A few weeks ago we reported on a plan to spur anemic record sales of British artists in the US:
- After 10 lean years in the U.S., the industry here is proposing extraordinary measures to restore its stateside standing. Essentially, by early next year it wants to establish a rock and pop embassy-cum-trade mission in New York to be called the United Kingdom Music Office.
The artists think it’s a pretty stupid idea, and they might not need it anyway:
- Last week, Coldplay’s second album, A Rush of Blood to the Head, debuted at No. 1 in Canada and No. 5 in the United States, reminding North Americans that there’s more to U.K. music than Robbie Williams and Geri Halliwell.
As if on cue, Toronto is undergoing a mini-British invasion: Nine U.K. acts are playing in the city over the span of just three weeks. Along with the new generation of blokes with guitars (Coldplay and Doves), Torontonians will witness Brit-pop-era survivors (Ash and Gene), ex-art-punks returning after long hiatuses (Wire and Bob Geldof), loopy pop experimentalists (Gomez and Super Furry Animals) and, er, one half of The Who.
All of this without government support — in fact, the very idea of a British music office inspires derision.
“Oh, it’s doomed from the start!” says Super Furries guitarist Huw “Bunf” Bunford. “That’s definitely a bad idea. You just don’t want to be on that list of bands that they’re going to promote through that office. People are just going to laugh.”
Tim Wheeler, front man for Northern Ireland’s Ash, agrees. “Oh God, that’s a joke … I suppose [music] is one of Britain’s biggest exports, but definitely don’t bring the government into it — unless they want to give us some cash to come over here. Then maybe it’s a good idea!”
Most of Britain’s best pop music has taken this sort of anti-institutional stance, from early John Lennon through punk to the anti-Thatcherite hedonism of acid house. Ironically, a cozying up to the current government may have led to the percieved malaise.
In 1997, Blur’s Damon Albarn and Oasis’s Noel Gallagher set aside their well-publicized differences to support former guitarist Tony Blair in his battle versus the Tories. In the years since, British acts — the ever-enigmatic Radiohead excepted — have kept a low international profile, perhaps lulled by the ultimately anodyne nature of their Prime Minister….