Negus his hallucinations. The use of drugs and


Negus argues that “It can be reasonably argued that the vast
majority of musical production at any one time involves musicians working  within relatively stable ‘genre worlds”1
However Arctic Monkeys suggest this is an outdated argument as they have
evolved from an indie band at the start of their career but have now changed
into more of a rock band. Arctic Monkeys are signed to the record label,
Domino, one of the most successful independent record labels in the
UK.  They have been nominated for three
Grammy awards, won the Mercury Prize in 2006 for their debut album and headlined at the
Glastonbury festival twice 2. Their first album was the fastest
selling debut album in British chart history, this is said to be because they
were the first band to get attention from the public via the internet. Their
band’s Twitter now has 1.66 billion followers, with their lead singer, Alex
Turner having 26.5K followers3.
Bennett argues that audiences like genre because they “will often find
this predictability appealing.”4  Arctic Monkeys do follow a certain formula,
however they have also changed in their use of rock genre conventions.

Arctic Monkeys both conform to and challenge the rock and
indie genre convention of being working class. Studies found that the indie
genre is preferred by the lower classes while wealthier and better educated
counterparts preferred the rock genre.5
The band started off as a working class indie band, however when they
progressed into the rock genre it could be argued that they keep their working
class image to stay relatable to their demographic. In their music video ‘Why’d
You Only Call Me When You’re High?’ the main settings for the video are a pub
and an inner city street, typical working class settings. The pub has soft, but
low key lighting, giving the connotation of being intimate and at the same time
welcoming to the viewer. Due to people filling each shot the audience is
positioned as if they are part of the group that Turner is in which appeals to
the audience. This conforms to Katz, Blumer and Gurevitch’s Uses and
Gratification theory, it falls under  the
integration and social interaction sub heading.6
The middle and upper class audience like to watch the video because they gain
insight into circumstances of others and feel social empathy. Whereas the lower
class audience watch it as they can identify with others and gain a sense of   belonging. 7
working class people may engage with Arctic Monkeys as a point of
identification, middle classes as a voyeuristic exercise.8
Then as Turner starts to go off on his own the audience position is changed to
a third person view of Tuner seeing his hallucinations. The use of drugs and
alcohol are often associated with by rock stars. The only dialogue is muffled and inaudible to the audience. They still use the
muffled dialog as it focuses the video on the music while also giving the
audience a small plot for it too.  The
non verbal communication throughout the music video is very aggressive, “the
rock genre has often been  criticised for
appearing hostile and aggressive”9.
Despite not being able to hear what people are saying to Turner when he is
outside, the audience can infer that they are threats as he stumbles and backs
off after each person speaks to him.

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Another convention of the rock and indie genre is to focus on
the music instead of their appearance. On their Twitter account they only post
about upcoming albums, tours and new material their most recent post is ‘Alex Turner & Miles Kane’s @tlsp will release The Dream Synopsis EP on Dec 2nd. Watch ‘Is
This What You Wanted’ with a link to the video. Their photos are mostly professional photos used on
albums and posters, a photo that shows up multiple times is one promoting a
collaboration Turner did with The Last Shadow Puppets. The photo is the one
used on the album, it is of a woman dancing in a short black dress. Her hair is
covering her face, focusing all the attention onto her legs.  However, there are some that aren’t. The
photos that aren’t promotional aren’t done professionally or of high quality
such as their profile picture; giving the band a more humanised and genuine
feel. Their profile picture is a long shot of the band together near a
mountain, it is low quality and overshadowed by their banner photo which is
artwork for their recent music video which is promoting their music. Arctic
Monkeys were one of the first bands to use social media The Guardian reported, “the group has
already built a hugely devoted following by becoming one of the first to
harness the power of the internet to reach young fans”10
Despite the band being one of the first to take advantage
of new social media, Turner has said they “were doing the
same thing everybody else was, playing around town, doing shows, handing out
demo CD’s, then some genius put it on his website or Myspace.” 11
The description for the bands Twitter is just a link that directs you to a page
that is selling their latest album. Other artists and celebrities use this
space to tell people about themselves and who they are. The band don’t do this
as they presume that whoever is looking them up, already know who they are.
Fame and being well known is a common goal for rock stars, but not for indie
bands, who pride themselves on being less well known and unique. This shows
that the band has changed since when they first started off on Myspace when
they had a full description of who they were and what they did, to now only
promoting music and believing everyone knows who they are.

