Reasons You Can’t Get Into Japanese Music Industry as a Foreigner (Unless You Really Try)

A little while ago, I stumbled upon an article named Why Independent Artists From USA, UK and the West, Cannot Get a Recording Deal in Japan. While this article is somewhat dated, I thought I would share what I know about the current industry.

Before I begin covering these topics, one thing I really like to emphasize is in Japanese music industry, often the merit of the musical work often does not play much of relevancy. So if you are getting rejected, that’s nothing about quality of music you are putting out.

First of all, how well music are consumed in Japan? Not too bad, some research reveals that 60% of respondent replied that they listen to music every day on their smart phone.

Reality: Japanese Music Industry Is, More or Less a Secondary Industry

Assume that you have great music in your hand, now you are trying to sell, you bring it to the record company, you get rejected. Why?

First of all, you are nobody, let alone if you are independent musician. Did your music piece used in a movie? What about on TV? Aired on a radio show? If you answered no to all of those question, sorry, you are that nobody.

Media tie-ups are big in Japan. Although audiences of TV broadcast are often said to be declining, it still plays big part of the musical discovery process. Research by the Japanese record association shows that in 2016, 24% of respondents listen to music through TV and 21.6% from radio. (YouTube and CD and musical media are larger, but I will cover this other places in this article.)

If you see ORICON ranking, it is very evident. For example, ranking from May 2017, only two items out of top 10 are free of tie-ups. Most others are used in songs used in the commercials (yes, commercial music matters in Japan) drama, or anime. (And those remaining two have had established their tie-ups elsewhere.)

So the shortcut of getting your music successfully launched in Japan is by getting your music used in one of those shows.

Sounds easy, right? Perhaps if you know some famous musical producer, maybe? Otherwise you will have to be very creative.

Essentially, many musicians start establishing their presence by luck; you have to be in right place at right time. If you are foreigner outside of Japan trying to establish identity this way, you are already of disadvantage, as your exposure will be minimum.

Shortcut 1: Be (Very) Successful in Your Country

If you already have some, industrial presence in your country, pursuing to be successful there is perhaps most realistic way. (If your goal is truly to be successful in Japanese industry) if you are successful in a country of your choice outside of Japan, then perhaps Japanese music industry will take a notice on your work. The catch is that you will have to be very successful.

Shortcut 2: Establishing Digital Presence Yourself (And Cater to Your Audiences!)

If you are still not well established outside of Japan, and you want to get some presence in Japan, another way to go direct approach.

There are pretty decent presence in Japan for a streaming media in Japan, such as YouTube and Niconico. Previously mentioned year 2016 research by Japanese record association reveals that 42.7% of respondents listen to music on YouTube. (12.1% on Niconico) so there are audiences.

Since pure musical presence on YouTube is big, if you are to get some exposure, YouTube would be excellent medium to get you noticed.

Japanese people use Niconico differently; it’s commenting feature is very different from YouTube’s and hence, more listener interaction is active in Japan. Particularly, covers, experimental songs, and other performances are more prominent in Niconico.

There are many cases independent artists experienced major debut this way, particularly through providing music to anime. Kenichi Maeyamada, and ZAQ and others for example. Example of Kenichi Maeyamada is notable for the fact he is now performing compositions for well-known singers.

Vocaloids and YouTube/Niconico

One aspect of Niconico is that there are major prominence of using Vocaloid in YouTube and Niconico. If you are making vocal song, you may want consider taking advantage of this medium. (Especially if you are more about showing off your musical work than vocal.)

There are many established industry presence this way, including 40mP, Hachiouji P, and many others.

What Really Matters

In any case, the most important aspect of getting big in Japan is to be able to communicate with potential listeners. You are already behind the mark if your music does not specifically cater to the audiences, and you will have to communicate your work and yourself, thus there’s matter of language barrier.

Unlike traditional media where it resolves around TV and radio, there is a big contrast to make. After all, you really don’t have to be very good artist to be successful in TV and radio; major idol groups like SMAP, and AKB48 (and some of their sister groups) aren’t really well known for their quality as a musical talent — some are actually notoriously known (and self-admissive, more or less) for their tone-deafness. Metrics such as ORICON, is really a reflection of that part of industry, and unfortunately, a lot of record labels look for that. Essentially on those mediums, you just have to look presentable and has quality other than what traditionally people will be looking for when they talk about musicians.

