4- From Underground to Mainstream Culture: Addressing Problems Related to Drag Music in Today’s Music Industry - Jérémi Gendron, Université Laval

11:30 AM, Sunday 26 May 2019 (2 hours)
The art of drag (entertainment through a female impersonation by men (Baker, 1994)) evolved from underground to mainstream culture. Previously performing their art only to the LGBTQ+ community, drag queens are now the face of a multimillion-dollar industry (The Globe and Mail, 2018). Now considered a cultural phenomenon, the platform in a way responsible for its diffusion is the reality tv show RuPaul’s Drag Race (RPDR) (New-York Times, 2018).Since the accession of RPDR, we have witnessed drag queens benefiting from a visibility in various markets; as brand ambassadors (American Apparel and Starbucks in 2014, Coca-Cola in 2017 or Ikea and Lush in 2018) and as musicians.Numerous ex-RPDR contestants have produced themselves in the music industry with their own creations but are constantly denied by major American labels (Billboard, 2018). They must turn to independent labels such as Producer Entertainment Group (PEG), a label that is working to obtain a distribution deal with a major label. According to David Charpentier, fonder of PEG, not a single major label takes drag queens seriously, asking them to repackage as non-drag artists. By drawing a portrait of the extent of such phenomenon in different markets and by considering the popularity of a few ex-RPDR contestants in the musical sphere, we are wondering: To what extent is drag queens’ music discriminated by today’s music industry? Are their images and personas in the way of their success? What are the motives behind the refusal of major labels to reach a distribution deal?
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