The mass media
© iStockphoto.com/Steven von Niederhausern
The mass media - radio, television, film, newspapers and magazines and the internet - are a crucial part of how music becomes global. Today in order to bolster sales the music industry relies on people hearing new music on the radio, seeing videos on music TV stations, and listening to music for film and television soundtracks and adverts. In turn the mass media rely on the high energy, emotion and currency of popular music to help make their products - television shows, films and so on - successful.
In the 1920s the rise of radio broadcasting allowed songs to be heard far beyond their place of origin, and a close relationship developed between records and radio. Record sales depended on radio exposure, whilst radio depended on records for their output. Television has provided new ways of promoting music internationally. For example, rock 'n' roll emerged in the US from regional forms of music and quickly became a national and international music as images of youthful rebellion were beamed into people's homes via television. These images could also be viewed in the cinema via films like 'Rock Around the Clock' (1956).
Music television (MTV) provides another example of how television has assisted the geographical spread of particular music sounds and styles and the promotion of international and global stars. From 1981 MTV began on American cable television to provide non-stop access to music videos. Other cable channels followed, not just in the US but in other developed countries and then subsequently beyond. In 1992, for example, MTV Asia was established with a potential market of over a quarter of the world's population (Connell and Gibson, 2003: 61).
Popular music has also generated international and global interest through televised sporting events. Liverpool pop band the Lightning Seeds had an international hit in 1996 with their football anthem 'Three Lions'. The song has since been popularised by international football crowds and has been remixed a number of times. It was re-released to mark England's appearances in the 2002 and 2006 World Cups.
Music in general has an ability to connect to people's emotions and memories in a powerful way and this makes it attractive to advertisers. Levi's ran an influential series of televised advertisement in the 1980s which associated its jeans with classic songs from different eras. Since then, advertisers have continued to connect songs and products; for example, Nina Simone enjoyed a renaissance after yoghurt maker Mueller used her song 'I Got Life' as part of its televised advertising campaign. Even though Simone died in 2003, the success of the campaign prompted her record company to release no fewer than five highly successful new compilation albums of her work, including a 2006 album of Simone's music remixed by contemporary musicians.
Film companies also understand music's ability to connect specific films to specific audiences. Today it is a standard practice in the film industry to commission a soundtrack album. Often either songs sell films or films sell recordings. For artists and record labels, having their music used in these ways so that millions of people will hear it will often generate increased sales and renewed international interest.
© iStockphoto.com/Alexey Khlobystov
The internet has provided new opportunities for popular music to achieve international impact. Rick Astley, a 1980s pop singer from Merseyside, achieved this by becoming the subject of a viral internet catchphrase. An estimated 25 million internet users were tricked into watching Rick Astley's video, 'Never Gonna Give You Up', when it was posted under the name of other popular video titles. The practice is now known as 'Rickrolling'. The phenomenon became so popular that on 1 April 2008 YouTube tricked the internet community by making every single video link on the front page a 'Rickroll'.