When John Lennon declared that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, it didn't seem that far-fetched. It was 1966, and rock 'n' roll was the new religion sweeping the globe.

Commentators railed against the threat that popular music posed to the moral fabric of society, while some suggested it would devour every culture in its path.

However, research by two leading economists now suggests fears that British and American music would end up conquering the world were largely overblown.