YouTube and Niconico are more strict in the quality of the work, as you will have to very good or they will simply hit that “next” button. In other word, it is a few if not sole variable listeners will be considering. You will certainly overwhelmed by sheer number of works on those media, too.

Import thing is how you measure success. Do you measure success in the fact record label signs a contract with you? Or is it merely recognitions you are looking for? That’s up to you to decide.

Clannad English (Physical) Release Unboxing

This article contains an update regarding the soundtrack.

So this huge box just showed up. It’s not a monolith, but a box from Sekai Project. I’ve backed Clannad English version, and this is their shipment. (1 of 2, I believe, as they are still working on one for extra side-stories, anthology comic, and such.)
Sekai Project Box Arrival
Here’s my version of unboxing.
Sekai Project Box Comparison with Yuno
The box is big — see how it compares with Yuno.
Opening the box
As expected, mostly packing materials.
Clannad Box Contents
Here are things in the box. I actually used their digital/physical tier as a base, and then added extra things, as they had a number of add-ons. (Honestly, I needed to create an spreadsheet to figure this out!) This is not entire set, as there are some elements still in development.

  • Clannad English version
  • 3 Mini-shikishi’s
  • Original Sound Track
  • A tapestry

They’ve used one from the box art, another one from the artbook which I happened to own. The third one I don’t recognize, maybe this is new.
Clannad English Box
The game itself is in a special box,
Clannad English Box Back
And the back of it.
Kickstarter Serial Number
My backer number is 1424, so I guess, and my serial number of the box is 920, about 65% of people opted for boxed set? (One could argue, at 1400th being relatively early in the campaign, perhaps they are more people who are opting to physical rewards, in any case, I don’t even know if they have any significance, so it is a pure speculation.) More on the box later.
Clannad OST
The soundtrack is identical to the Japanese release, in fact, they are KSLA-0012~14 denoting it’s same soundtrack released in 2014 in Japan. This actually makes it “what you get on the CD is not what in the game” as according to Shinji Orito, the one of the composers for Clannad, said that music for the English version is improved.

Update: 2016-10-08: They have provided digital download to physical backers, too.

Update: 2016-09-29: And then, Sekai Project is saying that they are releasing an updated version of the Soundtrack only if you have purchased a digital version, but nothing for those opted for a physical version. That’s pretty deceptive, considering such “bonus” would be applicable only to a digital version when making backing decision. Hope they will correct this problem instead of blaming Visual Art’s for it. To align with their claim, I have reached out Visual Art’s for clarification on 2016-09-27, but I have never received a response from them as of 2016-09-29.

Clannad Official Guidebook
Opening the box, the first thing I see is a guidebook, with many arts and is printed on glossy paper. The only problem I have is that it took me good 20 minutes to find my name on the Kickstarter backer list. (They are not in alphabetical order — seems very random.) But here it is, I found me…
Clannad English Disc
And here’s the game disc itself. DRM-free, I think.
Clannad MABINOGI Disc
Under the disc, there is a arrange soundtrack Mabinogi, which is a music arrange of the original. (This one has never released outside of the inclusion with the first batch of Japanese version of the game, so this is actually fairly rare to find it now.)
Clannad Tapestry
Finally, a tapestry. This same art as the box.
So this concludes my unboxing. Though I already have a digital version installed on my machine. Time to fire up WINE again to play some more…

Summer 2011 Animes I’m Watching

As shown on my watchlist.

