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‘Bongo Fury’: tourism, music and cultural economy at Byron Bay, Australia

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While tourism has been somewhat neglected in literature on the ‘cultural economy’, it remains an important influence on cultural production, particularly within a global matrix of youth travel. A distinct cultural economy has emerged at Byron Bay in Far North Coast, New South Wales, Australia, which builds on connections between tourism and the production and marketing of music. Counter-urban migration and tourism have contributed to transformations of regional identity, as the Far North Coast is increasingly perceived as an ‘alternative’ or ‘lifestyle’ region, attracting more overseas visitors than any other non-metropolitan area and transforming Byron Bay, a small ex-whaling town, into a unique site of backpacker subcultures. A crucial element of tourist consumption is popular music, produced specifically for youth markets, informed and influenced by the attitudes and style of backpacker cultures. These themes come together in the marketing and consumption of ‘world music’ and its artefacts to ‘neotribal’ subcultures. This paper discusses the economic impacts and cultural discourse of these trends, emphasising the role of a politics of representation within economic and social geography.

Keywords: Aboriginality; Byron Bay; Tourism; backpackers; cultural economy; discourse; exoticism; ‘world music’

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, Email: 2: University of Sydney, Australia

Publication date: 2003-05-01

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