Americanisation defines the Unites States of America’s cultural dominance and influence on the culture of other countries, in many cases culture that suppresses that of other nations; examples of Americanisation can be seen in anything from their popular culture, cuisine, business practices, and technology to political techniques (Osborn, 2006).
Since the 20th Century the growth and influence of American popular culture has become a worldwide phenomenon, through technological advances and the growth of media such as television, satellites and computers, especially since the incorporation of the internet, more messages are being conveyed from the United States to the rest of the world on a regular basis (Osborn, 2006) For example Hollywood dominates the world’s film and media markets and as such is the chief medium in-which populations around the globe are exposed to American popular culture, such as fashion, customs and way of life, commonly known as the ‘American Dream’.
Furthermore American television programmes are broadcast globally, many of-which are broadcast by American broadcasters such as HBO and CNN, or through alliances and mergers with other global broadcasters and media distributers (Stokes et al, 2004).
Furthermore the music industry is another media outlet dominated by the United States of America, with all three major record labels being American companies with several American subsidiaries, this in addition to American artist continue to dominate the popular (pop) music circuit, with uniquely American genres such as hip-hop, ‘bubble gum’ pop and R&B dominating music charts both in the United States and worldwide, following on in the same vein as Michael Jackson, Elvis Pressley and Madonna who make up three of the top four highest selling and grossing artists of all time.
America’s Influence on Popular Music: America undoubtedly dominates the global music empire with the vast majority of today’s popular musical genres having their roots firmly set in the United States of America. Everything from punk to rock ‘n’ roll to hip-hop and R&B were either born within the United States or found a foothold to flourish within the country; indeed rock ‘n’ roll took life in the United States during the 1940s and 1050s, evolving from uniquely American genres such as blues and country, which themselves spawned from the southern states uring the 1920s and 1930s.
Punk spawned from America’s garage rock scene of the 1960s and Hip-Hop found mass mainstream popularity in 1980s, remaining popular today, bringing African-American youth culture and fashion to mass global consciousness. This influence has led to the global success and worldwide fame of many American artists, artist such as Michael Jackson and Elvis Pressley becoming just two major American stars to achieve global fame and success, achieving worldwide sales of 600 and 400 Million respectively.
Furthermore as aforementioned, the markedly American genre of hip-hop has provided some of music’s most popular and prolific artists, with musicians such as Eminem, Dr. Dre and Jay-Z achieving unrequited global fame, bringing the culture and the street poetry of African-Americans to mainstream popularity, not just within the United States but worldwide, with youth culture in nations like the United Kingdom, France and Australia embracing hip-hop culture.
The United States influence in popular music can also be seen in the artists of other nations; in the United Kingdom for example The Rolling Stones, one of the highest grossing rock bands of all time sound, relied heavily on American influences to achieve the customary and unmistakable sound, in addition to taking their name from a song by popular American blues artist Muddy Waters. Even The Beatles, the most revered and popular band of all time, saw their early sound derive from 1930s and 1940s American dancehall music.
Another clear indication of the United States’ global dominance of the music industry can be seen within the decline of several major record labels, subsequently leading to only three major labels surviving today, following several mergers, acquisitions and buyouts within the industry. All three of the surviving major labels today Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and the Warner Music Group are American owned, with the buyout of British and last non-American record label EMI, by Universal and Sony asserting the United States’ global dominance on the record label industry.
As clarified, the United States’ influence on music is undeniable; however whether it has lasting mass global appeal, at least in an artistic sense, is questionable. Today the influx of ‘bubble gum’ American pop and mainstream hip-hop, although achieving worldwide success and in some instances acclaim, is often viewed as unimportant and invaluable, with artistic creativity often devoid within these uniquely American exports. Furthermore it can also be argued that this
Americanisation of the music industry and the way it has shaped and evolved popular culture has in some instances been damaging to the United States’ global image. For example hip-hop, once a genre which openly celebrated freedom of expression has been highly critiqued by the media in recent years, seen as creating a damaging sub-culture popular in not only the United States but globally, related to gang violence, drugs and the degradation of women, in-turn demonising African-American culture and how western youth are viewed globally.
In addition it can be claimed that despite America’s unrivalled influence in the birth of many musical genres, that the genres themselves only found popularity and reached mass mainstream appeal and consciousness once penetrating other global markers. For example punk rock, spawning from the American garage rock scene of the 1950s, only achieved mainstream success and notoriety once marketed within the United Kingdom, London’s Sex Pistols achieving success both sides of the Atlantic becoming the band most synonymous with punk culture, from the music to the imagery and clothing.
Hollywood Abroad: Hollywood is the dominate force within both film and global media, dominating cinematic playing time both at home and abroad, even amongst nations who market and produce their own filmography. For example the five leading markets after Hollywood are dominated by the United States of America, with Hollywood playing time shares of – United Kingdom 82%, Japan 73%, Germany 88%, Italy 55% and France 63%. All far outweighing cinema produced within these nations.
Within the United States itself, 93% of all time share is allocated to Hollywood released, even suppressing that of independent American cinema (Silva, 2007). and a valuable advert in promotion for the United States of America. Indeed it has been said that Hollywood soon after its inception become the single greatest factor in the rapid Americanisation of not only global media but also the world, as such becoming the most important and significant of the United States’ global exploits.
Hollywood in essence promotes the United States’ ideals, politics, accomplishments and opportunities on a global scale, leading to a global desire to imitate, which has seen many cultures worldwide suppressed (Stokes et al, 2004). In some ways Hollywood is seen as untouchable such is its global dominance within the film industry, this despite supressing other cultures whilst aggressively asserting the United States’ own, in an often propaganda like manner, promoting the country not as a geographical territory but as an imaginative one, a fantasy world of opportunity and aspiration.
This has led to intermittent periods of revulsion amongst other cultures and nations globally; for example during the 1920s Europe opposed much of what Hollywood was portraying seeing the industry as over-sexed, over-paid and having a potentially damaging affect upon the customs and societies found on the continent, quotes such as ‘poisoning the souls of our children’ and turning them ‘into slaves of American millionaires’ were attributed to opponent during this era.
However it must be said, that despite Hollywood’s often overbearing demeanour at the time, this negativity and revulsion was born out of fears by Europe’s cultural elite, who feared Hollywood’s lack of social obligation and radical challenges towards hierarchies of discrimination, taste and the class system.
This saw the influence and transformative power of Hollywood and in-turn American culture grossly exaggerated to manifest how threatening it was. Furthermore anti-Americanism in the Middle East today is often fuelled by the United States depiction within Hollywood filmography, carrying a similar objection and revulsion as seen in Europe during the 1920 and the infant years of Hollywood’s inception (Stokes et al, 2004).