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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 February, 2004, 17:18 GMT
Can Brits stars crack America?
By Ian Youngs
BBC News Online entertainment staff

The UK's Brit Awards honoured homegrown music stars like The Darkness, Busted and Dido on Tuesday - but can they use the awards as a springboard for success in the market everyone wants to crack - the United States?

Busted are big stars at home - but unknown in the US
Exactly 40 years ago, The Beatles invaded America and British rock and roll took the US by storm. And in 1986, British artists accounted for almost a third of all records sold in the US.

Acts like Duran Duran, Wham! and Simple Minds were among those at the top of the US charts in the 1980s - but Duran Duran's appearance at this year's Brits reminded us that those days are over.

Now, just 5% of music bought in the US comes from artists signed in other countries - and UK stars are finding it harder and harder to make an impression.

Some have managed it - like Radiohead and Coldplay, who recently beat Beyonce Knowles and Eminem to win one of the main Grammys awards, record of the year.


And the UK is still influential in breaking new artists like The Strokes and The White Stripes, who were stars in Britain before their home country took notice.

The Darkness

But on the whole, the American market is "very much self-sufficient" in 2004, according to Emmanuel Legrand, London bureau chief of US music industry magazine Billboard.

The Brits ceremony is "a very good calling card for the British industry" - but few in the US outside the music business pay much attention, he says.

"You cannot expect one of the five networks to dedicate prime-time coverage to the Brits," he says.

"But in specialised programmes like [cable showbiz news show] Entertainment Tonight you will have mentions of the Brits, especially on the celebrity side, on the glamour side."

Brits organisers are still hoping to tie up a deal to broadcast this year's whole ceremony in the US - but the event has not been shown there for three years.

In 2001, it was shown on cable channel BBC America, and on music station VH1 the year before that.

Brit success

Some of this year's Brits winners have already enjoyed success in the US.

Dido - the best British female winner who was catapulted to fame by Eminem - has seen both her albums reach number four, selling five million copies in total in the States.

Best British male winner Daniel Bedingfield has had more modest success, reaching the US top 20 singles chart twice with Gotta Get Thru This and If You're Not the One.

Of the newer British stars, The Darkness are the most likely to make it big in America, Mr Legrand says.

Dido has been one of the most successful UK exports
"The Darkness are becoming a household name in the US - they've been concentrating so far on the British market but they get fantastic press over there in the US and there's a lot of interest," he says.

The key for British artists is to offer US fans something they cannot already get from artists at home, he says.

"The Darkness do bring something new, Dido has no equivalent in the US, Coldplay and Radiohead are successful because they are different," he says.

Another rising British star about to launch an assault across the Atlantic is jazz singer Jamie Cullum - who performed at the Brits but lost out in the best British breakthrough category.

Hot hip-hop hitmaker Pharrell Williams - who has produced for Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake - has said he wants to produce Cullum's next album.

Top league

British hip-hop and R&B artists have found it harder than most to compete in the US - and Brits best urban winner Lemar will have to prove he is better than his American counterparts if he is to make it there.

"That has always been the problem with British R&B - they are competing with the top league over there," Mr Legrand says.

And Busted - whose power-pop is also peddled by US bands like Blink-182 and Good Charlotte - may also have trouble.

"There are already acts in the US that are doing that kind of angry pop, and therefore Busted are not bringing something new," Mr Legrand says.

"If they come up with something that will make them different - look different, sound different - they will have a chance, yes."

Please see below to find out what some of our US users think of these artists and the current state of British music.

This era is one the most fertile for wonderful enriching music from both the US and the UK, but it exists almost exclusively in an "indie hell" where the cognoscenti explore the internet and magazines for treasure, but the artists have not a hope in hell of crossing over to the mainstream. The major record companies, RIAA and radio stations are to blame, but I don't think they care.

As music marketting is increasingly treated as nothing more than fodder for the masses, I can't see the situation changing, unless the independants get their day again like they did in the late 70s punk heyday.

