America's Top Pop Star Imports

Castle points out a prominent example: Robbie Williams. A massive star in his native Britain, the ex-Take That vocalist is his nation's answer to Justin Timberlake--a former boy band singer with the charisma and singing chops to make it on his own.

And yet, despite the best efforts of his record company EMI Group, Williams has been a sales bust in the U.S. And he's hardly alone. Dance-music artists who enjoy commercial success in the U.K. and Europe also have a hard time finding a mass audience in the U.S., Castle says. These examples underscore the trickiness of trying to replicate in the U.S. the same commercial success that a recording artist has enjoyed in another country.

As for Canadian recording artists, the U.S. continues to exert a strong pull, but that pull isn't quite as strong as it used to be, LeBlanc says. Part of the reason is that scheduling American tours has become a bigger headache because of greater difficulties in procuring the necessary visas.

"All they thought about was, 'I gotta get to the U.S.,'" LeBlanc says of Canada's recording artists. "Now it's, 'Yes, I gotta get to the U.S., but I can tour Japan and England too.'"

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