Podcast: Where is the Music Industry?

In response to the research and learning in our Global Ecologies module, I have produced a 10 minute podcast discussing Where is the Music Industry? I found it interesting to look into music from other cultures and how they think about the Western music industry, and have enjoyed relating it the idea back to the commercialisation of music which is a strong interest of mine.



Where is the music industry? A question which you or me may answer as simply as everywhere, or a question David Murphy, author of Where does world music come from?’ may answer as the United States/Britain as they dominate ‘contemporary international rock and pop, or in the eyes of the Benda Bilili musicians who we will explore later, Europe, a mecca for success in music.

This podcast aims to start a conversation, looking at real people’s opinions of where the music industry is and dissect their ideas to further explore themes of globalization, musical identity and different cultures.

Whenever discussing the location of something, physical or as theoretical as the music industry, globalization is a natural place to start as it’s a key term you cannot escape. This was evident in the voxpops I collected with the transition of what may be termed as ‘world music’ into westernised culture a clear theme. Before we delve deeper into the idea of globalization, Emily aged 17 discusses her opinion.

*** EMILY’s VOXPOP ***

Some interesting ideas and examples brought up by Emily, as already mentioned the theme of globalization being the basis of her thoughts. What is particularly interesting is how she opens stating that in the past you would have to delve into the world of music yourself and research if you were interested in listening to music from around the world or other cultures, whereas now it is seeping into our everyday.

This is a thought that links in David Murphy’s ‘Where does world music come from?’ chapter in the book ‘Music, National identity and the politics of location’ where he states that western pop music is regarded as increasingly commercial, radically different to afro-pop or other world music’s perhaps accounting for what was a strict divide and isolation from westernised successes.

However, Emily highlights that she has noticed a change in this divide, making such world music more commercial. Audiences are now able to access music from other cultures more readily as they begin to be incorporated into western culture. A recent contextual example being the popular British chat show Graham Norton featuring KPOP band BTS as a guest. This collaboration has come from what Emily coins as a ‘social media hype’, a millennial phenomenon which has enabled the quick spread and virility of virtually anything from around the world producing a demand for different cultures here in the UK and the USA. I think this is such an interesting way to look at how we recognize the music industry in terms of location because there is no physicality of location to music on social media. Its almost as if it exists in a different dimension because if your music is released on social media, be it virally or amateuristic it is suddenly worldwide.

To swiftly move on to a different way of thinking, the more recent globalization of world music may also be explained by the term hybridity. To break the term down, in its simplest form it is the crossover of two separate things, in this case music cultures. We are now combining our westernised music to incorporate different music genres, just as we previously mentioned is being done to culture. This is something else referenced to in Emily’s voxpop, where she mentions key names in our current industry, Justin Bieber and Demi Lovato. These two artists are just two of many to combine, stereotypical commercial pop with Latino features or influences; both of which collaborating with Luis Fonso, Demi Lovato even releasing her own music also in Spanish.

However, we cannot discuss other cultures being westernised, in particular such North American artists taking on other identities as without posing the problem of authenticity…another theme that is referenced to by David Murphy demonstrating the clear link between music ecology theory and current contexts.

An example discussed at length in Murphy’s chapter is Youssou N’Dour, a Senegalese popstar who’s music ‘bears little relation to the music widely available in Africa.’ While his chapter talks more about the commercialization of world music as I have previously mentioned, it also got me thinking whether there may be two sides to the authenticity debate. Perhaps, we as the Western culture aren’t the ones imposing our culture that the debate may immediately point towards, but these cultures are beginning to adhere to Western norms simply by evolution and societal change.

My second voxpop took a different analytical viewpoint on the question in task, Richard aged 53 discussed how social factors may have shifted where is the music industry, take a listen …


At the beginning of his voxpop Richard references how there is now wider accessibility to producing which is allowing more cultures to express their own identities through music. An example of this is the G-qom movement in South Africa, club-style deep-house music produced to combine traditional African dance with drum beats and zulu chants.

In an article for redbullmusicacademy, Vivian Host a Radio producer and music writer discusses how g-qom is getting more exposure in the Western culture. She writes:

‘the music is at an interesting place right now, with more pop-orientated hits … finally starting to heat up the South African charts while moodier, more underground strains of gqom are thrilling DJs in the UK, Europe and North America.’
‘Youtube gives a window into the culture as well, allowing the world to see amateur Bhenga dance videos and access new sounds through curated Channels like Drum Movement SA and Bring Back Our Gqom.’

This quote demonstrates, methods to which the popularity of world music is expanding around the world, and can link to the commercialization factor previously discussed as Western DJ’s are picking up on the movement.

Migration, another social factor picked up on by Richard and follows on from the previous thoughts. We have just referenced how the Gqom movement is just one example of world music expanding across Europe and this can also be a result of migration as Gqom artists build a following in the townships and then migrate to spread their music and begin their career. Citizen boy is a popular Gqom DJ and producer from Durban where the movement began, his music however is now on Soundcloud, he joined a crew called Mafia Boyz and now he is a career stable and successful enough to travel, especially across Europe, his most recent being to Russia to introduce the sound of Durban.

On the other end of the spectrum to Gqom which is a fast-paced movement involving lots of technical elements such as  sound engineering, a club scene and even drug taking to make it work. Staff Benda Billili is another example of how migration can give exposure to world music, in the words of Richard ‘through bringing back snippets into our society. Ultimately, this idea revolves around the 2010 documentary, following the Congo Street Musicians and their ambitions to make music and get to Europe. It’s very different to the Gqom movement in the fact, the musicians are in extreme poverty, they rely on their homemade instruments and rehearse in their local zoo with only rhythm and dreams to carry them.

The point I am leading to is, would I know about Benda Bilili without the filmmakers researching, travelling and producing this documentary. Would you know it without the word of mouth and the offload of information from me, the documentary audience and academics teaching about Benda Bilili and the answer is no.  

To touch another idea from Richards voxpop, the change in society towards racism has allowed this spread of other music cultures to happen. He states, **** we can now appreciate music from other cultures because our overall impression of cultures different to ours is more positive and accepting. This is just one miniscule aspect of a whole sphere in thinking regarding racism but I know even notioning towards it can spark a long debate and discussion.

To return back to the question, where is the music industry. While world music has and will continue to spread across the world, changing the idea of  it being niche and alternative to our Western commercial music. There is still strong evidence to state that the music industry in terms of its economy is and will remain in the Western world, be it Europe or Northern America. This is simply because the music is travelling to these quarters to achieve success, as we began, the western music economy is seen as a mecca and until there is new platforms emerging in other economies that can compete and infiltrate our own, this will remain for the foreseeable future.

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