A Modest Proposal For The Creation Of A World Pop Format

As someone who thinks and ponders a lot about music, from time to time I wonder about the matter of radio infrastructure and the importance of formats in helping to preserve and encourage audiences of a particular type of music.  I recently wrote [1] about the desirability of having a soundtrack pop radio format in order to encourage the connections that exist between music and other media like film and television.  In addition, I have recently pondered a great deal about the reality of music in the United States where k-pop artists can sell sold out tours with high ticket prices and earn high debuts on the music charts and sell a lot of albums in the United States and abroad but those songs do not appear on year-end charts because they lack longevity.  When a song by Blackpink or BTS or some other artist debuts high on the charts, often even in the top ten, it is rare for that song to stay on the charts for longer than a month or two even under the best case scenarios.

A large part of that lack of longevity springs from the absence of radio airplay.  There are three ways where a song can gain points for chart position.  One of them is on streaming, with music videos (mostly on YouTube at this point) as well as plays on Spotify or Apple Music or another venue of that nature.  A second way for a song to gain points is on sales, where someone buys a digital copy of the song to play for themselves.  The third leg of a song’s chart points is radio, where passive listening to a radio station generates points that show a song’s popularity.  It is this third means that often provides a great deal of longevity, as songs can be played on the radio week after week and month after month on some formats.  And yet world pop in general finds very little acceptance on radio of any kind.  Mainstream Top 40 only plays those songs that are viewed as being radio friendly songs at the top side of the charts, and many of those stations have rules about songs not being in foreign languages, which has led to a slew of remixes where some English-language artist will appear on a track that is mostly in a foreign language just so it can get a bit of attention stateside.  Nevertheless, there exists a deep enough audience where successful acts like BTS and others from the k-pop realm (and sometimes other Asian pop traditions) can receive significant benefits from having radio airplay.  Given the amount of material that exists in world pop, there is certainly more than enough music to fill a program and provide the chance for more obscure acts to receive attention as well as celebrate the history of previous world pop acts like Super Junior that may not be releasing music at present.

What would it take for such a format to take off?  After all, a perusal of the radio stations licensed in Oregon show that there is a station license owned by an Asian group that is silent [2], but no station that is devoted to Asian pop music or any sign of such a genre being recognized.  Given that there is so much material to play with Asian pop, it would appear as if there are only a few things that would be necessary for such a format to work.  One of those would be an audience.  Are there enough people who would want to listen to an Asian pop station who would then turn around and support other Asian and Asian-American related film or theater options and to provide a large enough segment for advertisers to see the format as being worthwhile and profitable for everyone involved?  And are there personalities, local and national and international even, that would be able to produce compelling shows and charts for stations in the format?  Judging from the demographic data [3], there are quite a few large and small cities all over the United States where an Asian-American population is large enough to justify a station that is aimed at the sort of music that they most want to listen to.

It would appear in general as if urban markets would be the most obvious places for world pop stations.  And it should be noted that world pop could easily include other musical traditions aside from the Asian ones–one could think of Russian or Israeli music or even African music being worthy of stations in certain areas.  There are also some genuinely cosmopolitan people who would probably appreciate the music of other countries just as much (if not more) as the music of our own countries.   One of the more enjoyable aspects of some of my own international travels has been enjoying the music of other cultures–in Jordan I found a great deal of enjoyment in listening to the local music of the Middle East, and that has been the case in other countries I have visited as well.  There is certainly more than enough material and likely enough listeners to enjoy the music of the world in the United States.  The question is, does there exist the will to create that sort of music and the ability for someone to make enough money from it to make it worth someone’s while to go about doing it?

[1] https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2019/05/02/a-modest-proposal-for-the-creation-of-a-soundtrack-pop-format/

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_radio_stations_in_Oregon

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Asian_Americans

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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5 Responses to A Modest Proposal For The Creation Of A World Pop Format

  1. Pingback: An Introduction To The On Creativity Project | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Catharine E. Martin says:

    I, too, believe that there is a huge market for K-pop in the States. I remember that a huge star, Billy Joel, I think (don’t quote me on it) introduced an African group to integrate with his album and it was a million seller. Also, the show, “America’s Got Talent,” featured a K-pop group just days ago that won over the judges (including Simon Cowell–who stood up and applauded) as well as the audience. It is a unique but good-to-the-ear sound. If the powers that be would only recognize that their listening audience would clamor to hear it–especially when the singers are good-looking young men as these performers were (a throw back to the American boy bands of yesteryear)–they would sign them in an instant, play them, and tour them. They’d be a smash hit.

    • I know Paul Simon did something like that with his Graceland album in the 1980’s. At any rate, I must admit that I find K-pop rather appealing and enjoyable even if I don’t always understand it.

  3. Catharine Martin says:

    Yes, I was thinking about the Paul Simon album.

    • It was a very successful album, and since then a great many successful Western pop artists have been able to collaborate with African artists, ranging from the Corrs’ beautiful “Borrowed Heaven” to the Lion King soundtrack.

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