The New British Invasion: UK Acts Claim Largest Share Ever of US Album Market

British artists One Direction, Adele and Mumford & Sons have helped the United Kingdom claim its biggest ever share of the U.S. albums market, according to new figures released by U.K. labels trade body the BPI.

British artists accounted for 13.7%, equal to one in seven, of all artist albums sold in the U.S. in 2012, as well as four of the five best-selling artist albums last year, BPI analysis of Nielsen SoundScan sales data reveals. In 2011, U.K. artists accounted for 11.7% of the U.S. market, equivalent to one in every eight albums sold. That feat, now surpassed, was itself a record year for British artists in America, while this year’s figures mark the third successive year that U.K. acts have grown their share of the domestic albums market.   

In a repeat of last year’s results, Adele’s sophomore set “21” (XL Recordings/Columbia Records) was, once again, the best-selling artist album in the U.S., moving 4.4 million units, according to the BPI. As previously reported, “21” has now sold over 10 million copies in the U.S. alone.

The record-breaking success of One Direction, meanwhile, saw the five-piece boy band score the third and fifth biggest-selling albums of 2012 in North America, with “Up All Night” and “Take Me Home” (both Syco/Columbia) selling 1.6 million units and 1.3 million units, respectively. Both records entered the Billboard 200 at No. 1, making One Direction the first ever U.K. act to debut at debut at No. 1 with its first two album releases. 

Mumford & Sons’ sophomore set “Babel” (Gentleman of the Road/Glassnote) was No. 4 on the year’s overall best-sellers chart, having debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in October 2012, landing the London-based band the biggest debut for a rock album since AC/DC’s “Black Ice” in 2008. U.S. sales for “Babel” stand at 1.4 million units, according to Nielsen SoundScan.   

Other big-selling U.K. acts cited by the BPI, include Muse, whose sixth studio album “The 2nd Law” (Helium 3/Warner Bros.) debuted at No. 2 in the Billboard 200, and Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, whose debut studio set “+” (Elektra) hit No. 5. Strong selling albums from Coldplay, the xx, The Wanted, Cher Lloyd, Jessie J, Rod Stewart, Florence and the Machine and EDM star Calvin Harris and Alex Clare also helped boost the U.K.’s share of the domestic albums market.
“It’s officially a new British Invasion,” said BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor in a statement. “British labels are discovering unique talent and using social media to help build fanbases right around the world, in particular in the U.S., where fans have such an affinity for British music.”

“Increasing our share of the U.S. market for three years in a row is an encouraging sign for the future,” Taylor went on to say, calling 2013 “an exciting time to be part of the British music industry. As a country we can be very proud of our artists and of the British music companies who invest in them,” he added.

The top 10 U.K. artist albums in the U.S. in 2012, according to BPI, is as follows:

1. Adele, 21
2. One Direction, Up All Night
3. Mumford & Sons, Babel
4. One Direction, Take Me Home
5. Rod Stewart, Merry Christmas Baby
6. Adele, 19
7. Mumford & Sons, Sigh No More
8. Coldplay, Mylo Xyloto
9. Florence & The Machine, Ceremonials
10. Ed Sheeran, +