Thursday, February 15, 2007

Norway and All GATT Jazz

There was cool swag in the exhibit hall at IAJE this year, some of which I’m still working through. Music Export Norway actually had some of the best freebies: samplers of Norwegian artists, including some who are already well known. Nils Petter Molvaer’s “Little Indian” appears on Norway Now and Tord Gustavsen’s “Being There” is included on a full three-CD set Jazz from Norway 2006. Arguably Norway had a better conference than France, who had underwritten an extensive bistro-style sitting area on the exhibit hall, and featured several artists in the closing evening conference. Norway however, had Matthias Eick, who won the IJFO jazz award and gave one of the better concerts of the show.

It does raise questions about jazz’s place in international commerce. Presumably, Amercia has an absolute competitive advantage when it comes to jazz, as the vast majority of jazz greats and current stars have been American. Is it a comparative advantage though? Is our greatest comparative advantage in pop acts (depressing to think) perhaps, and does say Great Britain have a greater comparative advantage in rock than America?

While this is mere speculation, the commerce of culture is very serious business in Europe. France in particular has created international controversy for efforts to protect the French film industry. From the standpoint of trade politics could the generous giveaways at IAJE be construed as “dumping?” It highlights the folly of such protectionist complaints, as most in attendance were happy to get free music, American musicians included. Free exchange of artistic expression is good thing, and it benefits all artists to be exposed to a wide array of ideas and developments. Contemporary protected French cinema is a case in point.