HIVEWIRE #02 - How 'Glocalisation' and 'Internationalisation' have distinct approaches when it comes to emerging cultures

As new markets mature, their creators rise and evolve, and digital-first young locals in some of the youngest parts of the world feel more than ever that they want music that speaks to their culture and identity.

HIVEWIRE #02 - How 'Glocalisation' and 'Internationalisation' have distinct approaches when it comes to emerging cultures

For years, International music and non-music companies have used existing globalisation models to drive new revenue growth in new markets such as Spotify, Netflix and McDonald’s. However, successfully entering new markets with strong cultural nuances and varied economic status’ requires investing time in understanding the needs and behaviour of local consumers. Sometimes it works. Sometimes, it’s a tough battle.

When Spotify launched in India in 2018, I was working at a music streaming service called Moodagent, a Danish mood-based streaming service. My role there was to look into ‘Localisation and Quality Assurance’, and I cannot begin to emphasise enough how tough of a job it was. Localising a streaming service based on something as human as moods was impossible due to the incredible nuances in the market - Languages, cultures, and sounds (happy songs that sounded sad, sad songs that sound happy) and then the big “film music”, “non-film music” and independent music chaos that India has. It is easy to get lost in various genres and languages in this market - a Punjabi happy song could not appear in a Tamil happy playlist, and Bhojpuri pop song could not be a part of Bengali pop. That job made me realise how incredibly nuanced India is and how cultural diversity is as remarkable as it is complicated.

Today I will dive into a phrase I have always been conflicted about - ‘Glocalisation', something that, in hindsight, Moodagent hired me for. To me, at the time, it seemed pretty standard - a Danish service would launch in India, so it needed to make changes to cater to it because our culture differs from Denmark's, and we were highly aware of that.

How 'Glocalisation' and ‘Internationalisation’ have distinct approaches when it comes to emerging cultures

The Intersection of Cultural Diversity and Global Reach in the Music Industry

Edited by Akhila Shankar and Yatin Srivastava

The music industry is navigating the complexities of cultural diversity and global reach in today's interconnected world. Two prominent strategies, 'Glocalisation' and ‘Internationalisation’, offer distinct approaches to connecting with audiences worldwide for Artists, Labels, Publishers, Streaming platforms etc. In my last newsletter, I wrote about how emerging music markets are diverging. Today’s newsletter delves into the dynamics of these approaches, providing insightful examples that shed light on their impact on the music industry and why they are essential to the cultural diversity of the music industry.

Glocalisation unleashes cultural diversity and celebrates authenticity and identity.

The fine line between 'Glocalisation' and ‘Localisation’ - Localisation addresses the Cultural and Linguistic barriers on global levels through research and understanding insights. At the same time, 'Glocalisation' refers to a product or service developed to meet intended customers' local and global needs, i.e. the decision to change something so it can be localised. 'Glocalisation' implies that the world doesn’t work in a linear fashion, one item doesn’t fit all markets and that the behaviours, activities and cultures are not the same worldwide. In a way, a linear world without 'Glocalisation' is the antithesis of cultural diversity. But interestingly, the mere fact that there is an active 'Glocalisation' movement is beneficial as it means that the music industry and its players are all sensitive to the cultural nuances that new markets bring, and these nuances drive cultural diversity. 'Glocalisation' then, is the minimum required to drive growth for and from “emerging markets”. Take for example, Spotify, launched in Indonesia in 2016, and let users choose from various popular payment methods, including bank transfers and paying cash at a local convenience store. In 2021, Indonesia’s credit card penetration was considerably low at around 2% (five years after Spotify launched). Had Spotify not changed its model, Indonesia, which is ripe with consumption of their rising local music scenes, might not have gotten this far and nor would it become one of Spotify’s growth drivers in Q4 2022.

While the globalisation of music has undeniably expanded opportunities for artists and music companies, it has, more importantly, highlighted the necessities of cultural identity. 'Glocalisation' has hence created a demand for local musicians to reclaim their cultural heritage and express their authentic selves in an era of mass production and consumption. This trend is particularly significant for artists from marginalised communities, as it provides a platform to share their stories and challenge societal norms (recall: the rise of Punk, House, Techno and every other music movement in the world).

The revival of traditional instruments, languages, and folk melodies showcases the embrace of cultural identity in music. Artists like Lizzo drew inspiration from her African-American roots, and Bad Bunny, who incorporates Latin rhythms into his music, exemplifies the power of embracing one's heritage. Artists such as Diljith Dosanjh (India), Burna Boy (Nigeria), and Black Pink (South Korea) have come from local markets and have taken to the International stage by authentically representing their culture and identity. By doing so, they create captivating music and foster a sense of pride and representation within their communities on a global platform.

