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Thursday, September 02, 2010 - 11:00 AM

So Joel Waldfogel is an economist.  Figures.  Only an economist would look at the history of pop music charts over the decades as grand kind of commodities report

And the results are fascinating.

In terms of raw figures, the US is truly the international pop juggernaut that we all think and some people fear it to be. “From 2001 through 2007,” Waldfogel and his partner Fernando Ferreira write, “31 artists have appeared simultaneously on at least 18 countries’ charts in at least one year. Twenty three of these superstar artists are American.”

But here’s where the economics part comes in: by adjusting each country’s musical contributions for size (population, Gross Domestic Product), Waldfogel determined that the real pop music powerhouse is… Sweden.  From ABBA in the 70s to Robyn today, Swedish pop’s influence is way out of proportion to the country’s size. 

This reminds me a lot of a book I recently finished called Soccernomics: Why England Loses, Why Germany and Brazil Win, and Why the U.S., Japan, Australia, Turkey--and Even Iraq--Are Destined to Become the Kings of the World's Most Popular Sport. Those authors, also a pair of economists, looked at each country’s results in international competitions, and then adjusted for size (again, population and GDP).  Applying the same methodology that Waldfogel used on the pop charts to the world of soccer yielded a surprisingly similar result.  The most soccer-crazed nation on earth, per capita? 


But if all that Scandinavian prowess in music and soccer is making you feel insecure, take heart, America; we’re still #1 at producing housewife-based reality TV shows. 

Is the international influence good for the world’s pop?  Leave a comment.




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