2018 NASSS Annual Conference
Sport Soundtrack: Sport, Music, & Culture

Courtney Cox

University of Southern California
Mall Grab: Authenticity and Appropriation in Action Sport Branding

Music and sporting industries have both historically grappled with questions of authenticity, identity, and ownership. The quintessential “California Sound” was, from its inception, a product of confiscation; it is impossible to conceive of Surf Rock guitar reverbs without the influence of Middle Eastern sounds that inspired American guitarist Dick Dale, or The Beach Boys’ 1963 hit “Surfin’ USA” without Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen.” Surf Rock is not an exception in the practices and processes of adopting characteristics and approaches from other genres and cultures. Skateboarding notably draws from the aesthetics of music videos; and music videos have likewise benefited from proximity to skate culture’s cool, aloof confidence. These exchanges, however, are not always mutually beneficial or appreciated. Recently, the mainstream adoption of popular action skate brand Thrasher has provoked the outright rejection of music stars Rihanna and Justin Bieber by the magazine’s editor, deeming them posers. Using archival data, field observations, and interviews, this paper explores select case studies to examine the political economy of music’s relationship with sport, and interrogates the socio-historical implications of this enduring interrelation, looking to the moments of rupture and tensions that arise when such genres cross over into mainstream circulation.