The band
don’t always follow the conventions of the rock genre, one of the main
conventions of the genre is not caring about their star image. Even though they
don’t have many music videos or post lots of pictures of themselves on social
media, they do have a distinctive style, especially lead singer Alex Turner.
Turner is mostly recognised for his unique hair style and wearing aviator
sunglasses. He is almost always at the forefront of the group when they are in
photos, making him the dominant and most well known member of the group. This
can be seen on the front cover of an NME magazine with the band standing
together. It is a mid shot of the band showing off their dark, clothes and
intimidating facial expressions. The clothes appear to be somewhat cheap and
casual, appealing to the working class side of the audience, however when you
research how much their outfits cost, you can see they are not cheap at all.
The cheap looking clothing with expensive prices shows how the band is more of
a rock group trying to appeal to their indie audience. Todorov argued that ‘a new genre is always the
transformation of one or several old genres’ 12

 I think the reason why the Arctic Monkeys
use conventions from both the rock and indie genre is so that they can appeal
to a wider audience. Hartley notes that ‘the same text can
belong to different genres in different countries or times’ 13Turner is wearing sunglasses and has
his hair so it has made a flick across his face. Wearing glasses and dressing
in dark clothing is often connoted with the rock genre, however being
distinguished for these features as a style is not. This proves that the group
are not tied to one particular genre and have been able to change genre
successfully and using conventions from both genres to make themselves unique. Abercrombie
suggests that the “boundaries between genres are shifting and becoming more
permeable.” 14  They use the rock side of their style to
appeal to an American audience and use the indie side to appeal to the British
audience. The clothes that they are wearing look like they could be worn by the
working class as they are quite casual, however they are probably really
expensive and of good quality, not conforming to the convention of not caring
about appearance. The background of the photo is pretty plain, it is a shutter
with black and white squares on it. The plain background forces the audience to
concentrate all their attention onto the group. As the background is unclear if
it is in a rough area, making it more of an indie photo, or a well built up
area, making it more rock. As the paint looks neat and fresh we can infer that
it is in the latter, again proving that the band are more rock than indie. On
the inside of the magazine there is a double page spread of the band leaning on
the car with the title saying “I’VE GOT MY LEATHER TROUSERS ON…” The band are
wearing the same outfits as they were on the front cover, however Turner’s hand
is now visible revealing that he is smoking a cigarette and on his little
finger he is wearing a ring. The cigarette is often connoted with indie bands;
however male jewellery is more associated with rock artists. The shot is also
further away revealing more of the background. The band are in green area
surrounded by foliage and an old caravan behind them, there is also a vintage
car in the foreground, which Turner and two other members are leaning on. The
old caravan and car don’t appear to be in condition, showing that they are
probably far away from civilisation and distancing themselves to society, a
connotation of indie artists. The vintage car would have been desired by older
rock stars when the cars were new and popular, but now they are trendy with
people who like vintage memorabilia, the indie audience.

In
conclusion the band both conform to the rock genre as they concentrate more on
their music rather than their star image. However, they do still challenge it
by having their own style, this can be justified as we live in a world where
the media controls everything and if you don’t have a style then people will
find it hard to follow you. “In the 1990s, the line
between indie labels and major labels began to blur”15 this affected
Domino and I think that if the band had full creative control and make their
own record label, then they would have less of a star image and focus more on
the music. Even though Arctic Monkeys are still classed under the indie rock
genre, they are more of a rock group with indie features. Or in Jone’s words, “there
is an abundance of middle class impersonations of working class caricatures”16
If Domino they were to get rid of either one of indie or rock, then the group
would lose half of its demographic. Andrew Tolson redefines genre as ‘a
category which mediates between industry and audience’ 17

1
Keith Negus, Music Genres and Corporate Cultures, Routledge, page 25

2
http://www.arcticmonkeys.com/news.php?page=56&ipp=10

3
https://twitter.com/Alex_Turner @Alex_Turner_

4
2008, Jacquie Bennett, Media Studies AS & A2, Pearson Longman, Page 25

5
http://phys.org/news/2015-06-musical-social-class.html June 3rd 2015,
University of British Columbia

6 R. West &
L. H. Turner, Introducing Communication Theory: Analysis and Application 2004

7
http://visual-memory.co.uk/daniel/documents/short/usegrat.html 1987, Denis
Mcquail

8
Benefit Street – Poverty porn or just the latest target for pent up British
fury, Charlie Brooker, The Guardian 12th January 2014

9
Popular Music the Key Concepts, Roy Shuker, page 233, Routledge, 2005

10
Arctic Monkeys climbing high – thanks to the net, Owen Gibson, The Guardian, 17th
October 2005

11Arctic
Monkeys Discuss Their New Album “AM” & Why They Didn’t Plan On Being Social
Media Pioneers, http://wxrt.cbslocal.com/2014/08/02/arctic-monkeys-discuss-their-new-album-am-why-they-didnt-plan-on-being-social-media-pioneers-interview/ Andy Koval

 

12 http://faculty.washington.edu/farkas/HCDE510-Fall2012/Chandler_genre_theoryDFAnn.pdf
 Tzvetan Todorov

13 John Hartley, Communication, Cultural and Media
Studies: The Key Concept, Routledge, 1994, page 129

14
Nicholas Abercrombie, Television and Society, polity press, page 256, Cambridge
University

15 https://www.thebalance.com/signing-with-an-indie-label-2460744
Signing With and Indie Label, Heather McDonald

16
Chavs – The demonization of the working class, Owen Jones, Verso, 2006, page 38

17 http://faculty.washington.edu/farkas/HCDE510-Fall2012/Chandler_genre_theoryDFAnn.pdf, Andrew
Tolson

 

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