I find British music to be much more enjoyable than the formulaic rubbish produced here in the States. Better lyrics, better music... I travel to the UK on business, and usually make a point of finding a music shop - I buy loads of music in the UK or online, because I can't find the music I like here.
Phil Denton, New Jersey

Liberty X, Atomic Kitten, Daniel Bedingfield, Oasis, Blue...the list goes on and on of performers who've never been given the chance to succeed here in the US because somebody thought it didn't fit the formula of what Americans would want to listen to.
Anonymous, Tampa USA

Unless Brit bands are championed on FM radio there really is no chance to make any headway in this country. It's also no good in playing only the major cities - bands need to tour the smaller towns in areas like here in the mid-west. A kid living in Nebraska probably doesn't care about anyone British because no-one ever comes into town and plays his local venue. Appealing to Anglophiles in LA isn't going to crack the US mainstream.
David, Iowa City, USA

I agree with the fact that British acts have to offer something different from American ones if they want to do well. We have generic pop crap playing all the time, and so does the UK. I'm actually amazed at the crap that gets in the UK top 10. I think The Darkness could do well in the US. Their sound and style is different from the dour-faced nu-metallers, and they're completely, unabashedly flamboyant.
Regina, Fairfax, VA, USA

Never heard of any of 'em.
Michael J DeLaurentis, Elkins Park, PA, USA

I used to love British music. You guys had an original real tone that I could relate to on the one hand but that was interesting and different on the other. Now though, it seems almost like you have an inferiority complex and would rather copy American music - which you obviously cannot do as well as Americans.
Barbie Brown, Brooklyn, New York

I'm an old 80's chick - and I miss the Brits on the radio. It seemed like, back then, our cutting-edge musicians were imitating yours. Trouble now is, what's hot is anger and alienation and madness. Ozzy Osbourne (a Brit, naturally) cornered that market at least two decades or more ago. How about something REALLY new?
Jennie Laurie, USA

My favourite bands and musicians have almost always been British - from Blur, Tricky, Radiohead, Ronnie Size and Massive Attack to old school bands like the Cure, the Smiths and the Stone Roses. The best music comes out of the UK, in my opinion. Their value and integrity as artists aren't based on whether they can break through to US audiences.
Shawn, Washington, DC, USA

The British have, in the past, blessed us with some of the best rock music ever- Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Elton John, etc. Send us some more of this. We're sick to death of hip-hop, rap, and Britney Spears. We need music with some soul and meaning to it. I like Dido, although you have to be in the right mood for it. I've never heard of the Darkness. If they are "becoming a household name" here I'm not aware of it.

If I could offer some advice to my Brit friends across the pond I would say concentrate less on attitude and image and more on substance, because this is exactly the opposite of what we are inundated with here. The key word is "different".
Mike Hipp, Athens, Georgia

It's my theory that a sadly out-of-touch American music industry is at fault for both the lack of promotion of outstanding British artists as well as the general decline of music sales. The only real way to break through currently is through internet promotions and sales. I wouldn't have been graced by the likes of Ms. Dynamite, Super Furry Animals (gotta love 'em!!), Dizzee Rascal, or Audio Bullys if I hadn't bothered with online research.
Paul Habibi, Austin, TX USA

British music totally rocks! The Darkness gets a lot of MTV & VH1 plays here and the first time I saw them, it was hysterical! What a quirky video.. lots of fun to watch & the song was great. Dido is a class act & think Coldplay is just wonderful. Growing up & listening to Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Duran Duran, Flock of Seagulls, Beatles etc... shows that we too are influenced, interested and inspired by what Britain has to offer.
Veronica Boyd, Warwick, NY, USA

I think that some of the British artists who try to crack America face problems because they are going from a "you're a star!" environment to somewhere that hasn't even heard of the awards that they've received (nor cares because it's not American). I really do think that this is why Robbie Williams has trouble here because so many of his songs are about the pitfalls of celebrity, I'm famous, etc. But when Americans hear Robbie's songs and see him on a chat show the reaction is, "What? Who are you to be singing about this? Why the attitude?"
Kersti Niebruegge, Brookfield, Wisconsin USA

I agree with the article - we already have the same sort of acts going on here in the US. Why on earth would we want a British version of, say, Britney Spears? I think there is also an undercurrent of patriotic feelings. Support American acts before seeing what else is out there.
Megan H, Chicago, USA

I agree with the comments in the article about British artists not offering anything new. But it doesn't help when the British artists come over here and try to act defiant and "cheeky" (i.e. Robbie Williams) and all that results is a lot of annoying behaviour.
Elizabeth, KY, USA

The Dork-ness... absolutely horrible... The biggest hype of 2003-2004.
Richard Cowell, Columbus, Oh USA

The only reason that British acts have as much trouble cracking America as they do is simply because of promotion. We never hear of them. Whenever I play recent Oasis songs such as Songbird or Better Man, or highlights of the Libertines album, my friends always love them, but when the last Oasis album came out, no one knew. No body even has a clue who the Libertines are. The only band anybody here knows about is Radiohead.
Ryan Frazee, College Park, MD, USA

