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BANGERS AND SMASH

With Constant Hits, Brits Are Crowning American Top 40

As  U.K. biz folk prepare for their biggest musical event of the year, the BRIT Awards, it’s only appropriate to examine the impact a new sort of British Invasion on the American music scene--one that's growing in size and influence every day.

When looking at the current slate of major pop stars with multiple hits on the radio like Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran, One Direction and Ellie Goulding, then factor in the DJ- and producer-driven pop hits from Calvin Harris,Mark RonsonDisclosure and Robin Shultz, plus the brand new artists like George Ezra, Rita Ora and Ella Henderson—nearly half of the top 20 airplay records on American Top 40 radio (according to Mediabase) are from U.K. artists. Although New York, L.A., and Atlanta are still hotbeds of creative cultivation in the urban/hip-hop worlds, for pop music London is the cultural mosh pit for new music movements.

For perspective, the last time we encountered this many Brits on pop radio was the mid-80s, when Culture Club, Duran Duran, Wham! and the Human League spearheaded “new wave” music that took radio by storm.

UK artist’s share of the U.S. albums market has steadily climbed over the last five years, fueled largely by the eclipsing presence of Adele, but with gains assisted by Mumford & Sons, Florence + The Machine, Coldplay, the late Amy Winehouse, Emily Sandé, Jessie J., The Wanted, and Susan Boyle.  According to the BPI, those shares climbed from 9.8% in 2010 to 11.7% in 2011 and 13.7% in 2012 before falling back to 10.4% in 2013. (2014 numbers are not yet available).  Jolly good, eh wot?

So what's the secret sauce behind such a consistent conquering of our shores? Perhaps it's the risks the U.K. labels take investing in British talent, reportedly spending more than 20% of their revenues annually on A&R.

It could also be a radio landscape that supports both the free-form spirit of BBC Radio and the commercial savvy of Capital. Or maybe it is just the extra engagement of the listening audience. 

In the U.K. last year, streaming usage doubled, although the growth of downloads fell for the first time since the launch of iTunes just over a decade ago.  

That data cast an interesting light on Apple's recent hiring of the Beeb's superstar on-air personality and music curator Zane Lowewho is credited with breaking a wide variety of superstars on his nightly show and having a tight connection with an audience that relies on him for music discovery. 

Whatever the future holds, the influence of U.K. artists on the American pop music scene is a rising tide of awesome.  

More BRITs coverage:

A Bit o' the BRITs: The Basics on U.K. Music's Biggest Night

Karen Glauber's The BRITs: An Alternative View

Meet the "New" BRITs, by the #Henchhipster

 

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