tribe and scene as alternatives to subculture as key concepts in the sociological analysis of popular music is that the search for an overarching term is likely to be unsatisfactory. Instead, we need an eclectic array of theoretical tools to investigate the difficult questions towards which the terms subcultures, scenes and tribes direct our attention. Nevertheless, some terms are more useful than others and need to be prioritised. In my view, genre is a much more satisfactory starting point for a theorisation of the relationship between particular social groups and musical styles than are subculture, scene or tribe [6]. However, I am not offering genre as an alternative master-concept; I am suggesting that it is a necessary, but by no means sufficient, way in which to think about the relationships between music and the social. It also, as we shall see, has the potential to refer to specifically musical forms of affiliation. Genre is a term that has been used extensively in media and cultural studies to understand the relationship between production and consumption * a necessary stage in the analysis of audiences for symbolic goods in any society. The key contribution in this respect has been that of Steve Neale, who broke through the formalism of many literary approaches to genre, to see genres as systems of orientations, expectations and conventions that link text, industry and audience (Neale 1980, p. 19), rather than as taxonomic lists of texts. In music studies, the term genre has been taken up by a number of sociologists of popular music, to understand the importance of categories in making value judgements about music (Frith 1996), for example, or to analyse how genres inform the organisation of music companies
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and the perceptions of audiences (Negus 1999). But most significant of all in the context of this article is the potential of the term to provide the basis for a theorised understanding of the relationships between music and the social. Jason Toynbee (2000) has offered a particularly promising account of genre in this respect, and one that challenges some of the tendencies in theoretical discussions of these relationships in the accounts I have already discussed. In particular, Toynbee draws attention to the political importance of the relationship between music and the social, often effaced or submerged in recent work. Toynbee points out that in popular music, unlike in other media, the link between, in his formulation, groups of texts and social formations, has often been conceived in quasi-political terms as a form of representation: Genre is seen to express the collective interest or point of view of a community (Toynbee 2000, p. 110). Toynbee notes that such an expressivist view of the relationship between musical texts and social formations has been heavily criticised, and he deals with some of the key objections. One objection is that such expressivism reduces music to an index of the social (Toynbee 2000, p. 111). But Toynbee argues that to talk about style as the expression of community does not necessarily lead to the abstraction of musics social function (Toynbee 2000, p. 111, emphasis added), as long as we recall that communities and genres are complex, and in particular that they are porous to outside influence. Another objection, or set of objections, to text social formation expressivism concerns the way that such communities have been assumed to be subordinate and resistant. Many analysts have pointed to changes in class structure and to the complexities of collective identification involved in modern societies. But for Toynbee, it remains the case that class and ethnicity continue to generate communities (2000, p. 112). Toynbee also deals, somewhat later in his discussion of genre, with what is effectively a further criticism of text social formation expressivism, that modern media technology means that music is distributed far beyond its point of origin, both in time and space, and that this effectively breaks the link between community and style. Toynbee asserts in response that musical communities none the less continue to provide the basis for genre markets (2000, p. 113), all the more so with the advent of globalisation. However, the concept of genre is not sufficient in itself to understand the relationship between social experience of community and musical form or style. The most heavily critiqued aspect of subculturalisms understanding of this relationship is the notion of homology. As we saw earlier, this was an important component of Paul Williss attempt to understand the role of music in the biker subculture. But in fact, in the long run, a more important element in subculturalisms efforts to theorise the relationship between symbolic practice and social process, formation or experience has been articulation, defined succinctly by Stuart Hall (1996, p. 141) as the form of the connection that can make a unity of two different elements, under certain conditions. It is a linkage which is not necessary, determined, absolute and essential for all time. The fullest theoretical treatment of the link between youth styles and social formation, John Clarke et al.s introductory essay to Resistance Through Rituals
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(Clarke et al. 1976) discusses the double articulation of working-class youth cultures, first, to the culture of their parents, and second, to the dominant culture of a changing post-war British society. The concept of articulation has been taken up very widely in cultural studies. In the sociocultural analysis of music, it has most notably been adopted in Richard Middletons important and influential book, Studying Popular Music , where Middleton uses the concept to discuss the complex, mediated relationships between musical forms and practices, on the one hand, and social structure on the other (Middleton 1990, p. 9). Toynbee builds on this basis and, echoing Middleton, dethrones homology, by making it just one kind of link between community and social practice (Toynbee 2000, p. 114) alongside a number of other potential articulations. For Toynbee, some sorts of community have a social constitution that is reflected, extended or resonated in musical genre, but elsewhere the fit between community and style is less direct, or genres can encompass huge areas of social and geographical space which can hardly be described as communities at all (Toynbee 2000, p. 114). And in some cases, in particular musical genres, musical techniques are used to express a sense of community, alongside these other types of relationship. Toynbee gives the example of rap. Black music makers draw on communal experiences of urban life. In Tricia Roses words, Talk of subways, crews, and posses, urban noise, economic stagnation, static and crossed signals leap out of hip hop lyrics, sounds and themes (Rose 1994, quoted by Toynbee 2000, p. 114). Such homologies are only one part of rap: images and devices from mainstream, white media, such as horror films, are borrowed and parodied; previous AfricanAmerican musics are adopted; and there is cross-fertilisation with other aspects of African-American culture. And of course rappers are drawing on symbolic and mediated representations of these experiences, rather than making documentary. Nevertheless, the reality of the greater poverty and exposure to violence of the African-American population is embodied in a genre largely produced by AfricanAmericans. The consumption of rap goes beyond this community, and others can borrow from and adopt the form, but nearly always with reference to the homological relationship between music and social group that is central to its meaning. Toynbee shows, through his mobilisation of the concept of genre, that the question of the relationship between musical identity and social process is a deeply political one, and that complexity in this relationship is not the same thing as absence of community. This goes beyond some important limitations in the work on tribes and scenes. Bennetts account effectively denies the continued relevance of communities based around class, and he seems sceptical about making any link between ethnic groups and musical styles (see his discussion of bhangra; Bennett 1999, p. 612). Meanwhile, as we have seen, the two most influential uses of the term scene seem to have opposing views of the politics of community in contemporary popular music. Just as significantly, through his uses of the concepts of genre, articulation and homology, Toynbee offers a differentiated approach to musical collectivity. In this respect, there are resonances in Toynbees approach with Hodkinsons call to think through a range of different possibilities of youth affiliation, judged case by case, rather