You understate the success of Coldplay, Radiohead and especially Dido (not my cup of tea, though) - they are huge here and, harder still, well respected at the same time. Sade is another artist from home who commands huge popularity and respect here.
Neil, NYC, USA

I moved here from the UK over a year ago and have found it extremely difficult to find out about new bands and different types of music. The radio stations are dominated by the "safe" bands that always top the charts. Everything here seems to revolve more around safe money than on taking risks, the music companies are less inclined to take that risk because the US audience just does not seem as capable of accepting different types of music as readily as European audiences are.
Neil, Jersey City, NJ, USA

British music is rather good. I don't necessarily think we need another Good Charlotte act though. Americans are beginning to look at mainstream acts and MTV-appointed stars with derision. I think British hip-hop acts may have a chance if they bring innovation to the US market... especially if British hip-hop infuses 2-step and garage type rhythms (think The End).
Chris Spivey, New York, USA

Bands that could get a foot in the door in the US are Keane and Franz Ferdinand and the Darkness are already doing what Robbie and Oasis haven't been able to do-cause a huge buzz over here.
Dennard Summers, Pittsburgh, Pa, USA

My personal opinion as a 32 year old female born and raised in Detroit are: The Darkness - they are laughable enough to warrant a second look. If their act is shtick, it's genius. If it's meant to be taken seriously, they're ridiculous. They're like spoofs of our late 70's and 80's metal hair bands (i.e., Van Halen). Nostalgic and hilarious. The Beatles are revered in this country after all of these years.
Sheri Martini, Detroit, MI, USA

Having listened to the clips, I would have to say that most of the groups seem a bit generic. Busted, for instance, could replace any of a number of American pop punk groups, but the mainstream popularity of that genre is on the wane.

One look at the U.S. charts shows that the music that predominantly sells here is either R&B, Hip Hop or Country. Most UK groups would have a tough time breaking into those categories purely on a perceived credibility level (not American enough).
Michael Day, Portland, Oregon, USA

I credit the British record-buyer for making the Darkness the dominant and refreshing new artist that they are, well done! Here in the US we suffer from a severe lack of variety. Hip-hop and żNew Country' music dominate the airwaves and charts almost completely. Rock is afterthought, and it is extremely difficult for truly ground breaking artists to get through. Outkast and the White Stripes are national treasures, though it took the UK to break the Stripes. You did the same with Hendrix, as I recall.
Chris, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

I've never even heard of these bands, unfortunately. I love the Beatles and other "British Invasion" era bands, but today, British bands are just not publicized over here. Not being a big fan of America's pop music today, I would love it if something different (like what I understand Busted to be) could be played more this side of the Atlantic.
Kate, Williamsburg, USA

The Beatles, The Stones, etc. hit big because they sounded radically different from The Beach Boys and the Motown sound at the time. The Cure, Duran Duran, Depeche Mode hit big because they sounded radically different from Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi at the time. But today, everything British seems to sound like everything American. Even Kylie's latest is an obvious rip-off of J.Lo. And word to Robbie Williams: Irony DOES NOT SELL in the USA. It's not that we don't understand irony - it's that we think it's tragic, rather than funny.
Steven Roelofs, Chicago, IL

I've heard some stuff by Busted, and it basically sounds like the music factory where all good record label marketing dreams come true has finally turned its hand to alternative music over there. It's all been done before, the only difference being that they seem fake and appeared from nowhere without the hard work!
Garret, CA, US

The best thing about British music to me is that when it does arrive here in the United States, it's typically better stuff than most American musicians are doing. Coldplay, Radiohead, and Dido to name a few, are played on many of the radio stations I listen to nearly everyday. Also, there's a new rapper I just heard of who I believe won the Mercury Prize last year. There is something very intriguing to us Americans about British music. The best part is knowing that whatever kind of music it is, it's usually amazing, original and something we cannot replicate ourselves.
Jonnique, Omaha, NE, USA

Friends in the UK recommended The Darkness CD last year - I had to get it sent over as none of the local stores had heard of them. Yesterday I drove past a record store with a huge sign outside saying 'We have The Darkness!!!' How things change.... Can't wait for US tour !
Dean Forrester, Houston, Texas

Honestly, I can't stand Coldplay, or The Darkness. One is boring and the other is just too weird. The US market is just becoming too saturated with the same stuff, even rock musicians are being pulled into the mainstream. It's time for something new.
Sean, USA

I've been following music for 40 years. From the Beatles to the disco era followed by the synth dance pop to punk to grunge to rap. During each of those periods you can find examples of Brit influence, if not trailblazers.

