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What is punk rock? And can you run a punk rock agency? Maybe…

When punk is on every t-shirt and decades after it was the pulse of popular culture, what does it even mean? And can we make a business that channels that mentality while also being good for clients? The Means co-founder and CEO Mic Wright wonders…

Almost everyone owns a Ramones shirt now. You don’t have to have listened to the band. Even anarchist punk collective Crass’ logo has found its way onto mass produced high street t-shirts. The Fall’s ‘Touch Sensitive’ was the soundtrack for a Ford advert. “Are you a touch sensitive, buy a new Escort.”

But none of that matters. You can be as ‘pure’ as Fugazi or as commercially minded as Fall Out Boy and still come from the heritage, heart and headspace of punk rock. It’s a broad church with a delightfully desecrated altar. And for me, punk rock saved my life. Over and over.

Punk is more than a music. It’s a mentality. It’s not a mohican or a busted leather jacket. The clothes are just signifiers and sign posts.

The Cramps were as punk as The Talking Heads. Nirvana was as punk as The Replacements as punk as The Runaways – who were as manufactured a band as The Spice Girls. The way you get to a punk rock mindset doesn’t really matter. It’s how you apply it.

I believe in a punk rock mindset – build your own community, build your own opportunities, owe very few people anything, be willing to break the system if the system isn’t willing to help you.

Punk rock to me is Fugazi capping ticket prices for shows. Punk rock is Kurt Cobain decrying homophobia in the liner notes of a major label record. Punk rock to me is freedom.

Can a company be punk rock? I don’t know. I suppose. Discord Records, the company founded by Ian MacKaye and others, certainly is. You can sell things and maintain principles. It just isn’t easy.

Record labels have an easier time being punk. The same goes for photographer’s collectives or theatre groups. The Means has a foot in the world of music – we have a international DJ among our clients – but we’re also a little agency that works with big companies.

We have some rules:

No pharma, no Saudi Arabian firms, no contracts with the Department of Work and Pensions, no partnerships with the Daily Mail or the Daily Telegraph.

That might sound idiotic – surely we need the cash, right? But when we sell our souls, we won’t get them back.

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