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Canadian rockers Billy Talent eye foreign success

 Rock group Billy Talent poses with their Juno awards for Rock Album of the Year and Group of the Year at the 2007 Juno Awards in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, April 1, 2007. REUTERS/David Stobbe - Reuters
Rock group Billy Talent poses with their Juno awards for Rock Album of the Year and Group of the Year at the 2007 Juno Awards in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, April 1, 2007. REUTERS/David Stobbe
— image credit: Reuters

By Robert Thompson

TORONTO (Billboard) - Most guitarists would be perturbed to discover that their label was issuing their band's latest album with a bonus CD of the songs stripped of the guitar.

But the guitarist with Canadian rock group Billy Talent looked at the bigger picture and realized the bonus disc -- complete with chord chart -- would allow bedroom dreamers raised on "Guitar Hero" to play along.

"I'm pretty sure no one has done it before," Ian D'Sa says. "When I was a kid I would have killed to be able to play along with the vocals, bass and drums on 'Led Zeppelin IV.' I think this opens the boundaries between the band and our fans."

It shouldn't surprise anyone that amateur guitarists are fans of the band's mix of hard rock and punk. The act's latest album, "Billy Talent III," produced by Brendan O'Brien (Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam), hits stores via Warner Music Canada July 14 in Canada, where the band is already an arena-size draw.

Billy Talent's primary markets are Canada and Germany. The band's two previous albums, "Billy Talent I" and "Billy Talent II," sold 330,000 and 280,000 copies in Canada, respectively, according to Nielsen SoundScan. In Germany -- where "III" will be released July 10 -- the band's first two albums have shipped 460,000 copies, according to Warner.

Warner Music Canada president Steve Kane says the United Kingdom is a priority for the label, as part of an overall European strategy. There, sales stand at 48,000 for "I" and 61,000 for "II," according to the Official Charts Co.; "III" will be released July 13.

"We need to superserve a lot of markets in Europe, but we can't take Canada and Germany for granted," he says. "In the U.K. I think we're one radio song away (from mainstream success)."

The band has had limited success in the United States despite significant touring commitments for its first two albums, which have sold 120,000 and 59,000 U.S. copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The band's manager Pierre Tremblay, senior VP at Nettwerk Music Group, says Billy Talent's reputation as a top live act should help it make inroads in the U.S. market, and then onward to Australia and New Zealand.

"This will take some patience," Tremblay adds. "Billy Talent isn't just some pop act that you can throw a lot of money at and land on radio."

(Editing by Dean Gooodman at Reuters)

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