Photo By Gary Miller
How can the UK reclaim the U.S.?
Austin Convention Center, Saturday 17
Here's the long and short of it: British bands don't succeed in the States because the campaign to win this vast and difficult territory -- the touring, radio promotion, meet-and-greets -- "does their head in." The panel premise, as introduced by moderator Doug D'Arcy, went as follows: From 1965 onward, the UK had a strong impact on U.S. sales, the curve making a steady ascent until the mid-to-late Eighties. Since then, however, it has shown a steady decline. For an economy that must export or die, the success and/or failure of the British music industry cannot be underestimated. More importantly, if those Brit bastards don't get their shit together, I'm stuck seeing my favorite bands only when I shell out for my annual trip to Reading. The discussion started slowly -- and, of course, politely -- with the question, "Is there a culture gap between the two markets, namely, the UK being obsessed with turntables and the U.S. being obsessed with guitars?" Dance music, it was argued, is the mainstream music of youth in the UK, and dance markets are very single-driven, neither facts boding well in our non-dancey, radio-driven American market. The panel then addressed the cultural gap as one defined by personality and less of musical style. Lesley Bleakley of Beggars Group, a Brit working in New York, flat-out stated that she "hates the arrogance of the English bands," adding, "How dare they come over here and slag off America?" As an example, she said they don't want to do meet-and-greets. Noncommercial Los Angeles DJ Nick Harcourt commented, "Oasis fucking blew it. America didn't have time for their shit." An audience member argued that it's not arrogance, but a sort of pub bluster or misinterpreted ironic sensibility. Although the attitude question was never properly sorted, it was unanimously decided that canvassing the States, through both tours and radio, makes all the difference for success. Measuring success, of course, varies. For Martin Goldschmidt of indie Cooking Vinyl, selling 10,000 units is a success. On the other hand, how does one address the status of Robbie Williams or Oasis, who are/were headline-pulling gods in Europe (Williams is essentially the British Madonna), yet are only moderately successful here? Williams' American booking agent Marty Diamond (Verve, Coldplay) explained he's a "big believer in the pursuit of a career." He contended that, if Williams makes a commitment to touring this country, "it's a time game more than anything else." He likened Williams -- who's spending a lot of time in the U.S. just hanging around, getting the lay of the land -- to a footballer studying his playbook. Good thing, too, because unless the lads start prepping for the arduous workout of a U.S. takeover, it's only a matter of time before the Brits start herding up their Manics, Super Furries, and Ashes and set fire to them, too.