Globalization And Music Essay, Research Paper
December 11, 2001
From Dean Martin to Wyclef Jean:
The Affects of Globalization on Music
?Won?t you help me sing these songs of freedom??
The influence that music has throughout the world is immeasurable. Music evokes many feeling, surfaces old memories, and creates new ones all while satisfying a sense of human emotion. With the ability to help identify a culture, as well as educate countries about other cultures, music also provides for a sense of knowledge. Music can be a tool for many things: relaxation, stimulation and communication. But at the same time it can also be a tool for resistance: against parents, against police against power. Within the reign of imported culture, cross cultivation and the creation of the so-called global village lies the need to expand horizons to engulf more than just what you see everyday. It is important to note that the role of music in today?s world is a key tool in the process of globalization. However, this does not necessarily provide us with any reasons that would make us believe that music has a homogenizing affect on the world.
Globalization is becoming one of the most controversial topics in today?s world. We see people arguing over the loss of a nation?s cultural identity, the terror of westernization, and the reign of cultural imperialism. Through topics such as these we explore the possibilities or the existence of hybridization of cultures and values, and what some feel is the exploitation of their heritage. One important aspect that is not explored is that such influences can also be more than just a burden and an overstepping of bounds. These factors can create an educational environment as well as a reaffirmation of one?s own culture.
With the music being the highly profitable, capitalist enterprise that it is today, it is no wonder that it is controlled and regulated by a few large conglomerates that exist is today?s world. It is important to make clear that although evidence is being presented of the positive aspects of globalization through music that there is overwhelming evidence that cultural imperialism is more than it seems on the outside. One must keep in mind that cultural imperialism, globalization and the creation of a global village is a business. People are profiting at other people?s loss of cultural identity, they are sold a culture and heritage. With the every growing N?Sync fan clubs and Britney clones, the world is turning into a stage for pop culture and its glamorous unattainable standards.
Through the processes that this world is going through we find ourselves blurring the lines of difference that once existed. This has been referred to by Lomax as a ?cultural grey out.? Basically what this theory says is that cultural lines are meshed together so much that is almost impossible to distinguish between them due to the fact that they have so many similar characteristics. Lomax also states that due to the widespread distribution of ?industrialized? music and the loss of music that exemplifies cultural aspects and characteristics, civilizations are not maintaining a sense of national pride and identity. Without these distinguishing lines, Schiller states that at one time it was cultural diversity that flourished, and now we are witnessing the diffusion of such a process. He goes on to state, as well as warn, that if such a process of cultural breakdown were to keep evolving, we would have to face a ?global consumer monoculture.?
As stated previously, it is important to realize how big of a business culture has become. Through the use of quantitative analysis we can see the control that the major conglomerates have over the distribution of music. Burnett, in empirical studies of market concentration in music (1990, 1993), reports that seven corporations together controlled no less than 50 percent of market share in any country where they had operations and up to 80 percent in some countries (1990, pp. 104-105). The seven corporations, with their nation of origin and reported 1990 sales, are: Sony (Japan, $3 billion), Time/Warner (U.S., $2.9 billion), Polygram (Netherlands/Germany, $2.6 billion), Bertelsmann Media Group (Germany, $2 billion), Thorn/EMI (U.K., $1.88 billion), MCA (U.S., $1 billion), and Virgin (U.K., $500 million), total 1990 sales $13.88 billion (1993, pp. 141-143). With number such as these it is nearly impossible to deny the fact that these companies do not have a great affect on the influence of music and media that they distribute. Conglomerates not only run the market for music, but determine which music is to be distributed and to where, therefore pushing an idea or culture onto a nation.
Seeing that westernization has become a industry term for many businesses it is surprising that recently much of the profit that has been received from music conglomerates has been non-U.S. artists. As shown in the July 17, 1995 issue of Forbes one-third of the Warner Music?s three hundred and eighteen dollar revenues in 1980 came from non U.S. artists. This was then followed up by sixty percent of their 1994 revenues, which totaled over six hundred and thirty million. Warner Music is not the only company that has seen a boom in foreign artist sales. Consequently, EMI reports that it received one-third of its three billion dollars in revenue has also come from foreign artists. Polygram also reported that one half of its three billion plus revenues has come from the evolution of foreign pop culture. So why has this become the product to import? Well once again it is very well evident in the numbers. The bottom line is that Record companies in the United States operate on a gross profit margin of thirty to thirty-five percent, whereas overseas this margin can top forty-five percent. This comes from evidence that American pop stars demand a higher sense of appreciation and perks compared to foreign stars that demand less and cut less exclusive record deals. To top it off, the prices of albums on foreign markets are higher than that of the United States market.