Today's pop music, though not dominated by British performers, still has much to offer the US. Coldplay, Sting, Annie Lennox, David Bowie, etc. So, I think you Brits are doing just fine. I just wish our USA young people would discover music again.
Steve Owens, Houston, Texas

I listen to UK radio stations on the internet and purchase British artists' CDs to make up for it. Don't write off all Americans as musically ethnocentric -- some of us are very supportive of the British music industry. And then some of us (who, me?) go completely overboard, purchasing and listening to nothing else...
Wendy Ticknor, Columbus, GA

Among the reasons previously pointed out about UK acts success or failure in the US, one item was missed - touring! The Darkness and Busted need to learn but one thing from the likes of Blink 182 - live shows equal exposure to radio marketeers. Blink 182 made a living by playing out every night of their lives. The lack of UK bands extensively touring to build a fan base will always keep them from long term success in the US.
Jason, San Diego, CA

The Darkness are popular because there are a lot of Renecks who think it's the second coming of David Lee Roth. UK music is much more varied. You can drive for an hour here and apparently listen to the same song. The only things that are different are from the UK or Canada.
Alex Rose, Hebron, CT (ex-pat)

I think that British music is awesome - even if there are similar styles, the sound and lyrics are really different. The accent sometimes helps to. Americans are really being deprived not getting the UK music.
Jillian , Salt Lake City, USA

We are lucky to get the Brit Awards here on MuchMusic and this year it's airing on the CBC, televised across Canada! I find the show rocks better than any American award show. It's much more creative and passionate. And thanks Britain, for breaking The Strokes and The White Stripes!
Maggie, American living in Canada

I never knew that Radiohead or Coldplay were British, nor do I care... I'm pretty sure no one really pays any attention to that sort of thing (in pop/rock). In fact, it would probably be a surprise to half Americans that Led Zeppelin or Queen are not US bands.
RW, Chicago, IL, USA

They need to be more humble. Just because you are a big star (Robbie, Oasis etc) doesn't mean you are here. Look a Coldplay - they are huge stars but they are extremely thankful and humble towards there fans.
John Cantu, Sugar Land, Texas

Most Americans don't pay attention to it at all, but it is true that there is an increasingly less British influence on American music. The Spice Girls may have just left a bad taste in our mouths. Radiohead and Coldplay are extremely well known, but only among a smaller, more intelligent fan base. The average consensus is that the British music scene is inconsequential. The few groups that use the British market as a launch pad for their career do so only for financial reasons.
Jeremy S, Mendham, NJ, USA

The state of US music is, at best, terrible. It's filled with rubbish bands and singers that don't really bring anything new to the table. Having lived in the UK a couple of times, I can tell you that you Brits there are much better not paying much attention to why some Brits can't "crack" the US market. A good deal of the public here is not really smart enough to understand better music.
Nelson , Tampa, FL -USA

The RIAA tells us not to download. The artists tell us to protest against the media monopolies, so we turned off our radios. If British acts don't get on Saturday Night Live, there's no way for us to hear them. We're not allowed to search for new music on our own, lest we be sued.
George Ziemann, Tempe, AZ USA

Ironically at this time of falling CD sales, the music scene is as rich as it has ever been - but only something new and fresh sounding will ever have a chance of breaking the US.
Steph Altman, California, USA

I agree with the perspective that the UK helps launch bands, I look to my English friends for what to listen to. I'm in college, and so other bands, most notably Badly Drawn Boy, have a cult following. Radiohead and Coldplay are obviously staples. MTV's giving The Darkness a fair shot, but I don't hear much about them outside of MTV. I hope more Brit music comes out...
Andrea Damewood, Chicago, Illinois

Sadly, the British music scene generally sucks. The days of the Rolling Stones etc... are over and we have enough of our own talent to entertain us.
Chad, Las Vegas, Nevada

The Darkness - no identity, they will not emerge into the Light!! Busted - Look like NSYNC with instruments (nope). Dido - great elevator sound, would not listen to unless I needed to sleep quickly. David Belingfield [sic] - Looks like he failed the first audition in some talent show, name sounds like Attorney-of-the-Year! Lemar - lose the lead guy!! Keep the girls and the horns and give them something with a beat to sing (could be the sleeper artist of this group).
Alan Edwards, Houston, Texas via Stockport


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