Glocalising music streaming services uncovered an ocean of hidden local music scenes

Music streaming services such as Spotify have implemented 'Glocalisation' strategies. They have customised their offerings and features to cater to local markets and audiences by including localised content, language options, curated playlists specific to different regions, and promoting local artists by adapting to local preferences and cultural nuances, streaming services aimed to provide users with a personalised and engaging experience in various locations. In new music markets, 'Glocalisation' translates to artists and labels drawing inspiration from diverse cultural traditions and infusing them into musical expressions keeping authenticity and cultural appreciation alive instead of cultural appropriation in mind.

Many small scenes worldwide are thousands of years old but only catered to small communities with limited access to sharing their cultures before streaming arrived. For example, Banda, a regional Mexican music genre, has gained significant popularity through streaming. Known for its brass instrumentations and upbeat rhythms, Banda artists such as Banda MS, El Recodo, and Julión Álvarez have amassed millions of domestic and international streams, contributing to the genre's mainstream success. Similarly, Bhangra from India, Cumbia from Columbia, and Raï, a genre originating from Algeria, have found a global audience through streaming. Artists are also simultaneously recontextualising and re-infusing Pop, Rock and Electronic music elements, attracting listeners beyond the regional locations in their local markets. None of these genres are new. However, the communities only had the resources to share their music outside their community with help from big labels and distribution networks. Now it is all possible on their own.

'Glocalisation' also plays a vital role in creating new music habits. When Spotify launched in India in 2018, International music consumption was at 70%; however, now, it represents 30% and a much larger streaming market than five years ago, with the highest engagement across music streaming in India. Spotify's Top 50 charts in India today comprise of 47 local songs and three non-Indian songs comprise of:

  • Korean girl band FIFTY FIFTY with their song Cupid - Twin Ver. at #44,
  • Starboy by The Weeknd at #45 and
  • People by Cameroonian - American artist Libianca at #46

With the music that did appear on the Spotify charts, The Weeknd represents a popular song from the pre-Spotify era in India, and the other two represent K-pop and Afrobeats. As Will Page said recently in his Financial Times feature: Music markets are ‘glocalising’ — and the English-speaking world better get used to it, to add to it - local genres are Internationalising.

Figure 1

The opportunity from new markets lies in the Internationalisation of music scenes

The Cambridge Dictionary defines ‘Internationalisation’ as the action of becoming or making something international. In one of my last blogs for MIDiA Research, I wrote about how emerging music market cultures are shaping the global music industry, in which I mentioned new cultures and sounds help break through the saturation of music and fragmentation of fandom. The success of genres such as K-pop, Reggaeton and Afrobeats and TV shows such as Squid Game, Dark, and Money Heist shows that the new generation representing digital natives is more interested than ever in accessing culture and content worldwide. In a way, they travel the world through their entertainment choices. The pandemic spearheaded this, with everyone stuck in four walls, imagining the world outside their life.

In addition, most of the new music markets from Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia have large diaspora numbers scattered around the developed world. 'Glocalisation' enables local music to reach them, and 'Internationalisation', in many ways, begins with them. (African diasporas have played a crucial role in the popularity of Afrobeats and now Amapiano). The authenticity represented through this music ensures audiences of the authentic approach even if they do not belong to the community. 'Glocalisation' was a way to find ways to drive consumption for a specific market, but 'Internationalisation' provides an opportunity to unify people of different cultures around music. Coachella this year, for the first time, had a Punjabi Pop and Bhangra artist from India - Diljit Dosanjh, Amapiano artist - Uncle Waffles and Pakistani Folk/Pop artists Ali Sethi. All of these artists shared space in the same festival that hosted Fred Again, Four Tet and Skrillex, who played the last-minute headliner spot. Music festivals will soon become a convergence of music, global cultures and everything they both embrace.

'Glocalisation' has emerged as a guiding principle in the music industry in a rapidly global world. It represents a paradigm shift towards embracing identity and authenticity by blending global influences with local roots, and artists create groundbreaking music, empower themselves and their communities and allow exploration for new listeners. 'Glocalisation' has fostered an international, more inclusive, diverse music landscape where artists and fans can confidently express their cultural identities.

'Glocalisation' is making the rounds again for many reasons (you can check out a recent report from Will Page & London School of Economics and a podcast from Trapital). Still, the conversation leads to opportunities for 'Internationalisation'. Music companies looking at new revenue markets are actively localising their teams. The industry is in an era of modern revolution, ready to bring new stars, cultures and, most importantly, new sounds to the forefront. As new markets mature, their creators rise and evolve, and digital-first young locals in some of the youngest parts of the world feel more than ever that they want music that speaks to their culture and identity. Regional strategies can now come from more than the tall New York, LA and London buildings. New towers will now be built in Mumbai, Johannesburg, Cairo, Jakarta etc. It’s happening, and it is exciting!

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Srishti Das is a music industry professional focused on bringing more light from new music markets and cultures.

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