‘Think globally, act locally’: youth culture, glocalisation, and mediascapes
For many theorists, ideas of cultural homogenisation fail to capture the complexity of global flows of media and culture. ‘Global’ products, for instance, often have to be adapted and reconfigured for local markets. Originally coined by Japanese economists to describe their country’s marketing strategies, the term ‘glocalisation’ - a neologism of ‘global and ‘local’ — was popularised by Roland Robertson (1995Ü) to describe the way trans-national media corporations adapt their production to meet the specific tastes and demands of local contexts. For Robertson, global processes did not happen against or outside local forces. Rather, he argued, both the global and the local were mutually constituent concepts. As Victor Roudometof explains, the notion of ‘glocalisation’ is used:
... to highlight the extent to which the global cannot be conceived of in opposition to or in isolation from the local, that both global and local are participants in contemporary social life, and that the future is not determined solely by macro-level forces but also by groups, organizations, and individuals operating at the micro level (or what is usually meant by the term agency).
(Roudometof, 2016: 12)
Practices of ‘glocalisation’ have become commonplace in the media and culture industries.7 Even McDonald’s — a brand Ritzer sees as synonymous with processes of standardisation (see above) — has to make ‘glocal’ concessions in its international marketing strategies. So, while McDonald’s operates with worldwide standards and branding, its local systems of franchising use locally-sourced foods and offer menus tailored to local tastes (Crawford, Humphries and Geddy, 2015). In modern TV production, particularly, issues of glocalisation have often figured prominently. Albert Moran (2009), for example, has shown how a TV show made in one national market is often sold overseas as a template or set of ‘franchised knowledges’, which allow it to be remade for transmission in another market. Sometimes, as in the case of the game shows Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and The Weakest Link, the franchise arrangements stipulate a high degree of fidelity to the initial programme, so the local version seems to be a ‘lookalike’ version of the original. But this form of ‘closed’ TV franchise is relatively uncommon. According to Moran, more flexible, ‘gloca-lised’ approaches are the norm, with TV companies generally happy to countenance adaptations that make allowance for local sensitivities and sensibilities.
Dimensions of ‘glocalisation’ loomed especially large in the history of MTV. During the 1990s the TV music network (originally based in the US) steadily
Media, globalisation, and the youth market 139 expanded overseas with the launch of successive international TV stations — for instance, MTV Asia, Australia, Brasil, Europe, Latin America, and Russia. Crucially, this expansion was underpinned by a ‘think globally, act locally’ philosophy in which each new station adhered to an overall style of programming, but configured this around local tastes and musical talent. In itself, for example, MTV Asia comprised three regional channels — MTV Mandarin, MTV Southeast Asia, and MTV India. Launched in 1995, the Chinese-language station MTV Mandarin broadcast to viewers in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore, with 60 per cent of its playlist consisting of Mandarin music videos. MTV Southeast Asia, also launched in 1995, was available throughout Asia, offering a mix of music from Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. And, in 1996, MTV Southeast Asia was split into a third channel, MTV India. Available in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, 70 per cent of MTV India’s programming was made up of Indian pop music and films, with the balance made up of international music videos. In 2000, meanwhile, the MTV stable expanded further, with the launch of MTV Japan — a 24-hour, Japanese-language station with programming largely composed of Japanese material. MTV Korea followed in 2001 and, again, featured original, locally-produced content as its mainstay. As SeungHo Cho and Jee Young Chung have observed (2009), therefore, MTVs strategies of transnational expansion were distinguished by distinct elements of glocalisation.
Concepts of a one-way ‘cultural imperialism’, meanwhile, have been further undermined by changing patterns of media production and distribution. Since the 1970s, these have seen developing nations emerge as major players in the media environment, with Western media control increasingly cross-cut by an elaborate syncopation of non-Western communication systems and business interests. The success of TikTok was a case in point. Within two years of its beginnings in China in 2016, the video app was available in 75 different languages and had become hugely popular worldwide (see Chapter 3). The rise of Tencent as a video game colossus was another example. Indeed, as Philip Penix-Tadsen (2019) shows, the games industry of the early twenty-first century was characterised by myriad international links in which countries of the Global South - in the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, and Asia - were pivotal.
‘Bollywood’, meanwhile, has long been one of the major hubs of the global film industry. In 2018-19, for instance, the Indian film industry produced 2,446 films (Film Federation of India, 2019); and, while these won a huge domestic following, they also attracted major overseas audiences among not only diasporic communities but also international cinemagoers more generally. Indeed, Dangal (2016), the highest-grossing Bollywood film outside India, scooped worldwide box office revenues of $340 million (Statistica, 2018i). India’s music industry is, perhaps, less well-known, but nonetheless burgeoned during the early twenty-first century. Indicative was the rise of T-Series, the music and film production company founded by Gulshan Kumar in 1983. Initially best known for its Bollywood soundtracks, T-Series developed into
India’s largest selling music label before branching into film. But T-Series also owned and operated the most popular channel on YouTube. Indeed, in May 2019 it became the first YouTube channel to boast 100 million subscribers (Bhushan, 2019),8 and by 2020 it was YouTube’s most viewed channel, clocking-up a staggering 3.23 billion monthly views (Statistica, 2020).
