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Last Updated: Friday, 30 March 2007, 07:47 GMT 08:47 UK
The third British invasion?
By Mark Savage
BBC News entertainment reporter

Joss Stone
Joss Stone was signed by New York record label S-Curve
Joss Stone's latest album, Introducing Joss Stone, has stormed into the US charts at number two - the highest ever debut for a UK female artist, according to Music Week magazine.

Her success follows hot on the heels of other UK artists like Amy Winehouse, KT Tunstall, James Blunt and Snow Patrol, all of whom have scored US chart success in the last 12 months.

It seems reminiscent of the so-called "British invasions", which saw a wave UK acts conquer America in the 1960s and 80s - but just five years ago, these achievements would have seemed impossible.

In April 2002, there were no British acts in the US top 100 singles rundown for the first time in 38 years.

This all coincides with a golden time for UK artists
Chris Dwyer, Universal Records
International stars like Robbie Williams found their albums shelved and no British girl band could match the all-conquering impact of the Spice Girls.

So why have British artists suddenly found favour with the American public? What makes Lily Allen a more attractive prospect than Robbie Williams? How can Bloc Party be making strides where Oasis have stumbled?

'Exotic'

Ellen Pompeo from Grey's Anatomy (copyright ABC)
Snow Patrol were featured on hit US TV show Grey's Anatomy
"The answer is I think we're back to a normal flow," says Sean Ross, vice president of music at US market research firm Edison Media Research.

"It's not so much what is happening now as what went wrong for a brief period."

Ross says British acts suffered at the turn of the century because US radio had stopped playing pure pop and mainstream rock.

The problem was compounded by US record labels "not pursuing British projects aggressively as they should".

"I was at a launch party for the Sugababes when they came here with their Overload single," says Mr Ross. "To me that always sounded like a hit record, but here it was treated as something very different.

"People were convinced that these records were too exotic, but so many records break through TV now that exotic is suddenly an asset."

I really did have to make a decision to knuckle down
Natasha Bedingfield
Snow Patrol are just one UK group who have utilised the power of TV to sell their records in the US.

Their Chasing Cars single became a top five hit after it was played over the closing scenes of the second season of medical drama Grey's Anatomy.

Chris Dwyer, who heads the international department at Universal, the band's record label, says British acts have increasingly had to look for alternative means to promote their music.

"Tie-ups for things like adverts have become very important," she says. "Online has also become very important - there has been a great democratisation of what people can hear because of the internet.

"And, of course, just old-fashioned getting out there and playing to people!"

'Knuckle down'

Natasha Bedingfield
Natasha Bedingfield puts her US success down to hard work
Pop star Natasha Bedingfield agrees that playing to new audiences is a key to success.

She says it took sheer hard work to score a top five hit - as she did with her single, Unwritten, in 2005.

"Initially I only went to America for a month or something and then it just extended because people started to play the record on the radio and love it," she says.

"I really did have to make a decision to knuckle down and do the hard yards because I was a complete unknown.

"In the end I was there for a year and a half."

Hard work was also the recipe for James Blunt's US success - although in this case it was the record label who put in the extra hours.

"Atlantic Records worked the Oprah people for months to pitch James," says Blunt's manager, Todd Interland.

James Blunt (Atlantic Records)
Blunt was the first UK artist in a decade to have a US number one
"He went on the show, he charmed her, he charmed the audience and that's when the record exploded.

Interland, who signed Blunt on a "gut feeling" that his music would appeal to audiences around the world, says the time is ripe for British acts to make headway in the US.

"Right now, the American market is in a little bit of a black hole with regards to good music.

"There's some interesting things but most of it is a bit samey. Hip-hop has got into a bit of a glut," he says.

Chris Dwyer at Universal Records agrees, but says that the UK's chart success across the pond all boils down to one thing.

"This all coincides with a golden time for UK artists," she says. "People like James Morrison, Amy Winehouse and The Fratellis - they all make excellent records."


SEE ALSO
Joss Stone storms into US chart
29 Mar 07 |  Entertainment
British acts aid album sales rise
10 Oct 05 |  Entertainment
UK's Blunt tops US singles chart
01 Mar 06 |  Entertainment
How UK stars conquered US chart
02 Mar 06 |  Entertainment
UK acts disappear from US charts
23 Apr 02 |  Entertainment
Britain needs 'US music embassy'
27 May 02 |  Entertainment

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