Thursday, March 17, 2011

Together At Last! – Cross-Culturalism and Music of Today (Part III, Conclusion)

By the turn of the century, two new cross-cultural trends emerged in American popular music.

The first was the large numbers of Hispanic artists on the Billboard charts, reflecting the growing Hispanic population of the United States as well as the growing impact of Hispanics in the general culture.

The second new trend was collaboration. While there were occasional noteworthy collaborations in the past, it’s in the 2000s that the trend really began to take off. 

Carlos Santana – who had been around since Woodstock – had the biggest hits of his career when he collaborated with artists from other genres and ethnic groups, like Rob Thomas.

In the past ten years, there has been a flurry of collaborations – every year, many of the top songs have been artists “featuring” other artists, often from different genres and cultural backgrounds. Today, artists such as Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber regularly mix genres and cultures.

This summary graphic illustrates the ethnic makeup of the charts, year by year. It is easy to see just how far the pendulum has swung – popular music in the United States has gone from white artists accounting for 90% of the hit songs in the 1950s, to non-white artists now accounting for well over half of the hit songs in the past decade.

Is your brand stuck in a different era? Is it 50s Pat Boone, covering other cultures through White lenses? Is it stuck in Woodstock like Santana was for so many years? Is it stuck in the times when the brand first launched when what was popular then is now outdated?

Is it trying too hard to be multicultural, coming across unauthentic like “Ebony and Ivory”? Or is it keeping with the fast moving times and appealing to the new general market, the total market, where a mixed culture is the now the new mainstream?