Countries around the world are eyeing the success of South Korea’s K-Pop, and Japan’s earlier J-Pop, and are developing national music strategies of their own according to a recent Forbes article. Thailand and Zimbabwe are prominently mentioned, but similar efforts are also being seen in Dominica, China, Oman, Philippines and Belize.
A big driver is the perceived ability of these efforts to boost GDP, create jobs, and generate a positive image of the countries’ culture, geography and products. The article notes that South Korea embarked on their national effort after they had to go to the International Monetary Fund for a loan and it took nearly 15 years before K-Pop fandom became a mainstream interest worldwide. Thus a national initiative of this type needs long term commitment which is likely to span multiple government administrations.
Likewise, the K-Pop system of artist development is attuned to the unique structure of South Korean cultural and business dynamics which probably can’t and shouldn’t be replicated in other countries.
One of the things the author points out is that the creative economy is a renewable resource for countries in that the potential is limitless as long as people are encouraged to exercise their creativity. This may be something of a selling point when discussing the value of arts and culture to the community. While I dislike validating arts and culture on a economic and prescriptive basis, reinforcing the need to preserve the environment is important messaging.
What is being celebrated now may not be a model that works everywhere, but it demonstrates what could be true anywhere – that there is economic and social potential in music and culture and with it, the benefits of soft power and positive national branding. As countries and regions look to establish economic recovery policies and create socially sustainable economies which extract less from our environment, music and culture is recognised as a viable path. The raw materials are extracted from our minds, not the ground. And the options are limitless. This is something to celebrate, as there will never be ‘peak’ music, unlike what we’re facing with peak oil.
One little disclaimer that may be needed. I hadn’t initially noticed, but this article is written by the founder of Sound Diplomacy, an organization that works on developing music based economies of communities around the world. They are currently working on such a project here in Macon, GA and I have participated in some of their focus groups.