The branding of Joy Division and Ian Curtis, as well as Nirvana and Kurt Cobain, offer a complex montage of the importance of the brand in relation, especially, to a perceived authenticity. While the posthumous similarities between the ideas attributed to Curtis and Cobain are many, a glaring difference exists in the sales of the actual albums sold by the bands that made them famous. While Nirvana have one of the best-selling albums of all time with Nevermind (Prince.org, 2014), McLaughlin (2012: 104) points out that, ‘Joy Division’s sub-cultural standing has never translated into straightforward commercial success’, as ‘… the mystique surrounding Joy Division has always been way out of proportion to their record sales’. The band, in Simon Frith’s (1996: 15) view, ‘are one of the significant “market failures” in rock’. Curtis biographer Lindsay Reade (Gee, 2007) notes, ‘I worked out from the start to the end of his life until the end, he [Curtis] only made $4167.75 [£2,500] in total’. Yet the actual sales and financial success while the band was active seem unimportant to the 21st -century audience; the lasting ideas which can be recycled and repeated have become the true lasting value as illustrated through the ubiquitous items available bearing images related to the singers. Using the lens of their ‘brand’, the perpetuation of tattoos, pop culture reference and consumer goods around the world provide a tangible body of material to examine the pursuit of capturing the intrinsic quality of ‘realness’: an impossible task, as it is only the replicated image left.
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Jennifer Otter Bickerdike
- Palgrave Macmillan UK