Global Hits


As much as I deplore the decline of local musical cultures, I am fascinated by how fast musical fads spread across the world and by the fact that some songs become instant global hits. This is where my interests in globalisation, urbanism, mathematics and cognitive neuroscience intersect.

The spread of viruses but also ideas and fashion can be explained with the mathematics of networks. The fact that some catchy tunes have a global appeal can be explained with reference to the workings of the brain. But we don't have to dig that deep to come up with some explanations for the spread of music.

For one thing both club and radio dj's around the world all want to be the first to pick up the latest trends, whether it is balkan beats, dubstep, nu wave or baile funk. Nowadays, with some radio shows and podcasts being available on-line a dubplate aired by a dj based in London is heard around the world. BBC radio dj Mary-Ann Hobbs for example has been pivotal in the dissemination of dubstep.

Add to this that dj's are among the world's most globetrotting artists, playing one week in Barcelona and Berlin and the next in Tokyo, and it's easy to see how music travels. Because of course every dj will look for something new and exciting to take home, wherever that is. It's the same with listeners and the club going public who are on the look out for the latest music even if it's retro.

In the past some foreign radio stations would broadcast the U.K. top 3 or the Billboard top 10. Today anyone can instantly see what's hot in almost any country.

This is how it can happen that in the same week I can hear a song that has only just come out blaring from a taxi radio in Hanoi, in a funky designer boutique in Hong Kong and on BBC radio.

Category: Economics | Music