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than assuming that one theoretical term can capture all empirical reality. There are echoes too in a piece by Georgina Born, who, also using the metaphor of articulation, has contrasted the much-criticised homology model with a new model, which she calls the process model, where music reflects nothing; rather, music has a formative role in the construction, negotiation and transformation of sociocultural identities (Born 2000, p. 31). Refusing both the homology and process models, Born claims that there is a need to acknowledge that music can variably both construct new identities and reflect existing ones (2000, p. 32). Sociocultural identities are not, says Born, simply constructed in music; there are prior identities that come to be embodied dynamically in musical cultures, which then also form the reproduction of those identities. What both Born and Toynbee offer are theorisations that allow us to consider a differentiated and gradated range of relationships between music and the social, rather than being stuck in an either/or choice between passivity and activity, reflection and construction. Combined with the term genre, with its ability to connect up texts, audiences and producers, this notion of multiple articulations * including homologous ones * provides a much more promising theoretical basis for theorising empirical research than the recent alternatives. Importantly, neither Born nor Toynbee depend upon an assumption that any particular social identity, be it youth, class or ethnicity, is primary in understanding music in relation to social process. So the term articulation is a useful adjunct to genre, for it registers some of the ambivalence and complexity needed to understand the relationship between music and the social. This is worth reflecting upon in the light of criticisms that Birmingham subculturalism theorised the relationship between symbolic forms, such as music and clothing, and social process, too simplistically and deterministically. While some Birmingham studies inevitably resort to simplification, the most lasting theoretical legacy of Birmingham subculturalism for cultural studies has been precisely a stress on complexity and multiple determination. However, this is not to say that the concept of articulation is without its problems, and, as with genre, I am not advocating it as an answer in itself to the formidably difficult question of how to understand the relationship between music and society. One major limitation of the term is simply the variety of uses to which the metaphor has been put. Middleton uses it to refer to the relationship between musical forms and social structure, especially those related to class; Toynbee uses the term to refer to the relationship between groups of musical texts and social formations; Clarke et al . were referring to the relationship between the distinctive cultural practices of young people, and those of their parents, and of the dominant culture; Halls concern was with the relative autonomy of the cultural from the economic. The term is a general metaphor for complexity of determination. In some cases, it carries connotations of the importance of agency and struggle. It is not theoretically precise. But combined with the key concept of genre, it provides the means to discuss musical collectivities in a way that, in my view, is still more promising than the theorisations of scenes and tribes discussed.
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Popular Music Studies and Youth Studies: Time for an Amicable Separation? I began this article by suggesting that there is a widespread assumption that the study of popular music is intimately connected to the study of youth culture. The common factor uniting the three terms discussed and criticised, and in the title of the recent Northampton conference * subcultures, scenes and tribes * is that they are all involved in the study of youth and of popular music. I want now to make some reflections on the relationship between these two fields, in the light of problems with the three terms discussed. First of all, what is the evidence for thinking that there is indeed such an assumption about the close relationship of the study of popular music and of the study of youth culture? There is no space here to undertake a systematic content analysis, but it is clear that many of the key books in popular music studies devote considerable space to work on youth, especially the subcultures literature, even if they are critical of such work. On the basis of conversations with colleagues over many years, and the exchange of course outlines and reading lists, it seems clear to me that many higher education modules on popular music do the same. Behind such practices, in my view, is a nearly always unstated assumption that popular music is a phenomenon associated with youth. Book chapters or module blocks entitled Popular Music and Thirtysomethings or Popular Music and Older People or even Popular Music and Children are much, much less likely than Popular Music and Youth Culture * but these topics are just as important. What accounts for this concern with youth and with subculture in the study of popular music? We can identify three factors. The first is academic (in the neutral, rather than negative, sense of that term) in that it relates to the particular histories of these areas of intellectual enquiry. Popular music studies was in its infancy at the time that the Birmingham CCCS work was being produced, and it looked towards this work for inspiration, largely because there was very little analysis of popular music culture around [7]. In fact, as Middleton and other writers * such as Shepherd (1982) and Laing (1985) * made clear quite quickly, popular music studies found relatively little of value in subcultural studies for furthering understanding of the social relations of popular music. Yet students and researchers are asked to trawl back through the subculturalist work time and again in studies of popular music, even though music studies have now generated a substantial research literature, in the fields of musicology and ethnomusicology, media and cultural studies, and sociology of culture (see Hesmondhalgh and Negus 2002). The second reason for the connection between the study of youth and the study of popular music is more substantial, and is based on a view that young people are particularly involved with popular music. Music has been an important feature of the lives of young people for many decades. The Lynds (Lynd and Lynd 1929) found that music and radio were the main interests of boys and girls in Middletown. This close relationship between youth and music seems to have become more intense in the post-war period. Sociologists and social commentators, such as James Coleman
