For independent artists within the U.S., garnering an international fanbase can be key to furthering their careers. Now, we don't mean literally travel internationally, but rather, explore the ways in which multilingual and international collaboration can build you as an artist. The popularity of non-English music is growing, not only globally, but within the U.S. as well.
The growth of non-English speaking music can be seen through its success on the Global 200 Billboard charts weekly. Approximately 10 songs every week are either multilingual collaborations featuring English and non-English speaking artists alike. See below for a breakdown of the top languages making the charts.
The growth in popularity of non-English music in the U.S. follows this trend. Latin artists, K-Pop bands, and recently Afrobrats musicians are taking over the mainstream pop music charts. For instance, Bad Bunny and J Balvin performed at the Superbowl Halftime Show, taking on one of the largest stages in the U.S. We've also seen collaborations between global superstars BTS and Megan Thee Stallion or even Nicki Minaj and Karol G with the global hit, "Tusa."
You may be asking; how does this relate to me? All of these artists and examples are major-signed, famous musicians. Well, witnessing the increasing popularity of non-English music within the mainstream is indicative of the overall increasing demand for multilingual music throughout the overall U.S. music ecosystem.
For instance, the "Despacito" effect sparked a continuous growth of revenue and popularity for Spanish-speaking music within the U.S. over the last 10 years. Spanish-speaking music now accounts for over 5.8% of the overall U.S. Market...and this trend shows no sign of slowing down.
Other languages, like Korean, Japanese, and Zulu are starting to follow these same trends. The breakthrough and increased popularity of multiple languages isn't only happening within the U.S., but also in the English-speaking markets of Canada and the U.K. These broadening markets open new avenues for English and non-English speaking independent artists alike to access new collaborative opportunities through engagement with multilingual music.
Opens You Up to New Fanbases
One of the most fruitful ways in which independent artists can engage with multilingual music is through collaboration. By working with artists of different language backgrounds, both musicians are able to gain access to entirely new fanbases. From the U.S. perspective, the artist gains access to fans of non-English genres while also expanding their reach beyond the United States. Gaining fanbases across the world then opens up endless opportunities for touring, other multilingual collaboration, and so much more.
It is important to note the ethical ramifications of wanting to engage in multilingual collaboration. It is never appropriate to seek out collaboration or engage in multilingual music through the means of cultural appropriation. Other's cultures are not commodities to seek out for profit. Genuine, thoughtful collaboration between musicians and cultures is a delicate practice that must be done with care, proper intentions, and proper execution. These projects must be done with a goal of mutual benefit rather than exploitation.
The moral of the story is that the digital age has allowed multilingual music to gain popularity and traction within the dominant music discourses of the U.S. and beyond. Both English-speaking and non-English speaking independent artists can use this mainstream trend to engage with multilingual music and collaboration.
So, Independent Artists: try your hand at making genuine connections with international artists, explore opportunities for collaboration, and continue developing yourself just as the music landscape does.