Big European countries are the winners in the latest music ‘glocalisation’ trends

Image credit: Anjelica Bette Fellini

MBW Views is a series of exclusive op/eds from eminent music industry people… with something to say.

The following op/ed comes from Will Page and Chris Dalla Riva, who last year published (with the London School of Economics) an influential paper on the dominance of local artists on streaming charts around the world: ‘Glocalisation’ of Music Streaming within and across Europe.

Page is the author of Pivot, former chief economist of Spotify, and a fellow of the London School of Economics European Institute; Dalla Riva is Senior Product Manager, Data & Personalization at Audiomack.

Below, Page (pictured) updates us on his and Dalla Riva’s findings with new data and analysis covering 2023. Said data suggests that last year, the trend of music streaming ‘Glocalisation’ in Europe only became more pronounced.

Page will be digging further into this topic on a panel with Downtown Music President, Pieter Van Rijn, at SXSW in Austin next Wednesday (March 13)…

Around this time last year, we introduced a tongue-twisting word to the music industry’s lexicon: glocalisation. It captured the phenomenon of many local artists topping their local charts on global streaming platforms — and doing so in their mother tongue. Contrary to what theory would have predicted, the world wasn’t flat after all.

This year, thanks to the team at Luminate, we can exclusively show the larger European countries are seeing the strongest effects of glocalisation. Especially the largest, Germany. Eight of the top ten artists in Germany in 2023 were German. Flipping from presence to prominence, they captured 86% of all the streams in that top ten. France, Italy, Sweden and Poland all saw local acts make up at least half of their respective top tens last year.

Elsewhere, the UK has dropped off a cliff in the last year, from a clean sweep by Brits of the top ten down to only three slots. The Netherlands, once a beacon of hope for Dutch language hip-hop, has seen its share recede, too. Spain remains an anomaly with hardly any Spanish acts in the charts, but no English language either; no prizes for guessing – Latin repertoire dominates. Ditto Portugal and Brazil.

Germany merits closer attention. At last year’s Reeperbahn Festival, I revealed (in German) that in 2022 none of the top 100 radio airplay songs were German. Zero! Nicht!  Yet on streaming, almost half were by German artists, and a third were performed in German.

When I crossed into Denmark, to address the prestigious Women in Music conference, I shared a similar trend. Three of the top ten songs on the public-sector operated radio were Danes (and one was a woman). On the global streaming platforms seven were Danes (although none were female).

This recalls what we put forward in our original London School of Economics European Institute Discussion Paper: “Ironically, it’s these unregulated markets which have achieved what intervention in regulated markets failed. Domestic prominence.”  The contrarian in me can’t help but ask: If governments started regulating these streaming markets, would glocalisation go in reverse?

Why is glocalisation happening?

Well, we can look to our old standbys of supply and demand. On the supply side, digitisation has meant production and distribution costs have fallen, more data enables labels to learn what consumers actually want, and less global prioritization from international companies. On the demand side, it’s easy: consumers used to get what they were given on local radio, whereas now they choose what they want on global streaming. And what they increasingly want is local.

We’re still only scraping the surface of glocalisation, and not just because it’s difficult to pronounce. There are so many rabbit holes to explore.

Consider the algorithm that now dominates our choices. Hagar Graiser, South African music lead at Platoon, suggests that consumers “want to be more global than our curated playlists seem to believe”. Consider choice itself. Amazon Music’s Katie Vitolins argues that “consumers these days have so much choice they feel a claustrophobia of abundance and want what’s closest to them – and for many of them, that’s local bands performing in their local languages.”

“Consumers these days have so much choice they feel a claustrophobia of abundance and want what’s closest to them.”

Kate Vitolins, Amazon Music

Let’s explore these rabbit holes together in Austin at SXSW, on the 13th March at 2.30 CT (also my birthday!). President of Downtown Music Pieter Van Rijn and I will do our level best to figure out why glocalisation is happening and what it all means to industry executives and artists alike.Music Business Worldwide