Non-Conformity: The Punk Rock Tradition turned into Conformist Bohemia

As I was reading Sociologist Richard Lloyd’s Neo-Bohemia: Art and Commerce in the Post Industrial City I found myself connecting the reading to my senior capstone project on the punk rock movement. I was thinking about the creative class and its connection to gentrification. I was also thinking about the components of punk rock and how it encompasses anti-authoritarian and individual freedom ideologies. Punk rock is also an outlet for musicians to voice their criticisms of those in power since they are very anti-authority and anti-mundane.

Here’s a compilation album called CBGB Forever since CBGB was such an important venue for punk rock. The album includes a nice variety of popular musicians who played at CBGB. Enjoy!

It’s interesting because after our class discussion last week and the reading this week I thought it was interesting how creatives have the ability to change the way that the city and the people within city operate.

Music becomes a culture industry so even those who fully believe and identify with the punk rock movement ultimately feed into the system. The punk rock movement is also appealing to youth culture and attracts youths looking to express their Ramones_-_Ramones_coverfrustrations through music within cultural centers creating a neo-bohemia in the process. “In any event, the overall youthfulness of the scene means that local incomes are likely to be even lower in a neo-bohemia than the average for artists overall” (164).

Punk is also a culture associated with alienating oneself from the rest of society. Punk is about rebellion againstrancid the societal norm. Punk rock is a music form in which people can voice their frustrations through music and fashion.

The most important component to the punk rock movement is the live show. Since the advent of the technology musicians have been struggling with ways to make money. The music industry has shifted; tastes have changes, tastes have shifted, and album sales have plummeted, there’s money to be made by touring and branding. This leads to challenges about selling

Patti Smith

Patti Smith

out particularly for punk bands that represent non-conformity. “Today, workers must be competent to the task demands of flexible production—able to demonstrate ‘individual creativity’ to an unprecedented degree—and they must also be able to acclimate themselves to enormous amounts of uncertainty and risk” (244).  The live show has remained the most important alleyway for bands to reach their fans. To be successful a lot of musicians sign with labels in order further promote their music, but also to branch out to a larger audience. The more popular the music the more popular the live show will be.

Artists within the punk rock movement contribute to gentrification through their desire not to conform to society. They move to neighborhoods where other musicians are trying to also not conform, but through the desire to not conform to societal norms the artist actually unbeknownst creates the norms within the movement. Typically these cities or urban areas don’t become popular until musicians or artists find some form of success.

Green Day and D Generation CBGB copyright Bob Gruen

Green Day and D Generation CBGB
copyright Bob Gruen

Once the musicians make it into the main stream, then fans and followers who are interested in the art the musician produce, flock to the cities and gentrify neighborhoods within the city. “The ideological features of bohemia work to the benefit of these industries, sustaining a pool of potential labor that largely bears its own costs of reproduction. Neo-bohemian neighborhoods help to make this possible by clustering employment opportunities in areas like entertainment provision that help aspiring artists to subsidize their creative pursuits” (161). The process generates more affluent residents and the Bohemian character of the community grows and appeals to more people, then the property values rise to accompany this migration. The irony is that the artists who started the movement actually eventually get pushed out both for the rising property values, but also in the case of punk rock the neighborhoods in the city no longer represent their anti-conformity and anti-mundaneness.

CBGB is example of what happens when gentrification causes rent to rise. CBGB was a music club that opened in 1973 by Hilly Krystal at 315 Bowery, intersecting Bleecker Street, in the East Village. For over thirty years CBGB provided a venue

CBGB

CBGB

for a lot of punk rock and new wave bands including The Ramones, Television, Patti Smith Group, Blondie, and Talking Heads. “The social world of cultural production privileges particular locales. Such places encourage the collective process of cultural production, fostering collaboration, linking artists to audiences, and sustaining a ‘work culture’ through which participants come to frame their efforts” (166). From the early 1980s CBGB was known for hardcore punk. CBGB is renowned for basically birthing punk rock. However in 2006 CBGB closed. The rent skyrocketed to $40,000 a month. The space was then transformed into a John Varvatos boutique.

315 Bowery Today

315 Bowery Today

Punk Rock musicians are forced into a dichotomy of representing punk culture-anti-conformity, anti-authoritarianism and individual freedom while also producing music that appeals to a mass audience through conformist media.

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  1. […] Last week I discussed the punk rock tradition and how through non-conformity and the traditional components of punk rock: individual freedom and anti-authoritarian sentiment actually creates a conformist bohemia. This is done through the musicians’ ability to create an artistic space within a city that once the musicians make it to the mainstream and attract a fan following those followers flock to a centralized artistic area thus creating a bohemia. This mass movement to a particular […]

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