Britpop a Flop in the United States – Officially

By | April 25, 2002 at 12:00 AM

It’s official – Britpop is a flop in the United States, with not a single act on the U.S. industry barometer Billboard chart for the first time in nearly 40 years. Pop pundits insist that the disappearance of UK acts from Billboard’s top 100 singles chart is just a blip, but it follows a long decline in sales which critics say reflects the flood of manufactured bands on both sides of the Atlantic.

Long gone are the days when bands like the Beatles dominated the U.S. singles charts. In 1964 the Fab Four held the top five singles in the Billboard rankings, which are based 75 percent on airplay time and 25 percent on sales.

R&B act Craig David dropped out of the Billboard list on Tuesday, making it a Brit-free zone.

“I think it has become a lot more difficult for artists who aren’t American to break into the market,” Sarah Roberts of the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) said on Wednesday.

“One reason is 90 percent of the sales in the U.S. are by domestic artists. There is massive popularity of country and rap artists which the U.S. produces in abundance,” she told Reuters.

Another industry expert, who declined to be named, said the style barrier between the countries was often hard to hurdle.

“A lot of British talent is seen as quirky. We’re a little bit more eccentric,” she said.

She named Robbie Williams, a superstar in Britain but a relative unknown in the United States, as a good example.


There are big names in the music industry who blame the slump in U.S. sales on the proliferation of manufactured bands on both sides of the Atlantic.

“American audiences never did buy into our brand of ultra-smooth manufactured pop but who can really blame them?” wrote the Daily Telegraph’s rock critic Neil McCormick.

“After all, why import rubbish from abroad when you have plenty of rubbish in your own backyard?”

Elton John is a leading critic of record companies he accuses of making a quick buck from young acts like Britney Spears and S Club 7, likening them to “packets of cereal.”

The BPI’s Roberts said British acts wanting to break into the lucrative U.S. market had to spend time and money doing it, meaning sales in Britain and Europe tended to suffer.

A few bands have managed to succeed in both markets, the Beatles doing so only last year when they spent eight weeks in pole position in the album chart with greatest-hit collection “1,” making it the most successful album of the year.

In terms of singles, though, Britain will have to make do for now with adopted diva Kylie Minogue, whose “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” is at number 18 in the Billboard chart, having gone as high as seven. Minogue is Australian.

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