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(1961), found that music and dancing were central to young peoples leisure activities. For Simon Frith, writing on rock in the late 1970s, rock was the music of youth (Frith 1981, p. 181) and two of his four chapters on rock consumption were devoted to young people. This centrality does not mean, however, that music is unimportant in the lives of older people (see Crafts et al. 1993). What is more, music may be very unevenly important in the lives of young people. Evidence suggests that music is very significant for some young people as a means of social distinction, but mainstream young people are much more inclined to dip in and out of the popular music pool, rather than to immerse themselves in it (NeumannBraun 2003). The most visible representations of popular music involve young people, and older listeners continue to treat young people as more knowledgeable about changing trajectories of hipness and fashionability. Pop is still discursively centred around the young, in other words, but we should no longer see the consumption of music as being primarily a youth phenomenon, as commentators did in the 1960s and 1970s (and even then, this was probably misleading, as the popularity of The Sound of Music soundtrack in the 1960s remind us * see Harker 1992). By the 1990s, teenagers were no longer the main buyers of music. In 1992, according to the British Phonographic Industry Handbook of 1993, 47 per cent of album buyers older than 16 were over 45 years old; only 16 per cent were aged 16 24 years. Recent studies suggest that many of the people involved in cultural activities which seem to be engaged in by youth are actually in their 20s and 30s (see, for example, Maria Pinis study of women clubbers * Pini 2001). A third factor in maintaining the youth/pop association is the context in which many higher education popular music studies modules are taught. Most university undergraduates taking popular music course units are aged between 18 and 25, and many teachers want, it seems, to provide courses that will supposedly allow students to make sense of their own experience of music. But privileging youth experiences of popular music is likely to deter, rather than encourage, students to reflect on their own musical experience. The distinctive nature of youth experiences and genres of music * if indeed they are distinctive * would be much better understood if they were set alongside the study of musical experiences and genres that are not so much associated with young people. The use by young people of music to express difference, maintain self-identity and question abuses of political and economic power are important; but we might have a richer understanding of the politics and aesthetics of music if we were to consider its emotional and social significance, not just for youth subcultures, or for young people as a whole, but for everyone. This means considering a range of experiences, from the transgressive to the banal, without privileging the search for the rebellious. There is still some evidence for thinking that, under certain circumstances, youth continues to be at least one of the most likely sites where prevailing ideas about identity and status are questioned, suspended or reversed. But this is an empirical issue, and we cannot assume in advance that youth is clearly the most likely site for transgression, or indeed that transgression is the primary object of interest in a sociology of music or of youth.
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In my view, then, the close relationship between the study of youth and that of popular music was the result of particular historical circumstances, and the privileging of youth in studies of music is an obstacle to a developed understanding of music and society. In fact, in recent years, the study of youth and the study of popular music have in any case grown apart. They should be free to go their own ways in an amicable separation. Of course, there will be times when the two will be reunited. The two fields still have much to learn from each other. Those sociologists of youth who wish to explore the role of music in young peoples lives will, I hope, continue to look to popular music studies for stimulation and clarification. They will not be well served, however, by the concepts of subculture, scene and tribe. Sociologists of popular music should continue to work in dialogue with the best youth research, especially when studying the music produced and consumed by young people. But the sociology of popular music can learn just as much from fields it has relatively neglected, such as the sociology of the family, of education and of art. With his theoretical framework of neo-tribe, Bennett attempts to maintain the link between the sociology of popular music and the sociology of youth, but his notion of tribe makes the connection between young people and particular musics so malleable and fluid that effectively the link could take any form whatsoever * and this is no adequate theorisation. The concept of scene is richer, provides new understandings of musical collectivities in relation to space and place, and offers insights into the formation of aesthetic communities in modern urban life. But the concept is imprecise and confused and in fact has little necessary relationship with youth (although this has not stopped it being a source of much debate at the meeting point of popular music and youth studies, or so it would seem from the title of the recent British Sociological Association conference). There is no possibility of a return to subculture in any adequate sociology of popular music, even if as Hodkinson shows it may have some residual utility in the sociology of youth. I have suggested that genre offers a better way forward for understanding the links between cultural practice and social process in popular music studies, when wedded to other theoretical concepts, most notably articulation. One or two concepts will never be enough to analyse the social complexity of music, however; genre and articulation are merely starting points. The search for a new master-term to unite the fields of youth and popular music studies should be abandoned.
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Notes
[1] In the context of music-related studies, the concept has also been taken up, much more eetingly, by Ben Malbon (1999, p. 57) in his study of clubbing. Bennett comments on tribes elsewhere (2000, pp. 80 /81), echoing his article in a brief exposition. The same can be said of Zygmunt Baumans brief comments on neo-tribes (1992, pp. 136 / 137).

