Has American Pop Music Displaced Local Culture?
Given the the digital revolution, the vigor with which America exports its pop culture, and the overwhelming global success of MTV in particular (thanks in large part to this guy), it’s a no-brainer to think that pop music has become pretty homogeneous around the world.
But it hasn’t.
That’s the argument of a new working paper by Fernando Ferreira and Joel Waldfogel, called “Pop Internationalism: Has a Half Century of World Music Trade Displaced Local Culture?” (abstract here; pdf here). There is a lot of great detail and data in the paper, but the gist is conveyed in the summary:
Advances in communication technologies over the past half century have made the cultural goods of one country more readily available to consumers in another, raising concerns that cultural products from large economies – in particular the U.S. – will displace the indigenous cultural products of smaller economies. In this paper we provide stylized facts about the global music consumption and trade since 1960, using a unique data on popular music charts from 22 countries, corresponding to over 98% of the global music market. We find that trade volumes are higher between countries that are geographically closer and between those that share a language. Contrary to growing fears about large- country dominance, trade shares are roughly proportional to country GDP shares; and relative to GDP, the U.S. music share is substantially below the shares of other smaller countries. We find a substantial bias toward domestic music which has, perhaps surprisingly, increased sharply in the past decade. We find no evidence that new communications channels – such as the growth of country-specific MTV channels and Internet penetration – reduce the consumption of domestic music. National policies aimed at preventing the death of local culture, such as radio airplay quotas, may explain part of the increasing consumption of local music.
This made me think back to when we were told that nationwide U.S. newscasts, with TV anchormen speaking in their flat midwestern tones, would wipe out regional accents. That didn’t happen. Nor, somehow, did Esperanto manage to conquer the globe.