What business people could learn from polyglot popstars

Stirling Suzy-min
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The pop music industry has always been a very international enterprise and one that has proved to be adaptable to many changes and challenges over time. As British businesses face up to their own challenges in the ever-changing post-Brexit landscape, they could learn from the multi-million selling artists who dominate the charts.

Musicians and singers have had a tough time in terms of record sales in recent years. The rise of the internet has changed the way that people view and buy music. Sales have declined dramatically due to the fact that anyone with basic technological literacy can download any type of music they want at will – and at hardly any cost – while the pirating and unauthorised sharing of music around the world has taken a huge chunk out of the royalties that musicians earn for their work.

So how have some artists responded? Simply by regenerating their marketing strategies in order to sell to a wider audience (e.g. clients).

One way this has been done is by pop stars utilising their language skills to break into foreign markets and raise their profiles abroad. Live concerts and appearances by megastars such as Shakira, Beyonce and Bruno Mars have increased the sale of their recordings in Spanish speaking parts of the world, while the older offerings of Petula Clark and Sacha Distel in French and Dean Martin in Italian have seen a resurgence in sales too.

You may know Charles Aznavour for his most famous hit « She », but did you know he has written more than 800 songs, recorded more than 1,000 of them in French, English, German and Spanish and sold over 100 million records in all?

Some examples:

Shakira – Spanish, Portuguese, English, French, and Italian
Andrea Bocelli – Italian, French, Spanish, English, Latin, and Portuguese.
Celine Dion – English, French, Spanish, German and Japanese, Neapolitan, Latin, and Mandarin.
Lady Gaga – French, Italian, Swedish, German
Cliff Richard – English, German, Italian, Spanish

These polyglot singers have learned how to become business executives who have traded their language skills to reshape their roles in the music business in order to protect their rights. Similarly, many pop stars from overseas countries – from China as well as several South American countries – are starting to produce English language versions of their hits and albums in order to broaden their reach to English-speaking markets, boost sales and become better known outside their own borders.

UK and US businesses should take note (pun intended) of these success stories and how to use language-based business strategies as a way of overcoming tough times and increasing sales. In the music world, those who can communicate with multiple audiences in different languages stand the best chance of survival. In an ever more global environment, the same is true of businesses too.

So by the same token, at the Eurovision song contest, monoglot Brits always sing in English but never seem to get many votes. Maybe that’s telling us something. Maybe we should get Cliff Richard back to sing in German? Check this out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbLzFet6Um0

So what language would you suggest Britain’s next Eurovision entry should be sung in to get better scores?

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