I’d like to propose a way for countries such as Turkey to increase their GNP & GDP figures through cross-border trade, by aggressively marketing their unique cultural attributes helping to improve their brand image abroad. These attributes can be considered anthropological resources. Japan and China are making major efforts to export style and culture and their investments have been paying off in billions of Yen and Yuan. France has a long history of government supported deliberate export of French culture and values.
While not everyone is pleased, it is undeniable that Hollywood has successfully promoted American values abroad. The same could be said for the music industry. Apart from the tremendous revenues generated through patronization of American media products and intellectual property (including software), the image of the USA in particular as a successful nation of strivers (whether true or not), helps promote American business interests abroad. The US Department of State (through programs such as Fulbright Scholars) along with industry groups often supports American artists with their efforts at international expansion.
One goal of marketing culture is of course to increase tourism, but this is not the only outcome. There are opportunities for wealth and job creation in other areas, such as entertainment media, sports, agricultural products, and business services, just to name a few. In this article I’d like to present a basic concept for the culture business and how it can be used to grow national prestige and wealth through cross-border trade of all sorts.
Recently, A Korean entertainer named Psy (short for Psychology) generated the most views in the history of YouTube, over one billion. His hit song “Gangnam Style” became a worldwide phenomenon, bringing widespread recognition to South Korea’s homegrown pop music “K-Pop”. (Psy recently performed in Turkey.) Through the work of musicians such as Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez, and Shakira there is now a raised awareness of Latin cultures in western countries. Collectively, the music, art, films, and even food can promote better levels of awareness and understanding between cultures. This can only lead to increasing interactions and ultimately business exchanges.
Soccer (known as “football” in most countries) is another example of a spectacle that brings people together, albeit in competition. The American sport of baseball is wildly popular in Japan and the Dominican Republic. Basketball is loved in Turkey, and the Turkish players in the NBA are household names in Turkey. Sport, as entertainment, brings people of different cultures together in the same way as music, which is a universal language everyone can understand. Turkey has a wonderful opportunity to develop its 600 year-old sport of oil wrestling to attract wrestling enthusiasts from around the world.
The core of my argument is that culture has elements of universality. Everyone likes to dance to good music with a strong rhythm, regardless of the regional differences. Musicians from different parts of the world play together even if they can’t speak each other’s language. The same cross-cultural understanding is present when it comes to art, films, and other entertainment forms. They are not dependent on localization to be enjoyed. This universality can be harnessed and directed to economic empowerment by progressive industry leaders working with governments willing to create and implement policies supportive of the arts and other cultural or anthropological resources. In the US, many states give tax breaks to filmmakers, and as mentioned above, the Federal government support the overseas efforts of artists. Support for education in the arts and arts administration is also crucial.
This is where governments, institutions, and even private individuals can step in. Besides funding, advice is also needed. Young entrepreneurs in the culture business need direction. Schools, banks, corporations, associations and the government all have important roles to play.
I would advocate for a national policy that aims to stimulate and grow the culture businesses. Micro-loans and tax breaks for entrepreneurs and educators, development of specified facilities, publicity channels, grants for overseas expansion, and coordinated advertising campaigns in various target countries would all be welcome. A roundtable of experts and the instigation of think tanks, along with small business incubators and accelerators would help to launch many nascent ventures. Those that come to fruition would yield results allowing them to give something back to the efforts of wealth creation through support for the creation of new ventures.
The scenario I describe is already happening in other areas, such as nanotech, biotech, and computer science. Those fields are being aggressively developed due to their perceived potential to contribute not only to the wealth of society, but to the well-being of humankind. Couldn’t the same case be made for the business of culture, arts, media and entertainment?
Tom Stein is a Professor at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts where he teaches courses in music and digital marketing. He is an artist development and educational consultant, as well as USA Country Manager for the International Institute of Marketing Professionals (IIMP®).
The ideas presented are his own, and not necessarily the views of the Turkey Tribune Editorial Board. He can be contacted at [email protected].