In the Finnish department store they laid out the CDs as follows:

– Classical and non; then
– Finnish language and non; then
– Mid and full price.

The racking policies of big shops are culturally significant. In Britain HMV’s familiar “Rock and Pop” / “Soul and Dance” / “Hip-Hop” / “Reggae” / “Specialist” policy helps establish and reinforce genre as the primary basis of differentiation. The primacy and size of the ‘rock and pop’ area confirms its status as the locus of media interest (just as the ever-growing DVD section confirms the fading commercial clout of recorded music).

Similarly the shop layout in Finland abandons genre in favour of language as the motor of difference. The Suomi section mixed cocktail techno with nu metal with jolly moustachioed traditionalists – a blend of age and style which foxed me initially. Why were Bodies Without Organs and Nylon Beat in different sections? Language. I’ve seen similar policies in French, Spanish, German and Polish stores.

The question – not one I’ve seen discussed except in one early-90s Wire piece – is what does a linguistic divide mean for non-Anglophone pop? What are the critical bugbears which animate European pop criticism? Are local bands working in ‘American’ genres judged on their sonic fidelity to the originals their language cuts them off from. Is there really a segment of the Finnish market which selects based on language over style?