Article: Pop and the Nation-State: towards a theorisation

I spent the last week reading and reviewing “Music, National Identity and the Politics of Location” edited by Ian Biddle and the late Vanessa Knights (Ashgate 2007). One article which was quoted in the introduction was Martin Cloonan’s “Pop and the Nation-State: towards a theorisation” (Popular Music 18:2 1999, p. 193-207).

In his article Cloonan (just like Biddle and Knights in their book) argues that more research focus should be directed at the Nation-state and not only on the local-global binary. Cloonan argues that the Nation-states still play an important role in regulating popular music. He outlines the following roles that a nation-state can play:

  • Broadcasting – the role that state-run broadcasting services play in promoting a broader variety than private stations, censorship and quotas for domestic music
  • Censorship – restriction of foreign bands from playing, censoring of lyrics/songs, regulation of live music
  • Law and copyright – the legal system, national copyright laws and the impact of copyright and its (non)enforcement
  • Cultural policy – state’s intervention in the market, how culture is defined officially, where state funding goes, availability of infrastructure (e.g. music schools) and (non)taxation of media, concerts and artists
  • Identity – the role of (popular) music in nation building, how music is identified (through marketing) with the nation-state (e.g. Britpop) and the use of music in conflicts

The second part of the article develops a framework of relationships between popular music and the nation-state distinguishing between the models authoritarian, benign and promotional.

The article provides a nice short overview of different strategies of state intervention in the production of music thus arguing against the total dissolution of the nation-state in the wake of globalization and also against the homogenization of music: “It might even be the case that it is the Nation-Sate, rather than the market, which is the guarantor of diversity in pop” (p. 205).

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