New Internationalist

Factfile On… Music

Issue 332

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factfile on...
MUSIC IS UNIVERSAL - it is produced by all cultures.
Charles Darwin believed that music preceded speech and
arose as an elaboration of mating calls. And Jean-Jacques
Rousseau was one of many who have suggested the earliest
languages were chanted or sung rather than spoken.

% of total sales of music in 1999 by region. Money Spinner
Music is a big and powerful industry - making $40 billion a year. The top six Western-based companies produce most music and control its distribution through retail outlets.

Inevitably artists are of secondary importance to the business they serve - in the words of Michael Whitaker, Director of Marketing at A&M Records: 'There are no bands any more, there are projects.'2

The Compact Disc
[image, unknown] The engineers who developed the compact disc decided to make its maximum time 70 minutes because they wanted to be able to put all of Beethoven’s ninth symphony on one disc.2
[image, unknown] 1988 was the first year when CD sales were higher than vinyl sales.2
[image, unknown] CDs now account for 65 per cent of recorded music sales – a figure powered primarily by consumption in the US and Australasia. Cassette sales are on the decline in all regions except Asia.3

New evidence suggests that music does not just satisfy the feel-good factor – it is also good for the brain.
[image, unknown] A study of intellectually disabled children revealed that they could recall more information after it was given to them in a song than after it was read to them as a story.1
[image, unknown] Researchers report that people score better on a standard IQ test after listening to Mozart (above). The so-called ‘Mozart effect’ has also been supported by findings that rats raised on Mozart run through their mazes faster, people with Alzheimer’s disease function more normally if they listen to Mozart and that his music reduces the severity of epileptic seizures.4

Passion & Politics
[image, unknown] In indigenous cultures, music is a form of recording oral history. Aboriginal Australians use music as a means to pass on stories of the land and spirits to the next generation.5
[image, unknown] Songs often have direct or disguised political messages. ‘In weak democracies, musicians are like journalists,’ said artist Alpha Blondy from Côte d’Ivoire. ‘They talk about things that journalists wouldn’t dare to because all the papers are owned by political parties. We are the voice of the voiceless.’6
[image, unknown] Many of the seemingly innocent nursery rhymes now sung to children in Britain are actually cheeky critiques of the governments of earlier times – an ‘in’ joke for those dissatisfied with the political system.5
[image, unknown] Bringing Majority World voices to the West is the growth of so-called ‘world music’. This makes up three-quarters of the world’s music but has only recently gained the attention of Western consumers and concert-goers.2

1 Anthony Starr, Music and the Mind (Free Press, 1992).
2 Timothy D Taylor, Global Pop: World Music, World Markets (Routledge, 1997).
3 International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.
4 New Scientist:
5 Mark Mattern, Acting in Concert – Music, Community and Political Action (Rutgers University Press, 1998).
Guardian online:

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This article was originally published in issue 332

New Internationalist Magazine issue 332
Issue 332

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