Mother Tongue and Discrimination

Blogpost

March 29, 2023

Mother tongue and discrimination

Actually I would have enough other things to do, but this topic is burning on my nails. As an artist, I should be primarily concerned with my art. In my younger years, this was a difficult undertaking, if only because of the need to secure an income. That hasn’t changed when you’re at the beginning of a new career. Today, however, the obligatory self-promotion is added as a time-consuming task.

The editors and curators who were still approachable in earlier times are increasingly entrenching themselves behind the success figures that should already be shown even as a newcomer. I can remember that one received at least an answer to a submission to the press, radio editors or record companies – and it cost nothing! Admittedly, especially in the music business, the number of “petitioners” has exploded due to the possibilities of digital music production. This has become a thriving marketplace for self-promotion platforms (even in the book market).

Well, it is how it is! However, it may be noted that the threshold to break-even is moving further and further back as a result. And then there is another effect that goes unnoticed by many and becomes a sticking point – the cultural origin and native language of the artist. This is truly not brand new, and older musicians will remember the resistance to what was then called “Anglo-American cultural imperialism.” In France and Canada, mandatory radio quotas were introduced for native musicians. Resistance to the dominance of English-language pop music was also growing in other countries.

On this front, things have become alarmingly quiet. This is despite the fact that the dominance has grown rather than shrunk. Today, the American formats of the Oscars or the Grammys are immediately broadcast live on television. All this is alarming enough for non-English-speaking artists, but there is another development that is taking place in the shadow of attention, and which has even more serious implications for self-promotion.

Obviously, German, French and other cultures are sleeping through the evolution of self-promotion. There are shockingly few marketing offerings focused on Europe (of course, as a German, that is the focus of my observation). Of course, the international formats (Submithub, Spotify, etc.) are open worldwide, but the general orientation is subliminally clearly focused on the English language. I’ll give an example.

When I started my second artist career in the music business in 2019, I pretty much unconsciously and casually chose English as the language of communication and (when available) song lyrics. This had a lot to do with my previous international work as a jazz trumpet player. English has been the global “lingua franca” for quite some time now. And also my marketing reached the international market without any problems. I was able to reach streaming numbers around 100,000 already with the first songs – as a newbie after more than 20 years break as an artist!

In 2022, I published some books in German and realized that I could express in my native language in much more detail – which is no wonder. So from then on I also wrote German song lyrics. Already at the beginning of my late career I stumbled over hundreds of for me completely unknown genres in pop music. After 3 years I had finally settled in, which was important for marketing, which was heavily dependent on algorithms. I was now finding the right playlists were reaching my international audience better and better.

It was clear to me that this audience would reduce enormously with German-language song lyrics, but mor than 100 million potential listeners are also enough when taking into account the certainly higher artistic quality of the lyrics in my native language. Now I searched for the appropriate genres and was speechless. The marketing platforms give the genres as a dropdown menu – in English, of course. Apart from “Deutschpop”, there wasn’t much to be found there and the corresponding playlists were more geared towards German Schlager. For more sophisticated German lyrics, there was also a box with hip-hop and the fringe genres. Something like “Alternative” was obviously not intended for German-speaking artists.

When I then looked for suitable promotion providers for a German-speaking audience, I was stunned. With thousands and thousands of promotion agencies, almost none specialized in a German-speaking audience. The rule was, “Everyone understands English and this is where the money is to be made across the board.” Surprisingly, even the German curators agreed with this verdict without comment. I think colleagues in other European countries will feel the same way. The Anglo-American taste machine seems to dominate the entire digital marketplace, and even the European companies (Spotify is Swedish, Deezer is French, etc.) can’t find the strength (or the will?) to counter it.

Of course, Germany has also produced stars, but I’m not talking about the heroes who established their careers via clubs and concerts. The digital market is a market all of its own, and it’s the only one that generates revenues that aren’t based on pure backbreaking work. Even with my German titles, I reach more fans in the U.S. than in Germany. What is tracking wrong? Are we really just vassals of the U.S., as the post-war generation always feared? Friendship is good, but humble dependence just sucks. If we Europeans get a few crumbs from the American music market, it’s no compensation for the fact that the domestic music market remains closed in terms to the big deals. There’s no one to blame here, and the industriousness of the Americans in the markets is impressive, but it tastes bitterly on the European tongue. I don’t even want to know how it tastes on African or other tongues.

Disclaimer: I’m not a nationalist and I don’t have a problem with other cultures and I’m happy to speak English in international communication, but I get pissed off when I’m ignorantly discriminated against in terms of where I come from and what language I speak – even if it’s just negligent. It really blows my mind when even in my own country the radio stations almost completely ignore German songs. It’s high time that the debate is reopened.

Quote:
No German-language title in the Top 100 of the Official German Airplay Charts 2022.

BVMI Chairman Dr. Florian Drücke criticizes the fact that not a single German-language title can be found in the Top 100 of the Official German Airplay Charts 2022, thus setting a new negative record for a trend that the industry has been pointing out for years. At the same time, the study shows that the variety of genres listened to, including German-language music, continues to be great. In the music offer of the radio stations this is not reflected however.

“There is no German-language song among the 100 most frequently played titles on German radio, as shown by the Official German Airplay Charts 2022, determined by MusicTrace on behalf of BVMI. That’s a new low after five in 2021 and six in 2020. The fact that songs in German don’t play a particularly big role on the radio is not a new phenomenon, and the industry has addressed and criticized it many times over the years. In our opinion, stations with local repertoire could identify themselves and also make their mark with listeners,” Drücke is quoted as saying in a press release from the association. “On the other hand, it must also be clear that we will look very closely here in the current debate about the future of public broadcasting and demand the cultural mission, which is not fulfilled by the heavy rotation of international repertoire. A look at the Official German Album and Single Charts is enough to show that German-language artists are very much appreciated and in demand in this country, and should be reflected accordingly on the radio,” continues Drücke, who warns that politicians should not look away from this issue either. > Source: https://www.radionews.de/bvmi-kritisiert-geringen-anteil-deutschsprachiger-titel-im-radio/

Quote end

The Founder

My name is Horst Grabosch and I am the mastermind of all projects presented on this website.

I was born in the largest coal mining area in Germany, known as the “Ruhrgebiet”. After school I worked as a professional musician until I was 40 years old. This time is well documented on WIKIPEDIA

After a burnout I had to give up my job, moved to the south of Germany, to the Munich region, and did an apprenticeship as an information technologist.

Another burnout forced me to rebuild my existence again, which collapsed just because of the corona crisis. In expectation of poverty at retirement age, I began to build a second career as a musician in 2019.

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