Executives are not the only ones that are having an influence on the spread of culture through music around the world, celebrities and pop stars are now playing a large role. Artists such as Britney Spears, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill and Michael Jackson set out on world wide tours to spread their music throughout the world. These artist have realized the caliber and sheer numbers they can produce by not just focusing on one area. As site by Farley (2001) artist sometimes do not conquer a civilization completely, but help to create a hybrid form that has been formed using aspects of a person?s own culture and incorporating foreign attributes. For example, within Jamaica, there is a form of music known as ?ragga?, which is a rap-influenced form of reggae. This is a perfect example how music can have somewhat of a positive affect. However, there are negative affects which come with such an influence. Along with the influence of the lyrics from rap came a lot more than Jamaica bargained for. They find that with local ragga star ?Elephant Man?s? lyrics such as ?Badman nah run from police inna shootout/ Whole crew a government see dem pon di lookout?.?, they have incorporated violence and hate. At recent concerts their have been fights, injuries, gunfire and death. So as positive as it seemed to incorporate foreign aspects into their music, it turned out to be a horrid influence.
Artists also have had a key role in promoting ?world music?. (World music is defines as music that was written by artists from a foreign country in a native tongue.) U.S. based artists such as Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel and David Byrne are seeking to improve relations between U.S. and world music artists. Through promoting foreign artists these musicians hope to show the American public the joy that can be experienced through native tongues and unheard beats.
One of the major fears associated with the globalization of music is the creation of a global monoculture. Barlow investigates how the global monoculture has infiltrated every corner of the earth. He feels that North American corporate culture, including the music industry, is destroying local tradition, knowledge, skill, artisans and values. Specifically artisans have been affected through the fact that the product that they have tried to market has been outdated and overrun by the popstar garbage that has taken over the world and destroyed cultures. The premise of Barlow?s argument finds that this is corporate America is not only destroying traditions, but it is burying a cultures overall identity. As best said by Nawal Hassan, a Egyptian artisan activist, ? This is an issue of identity. All our civilizations has ceased to be spiritual. Our civilization has become commercial.? (Barlow 2001) People in this world feel that they need to be different from one another for many reasons. Maybe it is superiority or inferiority, but there is a never dying need to be an individual.
One of the main causes for the affects that music has had globally is the open-mindedness of the people that have accepted it. For example in 1959, Richie Valens hit the top of the charts with his song ?La Bamba?. After this large hit, it was forty years before the world excepted another Latin rocker ? Santana. With Santana?s worldwide success sparked room for artists such as Wyclef Jean. Wyclef formed a new hybrid formed of Haitian Creole and English. Even U.S. based Christina Aguilera recorded an entire CD entirely in Spanish. Within transitions to create a global market, these artists have found not only how to make money and survive in a capitalistic world, but how to satisfy more than one cultural group. This is not the first time we have seen something like this though. In 1958, Dean Martin recorded on of his biggest hits by recording ?Volare?. The importance of this song is found not only in the fact that it is an original Italian song, but that it is recorded incorporating both English and Italian into the song at the same time. Frank Sinatra also tried this same approach in 1967. He recorded an album of songs done by Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Jobin.
As noted by the Music Council of Australia (MCA) it is globalization that has an affect on music. They state:
?80% of the world?s trade in music happens under four giant transnational recording companies whose fortunes at present depend on global marketing of Anglo-American pop music. We can buy music of virtually any culture by ordering from massive catalogues from internet music suppliers, locations unknown. Furthermore, the whole deal can take place on the internet: the search, the ordering, the payment and the delivery. We needn?t leave the room. Music, more than almost any other commodity, has lent itself to globalization. And globalization is upon it.?