The US remains the world’s biggest recorded-music market, and a tempting one for artists around the world to target. But it’s also one of the most challenging countries to crack as an overseas artist.
A panel at the Midem conference today provided some tips and techniques to help: from building a team to finding the right promotion strategy.
The panel included Michele Amar, director of the US Office, Bureau Export; John Katovsich, VP of theatrical music at Lionsgate; Andreas Katsambas, recording executive at BMG; and Andrea Da Silva, global team leader, media and entertainment at the US Department of Commerce. The Bloom Effect’s Fiona Bloom moderated.
Language was a major theme running through the session – despite increasing globalisation, American audiences still want lyrics in English and artists doing interviews in English.
When asked what lyric translation tools he’d recommend, Katsambas joked, “I was going to say Google Translate – but I tried it a few times with funny results. But you do need to have good English.” He did, however, mention working with a Japanese act in the US who spoke no English so they took a translator with them to handle interviews. “It’s a hurdle,” he said, “but it’s not impossible.”
Da Silva mentioned LyricFind as a workable solution here but also cited Shakira as an act where English was not her first language. “A lot of American audiences want to literally understand what they are listening to,” she said of the issues that non-English speaking acts face here. “There is definitely a demand for English-language content.”
Katovsich explained how technology was limited and that, really, humans are the only way to work here. He gave the example of trying to translate The Velvet Underground’s ‘Pale Blue Eyes’ into Spanish for a Mexican film project. “We got stuck with Google – so ask a native,” he said, adding his company has a division focused specifically on the Mexican market and so can provide solutions here.
“Good production and English lyrics generally help,” were what Katsambas saw as the special ingredients to have a chance in the US, but said certain genres have their own caveats. “Electronic artists can produce music they can license without lyrics,” he said.
That said, English was only deemed essential if acts want to be truly mainstream in the US and that they can have very strong niche careers singing in their native tongues.