December 26, 2005

Coldplay, Kaiser Chiefs lead UK music charge

By Ray Bennett

LONDON (Hollywood Reporter) - It might not mean another
British pop invasion, but England is swinging these days more
than it has in years with world-beating acts including
Coldplay, Gorillaz, Kaiser Chiefs, Girls Aloud, balladeer James
Blunt and the hot new band Arctic Monkeys.

Rock elders Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones and Oasis
still record and tour with enormous success but the vibrant
British pop scene is embracing a wide range of new acts, even
those from across the Atlantic such as Scissor Sisters, the
Killers and Arcade Fire.

"The U.K. music scene is extremely vibrant with a great
live circuit and receptive media, and new talent springs from
that," said Steve Gallant, product director at leading retailer
HMV U.K. & Ireland.

"Kaiser Chiefs have been the biggest breakthrough act, and
they're enjoying success in the United States, too," Gallant

Peter Jamieson, chairman and CEO of the British
Phonographic Industry (BPI) trade body, points out that the
U.K. has bucked worldwide trends in falling record sales.

"In global market statistics for the last 10 years, the
British market has held up better than any other," Jamieson
said. "It's down to the health of British music that the market
share has stayed strong."

Association of Independent Music (AIM) spokesman Sam
Shemtob speaks of the nimble-footedness of U.K. indies in
working with fragmented media and Internet fans bases to enable
distribution. "There are all sorts of genres thriving on new
digital radio stations and niche fan bases," Shemtob said.
"Some indies don't care about the charts but achieve
substantial sales through these new avenues."

BPI and AIM say the British government's Trade & Investment
missions help show off the country's musical talent in the U.S.
and such places as India, Japan, China, and in February
Australia. "They have been a real boon. The benefit has not yet
been reaped but the seeds have been sown," Shemtob said.

The strength of British pop has helped put the country's
one major, EMI Group, in a rosier position after resorting to
severe cost cutting and reorganization.

The label's busy 2005 release slate included
Grammy-nominated works from Coldplay and Gorillaz, a new album
from reclusive singer Kate Bush and developing acts such as KT
Tunstall, Athlete, the Magic Numbers and Corinne Bailey Rae.

"My big hope is to see KT break through overseas in 2006,
particularly in the United States, where there is already a
groundswell of radio interest. And people are already talking
about Corinne Bailey Rae as one to watch," said Tony Wadsworth,
chairman and CEO of EMI Recorded Music UK.

HMV's Gallant cites the live circuit as being a vital part
of the U.K.'s pop energy. "There are a lot more festivals with
one almost every week in summer, from Glastonbury to Reading,
plus all the smaller venues," he said.

Wadsworth said Britain has "the best music retail in the
world" and also points to the receptive media landscape. "The
BBC's Radio 1 and Radio 2 have a commitment to new music that
is not weighed down by immediate commercial considerations, but
if you stick your neck out, you do get an audience," he said.

Lesley Douglas, Radio 2 controller, said, "(Veteran DJ)
John Peel has gone, but the principle of supporting new music
and new acts remains. We never pretest before we play
something. The desire and the will to take risks are in our


The Internet has allowed young people to discover music
from generations ago and older audiences to enjoy new material,
Douglas added.

"The young are searching back to see where music has come
from and there is a great acceptability by all age groups of
all kinds of music," she said. "The Kaiser Chiefs are great no
matter what age you are. They have that British sense of fun
that goes all the way back to the Beatles."

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter