Between the late 1970s and the present, there has been an important shift in the evolution of alternative culture. This transition, from subculture (Hebdige, 1979) to post-subculture (Thornton, 1995), has yet to be comprehensively understood by cultural discourse or applied practically as a method for cultural production. To this end, the present study is concerned with designing a post-subcultural entity and critiquing it. The present study’s primary question is: how does post-subcultural discourse factor in the design of an independent record label? An independent record label is a suitable place to find an active balance of cultural consumers, producers and participants that operate in a conscious relationship with both mainstream and alternative culture. This study fleshes out previous notions of post-subculture by creating an independent record label, developing it as an active post-subcultural organisation and studying its relationship with the culture industry, something which until now has never been attempted as an academic study. In this sense, the present study is making it a unique contribution to knowledge. The study benefits from an incisive and valuable methodology, which supersedes participant observation (Clifford & Marcus, 1986) with the practice first approach of design and critique. Since the study has been constructed in a designerly fashion for the purpose of critique and further reflection, its findings will be distinct, context-specific and unrepeatable.
Concepts of subculture have faded, while neo-tribalism (Maffesoli, 1996) has intensified as a key cultural trope. Previously, alternative culture developed through subcultural groups such as punks, mods and hippies, and for academic and writer Dick Hebdige, subculture catalysed cultural distinction through the consumption of style and existed as “systems of communication, forms of expression and representation” (Hebdige, 1976, p.129). For Hebdige, typical subculturalists utilise consumption to express their views and present these values through stylised products and services. Moving to the present, sociologist Michel Maffesoli suggests that subcultural groups have been replaced by post-subcultural groups, called “neo-tribes”, which supersede subculture as a contemporary social force “to be expressed through lifestyles” (Maffesoli, 1996, p.98). Maffesoli believes that post-subculturalists experience a more comprehensive mode of expression because they act out their views through more than the consumption of style, through the performance of collective lifestyles.