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More On British Top-Down Management

We reported yesterday on the British plan to create an office to foster another British Invasion. Simon Warner thinks mightily on the matter:

    the British Invasion effect, which kept UK music in the
    fast lane from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, has pretty well run
    out of juice. In fact, the hurricane that gusted the Beatles to
    global domination in 1964 has become, today, a wheezy and asthmatic
    huff.

    Okay, so Radiohead and Gorillaz, Dido and even Bush still whistle a
    passable transatlantic ditty and some of America pays attention. But
    the facts are horribly stark. In 1999, British acts enjoyed just
    two-percent of the US bounty, a market worth $14 billion and by far
    the world’s largest focus for music sales.

    ….Yet there is a paradox to this tale of gloom: the UK continues to see
    its home sales edge upwards (bucking trends in an era of piracy and
    internet duplication) and in the last two years has regained its
    place as the third biggest market behind the US and Japan. So Britpop
    is not dead, it’s just incapable of attaining a secure foothold on
    the American musical mountain. Once our groups struck the Union Jack
    at the summit; now they stumble among the loose scree of the lower
    slopes.

    Not that we are lying down and taking this. In June, the British
    Council, an institution which promotes our art, craft and design to
    overseas markets, placed new emphasis on the importance of popular
    music. More used to selling ballet and opera, orchestras and fashion,
    the organisation has generally left rock to its own devices. But the
    once-buoyant sector badly needs a tonic and a new report suggests the
    cavalry – or more likely, perhaps, the Royal Marines – are on their
    way.

    ….the elastic band of eternal US optimism was savagely snapped
    in late 1963. Kennedy’s death, Lester Bangs once claimed, was the
    catalyst for the British Invasion which followed shortly afterwards.
    His opinion, as usual, was based on gut instinct, but maybe he had
    something. Young America, after JFK’s slaying, needed “a shot of
    cultural speed,” said Bangs in one Rolling Stone history, “something
    high, fast, loud and superficial to fill the gap; we needed a fling
    after the wake”. The invasion accomplished this, he believed, by
    “resurrecting something we had ignored, forgotten or discarded,
    recycling it in a shinier, more feckless and yet more raucous form”.

    Whatever the reasons, and they remain clouded, British pop emerged in
    the ascendant. From the Who to Led Zeppelin, Cream to David Bowie, a
    definite élan was attached to rockers from this side of the Atlantic
    over the dozen years that followed. And, just when it seemed that
    punk had punctured that special relationship, the telegenic glamour
    of the new romantics – Duran Duran and Culture Club – joined forces
    with a youthful MTV to keep UK acts in the American eye.

    ….Proposals to remedy this malaise arising from the British Council are
    modest but at least realistic. A New York office is planned, costing
    around £340,000 ($500,000) over three years. The UK industry – labels
    linked to the BPI (British Phonographic Industries) – will presumably
    cover the bills and allow artists, managers, promoters and record
    companies to share information and intelligence on the complex US
    scene. Famous industry figures like producer Sir George Martin and
    Island founder Chris Blackwell are backing the scheme and there are
    hopes that the UK music business could have a Manhattan platform by
    2003. Without it, it appears, the alternatives are really quiet
    worrying.

It remains to be seen if British music can be thrust upon us if we don’t want the thrust, but I guess a little marketing can’t hurt.

About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: [email protected], Facebook.com/amhaunted, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

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