I’m continuing to watch:

New anime this seasons I’m now watchings are:

I really didn’t have much of high expectation when I started watching Usagi Drop. I do like it so far. It’d be interesting to see how the story progresses. The Idol Master, I haven’t played the game, and I don’t know much about it — I am happy to finally get to see characters that I have heard about; it’s more like, “ohh, that’s the girl who’s fond of digging a hole to bury herself in.” Characters looking good from what I’ve seen in the past, it looks quite faithful to the original version. YuruYuri is strange. I’m not so much into yuri stuff, but it’s funny.Moritasan wa Mukuchi is very short, like 3 minutes, but I guess that what makes it good. It’s a bite sized fun. R-15 is relatively mature themed, but not too much. Will they be removing those white censors for DVD release or what? And finally, the Mystic Archive of Dantelian is worth watching just by the fact that Miyuki Sawashiro does Dalian’s voice.
From the last season, I finished watching A Bridge to the Starry Skies (星空へ架かる橋). It seems like there have been some critics, mainly from people who have played the game version. Not knowing the game version, it was quite typical story executed fairly decently, though being 13-episodes show, it was bit rushed in my opinion.

Anime I’m Watching

Crunchyroll allows me to watch many titles, in fact I’m watching 10 times more than I used to be.
The one I finished recently, is Squid Girl (Ika-Musume). This show certainly isn’t the best one I’ve ever seen, but I enjoyed it a lot. (In fact, Ika-Musume was one of few reasons I signed up for Crunchyroll premium-geso.

Some highlights from this season:

  • Nichijou (My Ordinary Life) – Hilarious (in good way) in many ways. Memorable character. If you only have time to watch one show this season, watch this one. Opening and Ending songs makes this even better.
  • Hoshizora e Kakeru Hashi (A Bridge to the Starry Sky) – Anime based on gal-ge from same title. Just as good as you can expect from such conversion.
  • STEINS;GATE – Story involving machine that can TXT back to the past. Interesting story.
  • Hanasaku Iroha – Honestly, I didn’t have high expectation from this show before I watched. I found first few episodes to be bit irritating, as I found most characters to be quite mean. But it gets better as the story progresses.

I’ve recently watched Clannad the Movie, but this one deserves it own entry, and I will do that once I’ve written one up.

Also my Watchlist is available if you are wondering what I’m up to.

Clannad Scribbling on Google Wave

I have been scribbling things on Google Wave while I watch Clannad DVD.

I am planning to do the same when I continue watching coming episodes. For those who do not have Google Wave, here’s a widget to browse through.

It’s mostly talking trash, and occasional bad drawings…

Death of Anime and Games in Tokyo

I have posted new article called Death of Anime and Games in Tokyo (now renamed to Tokyo Wholesome Youth Fostering Ordinance). This page talks about new ordinance in Tokyo which could change anime and games created in Japan in a negative way.

I feel this is very important and deserve its own page, and the above link will be updated with fresh information. I will keep you posted with further information as new development occurs, but I’d like people to be conscious about such attempt to destroy creativity in Japan exists and immine

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

Just finished watching The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (Toki o kakeru shôjo, 時をかける少女) a 2006 animated feature film. Since I have been writing on Facebook that I am watching this show, I’ve decided to give some remarks about it.
Overall, I did enjoy the show.
Main premise of the story is that the protagonist, Makoto Konno learns “time leap” or time travel resulting from certain incident, utilizing the ability for petty advantages in her daily life, while she learns that her action may have negative implication to people around her. Latter part of the story involves her trying to fix up consequences she has created by utilizing her ability to time travel.
Story
Relatively straightforward story.
The story is sequel to 1983 film of same name, however do not have any dependencies other than protagonist of the film being aunt of the one in this title.
The show illustrates relatively small area of social and spatial interaction; involving less than ten characters within small city, and does not have so much of depth.
Graphic and Art
“Flat” and bright. I think it pretty good though.
I liked character designs, although it is nothing special.
The way “trial and error” type of time leap (scenes without “traveling” sequence) reminded me of the movie Next.
Voice
Voice actors and actress of this show is mostly comprises ones from non-voice acting professions. Considering voice acting is new for most of these casts, I think they were appropriate, and sounded just fine. I have been feeling negative about many titles utilizing live action actors in a apparent greed of management; for added media coverage; while not considering their capacity of voice acting, which was often the case with Miyazaki’s work, for example. So I’m pleased this one worked way better than many titles with similar settings out there.
Sound/Music
Theme song was pretty good.
Good they mastered in 5.1ch audio.