[2]

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[3] [4]

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[5]

[6] [7]

See Blackman and France (2001) for a recent discussion of some of these issues with regard to young people and questions of active citizenship. The same, in my view, is true of the literature on post-subcultures. There is no space to address the limitations of this work here, but see the neighbouring article by Shane Blackman in this issue. Willis has returned to the concept in a recent book (Willis 2000, pp. 127 /130). As he points out there, the concept was criticised by another Birmingham subculturalist, Dick Hebdige (1979), writing from a much more post-structuralist perspective, for its supposed inexibility and xity. Willis himself claims that his model of socio-symbolic analysis, outlined in a theoretical appendix to Profane Culture (Willis 1978) and developed in the more recent book, is precisely oriented towards such an understanding of diachronic change and that the notion of homology was just one part of that larger project. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the debate, this suggests the problems of analyses that downplay the internal differences of Birmingham approaches. In fact, some of the most useful aspects of Straw and Shanks work concern the operations and temporalities of particular musical genres. Simon Friths comments at the beginning of his Sound Effects make it clear that youth culture provided a legitimate front for those who wished to think seriously about popular music in the early 1970s:

In order to pursue my musical interests, I had to pursue a double life: on one hand, going through the paces of an academic sociological career / doing respectable research on youth as a social phenomenon; on the other hand, ringing the changes as a semiprofessional rock writer. (Frith 1981, p. 4)

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