Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Breaking the US?

After years of neglect, the government has decided to help British bands break America, reports Billboard.

The casual observer may think that, with James Blunt on top of the Billboard Hot 100 and the Gorillaz opening the Grammys, the industry isn't in need of a helping hand. But British acts are responsible for a mere 8% or records sold in the States. In 1986, that figure was 32%.

In some respects, we only have ourselves to blame. Oasis, for example, have pissed off more than one US promoter with their petulance and seeming inability to finish a tour.

On a more basic level, the eclecticism of the UK music scene doesn't sit well with America's ghettoised radio stations. Are Primal Scream rock or dance? Is Craig David pop or urban? America may be a cultural melting pot, but its music scene is strictly formatted and delineated. UK artists all too oftren fall between two stools and land back in London with nothing to show.

So what can the government do? Well, here's what they've suggested:

  • New research on the U.S. music market broken down by region, available free to British music companies

    It seems the government haven't realised that British record labels are owned by the same multinational corporations as their US counterparts. Shouldn't they already have this information? And what secrets can this 'research' reveal? That country music sells well in Texas, perhaps? Or that San Francisco's gay clubs play a surprising amount of Disco? Let's hope those civil servants know their electroclash from their psychobilly, eh?

  • Creation of a new-music portal showcasing the latest British music specifically aimed at the U.S. market, jointly developed by the industry and U.K. Trade and Investment.

    A website to showcase music? But if only we'd thought of that before!

  • Training for commercial officers across the network of U.S. diplomatic posts to help them understand the needs of British music companies attempting to enter the market.

    I think this means getting the British Ambassador out on the streets to hand out flyers, but I'm not sure.

    The government might be better off helping UK acts get through America's increasingly draconian immigration system, as one of BMG's managing directors points out in the Billboard article.

    Or, with Chico 'Time' Slimani at number one, perhaps the best course of action would be to give up on the UK record industry for once and for all.


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