Such developments were indicative of the way the basis of the global music industry shifted during the early twenty-first century. During the 1990s the US share of the international market for popular music was already shrinking as the relatively low cost of making and distributing recordings (compared to films and TV shows) made it possible for a wide range of national music industries to prosper. In some instances indigenous output came to overshadow American products. Luciana Mendonca (2002), for example, has shown how sales of American pop music in Brazil declined significantly during the 1990s, while Brazilian music came to constitute around 80 per cent of recordings broadcast on the country’s radio. And in 2014 the annual report of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) lauded the way local artists accounted for many top selling albums in local markets:
In France, for example, 17 of the top 20 selling albums of 2013 were local repertoire ... In Germany, seven of the top 10 selling albums in 2013 were local repertoire, a trend reflected in 13 selected non-English language markets.
(IFPI, 2014: 15)
Of course, as the organisation that officially represents the international recording industry, the IFPI might have a vested interest in presenting the music business as a world of happy plurality. Nevertheless, the early twenty-first century saw many indications that international flows of music were becoming more multi-faceted, and artists from places once considered the periphery of the music business were better able to break into global markets. The shift was partly indebted to technological developments, especially the rise of streaming services. In 2017, for example, ‘Despacito’ by Puerto Rican artist Luis Fonsi became just the 35th single to top America’s 'Billboard Hot 100’ for at least ten weeks - a popularity indebted to its success on streaming services, where ‘Despacito’ had become the most-streamed song of all time, receiving 4.6 billion plays worldwide within six months. As Lucian Grainge, CEO of Universal Music Group observed:
Streaming has opened up the possibility of a song with a different beat, from a different culture and in a different language to become a juggernaut of success around the world.
(cited in Brandie, 2017)
Other ‘local’ artists also found international success. The 1990s, for instance, saw the rise of‘J-Pop’ - a fusion of Japanese music and 1960s-style Western
Media, globalisation, and the youth market 141 pop — which not only dominated music charts in Japan and many other Asian countries, but also enjoyed success (along with Japanese anime cartoons and manga comics) worldwide. The triumphs of J-Рор, however, were overshadowed by the subsequent success of ‘К-Pop’. South Korean popular culture, like that of Japan, expanded its international influence during the 1990s. The growth of satellite and cable television, for example, saw Korean TV shows pull in big audiences in Japan, China, Taiwan, and Vietnam. But during the early twenty-first century' it was pop music — or К-Pop - that became South Korea’s most notable cultural export. Indicative was the runaway popularity of K-Pop boy band BTS (Bangtan Sonyeondan, or Beyond the Scene). Originally formed in Seoul in 2010, by the end of the decade BTS were one of the most successful pop acts in history. In 2019 they became the first ever group to spend five weeks at No. 1 in the 'Billhoard Artist 100’, and the same year they joined The Beatles and The Monkees to become the third group in 50 years to have three No. 1 albums in the 'Billboard 200’ across a twelve-month period.
Critics may argue that К-Pop groups like BTS essentially reproduce Western music styles. But, as JungBong Choi and Roald Maliangkay observe, this view overlooks the way К-Pop fans see the music as ‘reprocessing’ Western influences, ‘giving peculiar Korean “spins” to the mode of presentation’ (Choi and Maliangkay, 2015: 3). And, more generally, ‘globalisation’ itself should be seen as more complex than a simple drive towards a Western- (or American-) dominated homogenisation. Instead, as the cultural theorist Arjun Appadurai (1990; 1996) has suggested, globalisation is better seen as an aggregation of flows composed of media, technology, ideologies, and ethnicities that move in many different directions. This model moves away from accounts that see globalisation as a coherent, unitary process, in which a few Western corporations possess overpowering strength. Instead, it sees globalisation as a network of cultural flows that have no clearly defined centre or periphery.
For Appadurai, processes of globalisation were a fluid, ever-changing landscape that he saw as being, itself, composed of five overlapping and mutually-constituted ‘scapes’. ‘Ethnoscapes’ were, according to Appadurai, the worldwide ‘diasporic’ movement of people as tourists, immigrants, refugees, exiles, and guest-workers. ‘Financescapes’, meanwhile, denoted the volatile and increasingly complicated global movement of capital and currency. The ‘technoscape’ was the unequal and shifting worldwide distribution of technologies that provided the infrastructure for global connections. And ‘ideoscapes’ were the realm of beliefs, values, and ‘grand narratives’ that were, Appadurai argued, ‘often directly political and frequently have to do with the ideologies of states and the counter ideologies of movements explicitly oriented to capturing state power or a piece of it’ (1990: 299). But the media were also fundamental to the flowing landscapes of globalisation. And, for Appadurai, the ‘mediascape’ denoted both ‘the distribution of the electronic capabilities to produce and disseminate information’ and ‘the images of the world created by these media’ (1990: 298).
In mediascapes, Appadurai contended, information and images are distributed through communication technologies in evermore complex ways toincreasingly diverse audiences. As a consequence, he argued, ‘many audiences throughout the world experience the media themselves as a complicated and interconnected repertoire of print, celluloid, electronic screens, and billboards. The lines between the “realistic” and the fictional landscapes they see are blurred ...’ (Appadurai, 1990: 299). Here, Appadurai’s spatial ‘scape’ metaphor is important because it highlights the way people’s fluid and fragmented experiences of the media are a consequence of intensified global flows. Appadurai’s account still acknowledges the vast power wielded by large corporations in media production and circulation, but it lays stress on the way the production, circulation, and consumption of media texts is always many faceted, multi-directional, and open-ended. From this perspective, therefore, young consumers around the world do not unthinkingly buy into a homogenised (or Westernised/Americanised) cultural diet of burgers, blue jeans, and Bon Jovi albums. Instead, the complex transnational streams of media feed into the development of a diversity of cultures and identities as different groups of young people actively draw upon ‘global’ media forms and creatively ‘reembed’ them in local cultures and contexts.