The Music Industry in Japan – The “Miracle” (キセキ) in the declining Japanese Music Industry

Although the music industry in Japan is still the second biggest music industry in the world, the total production value in the industry has decreased continually. According to the Recording Industry Association of Japan, in 2014, the total production value of recorded music (audio and music videos) decreased by 6% versus the previous year to 254.2 billion yen while unit production posted a year-on-year decline of 9% to 226 million units. In recent years, even the most popular single still cannot be sold for over one million units. This was definitely a hard time for the Japanese music industry.

However, in 2007, there was a “miracle” in the contracting music industry. A Japanese pop rock vocal group, GReeeeN, suddenly emerged. The group is comprised of four male members Hide, Navi, Kuni and Soh from Fukushima. One of the notable characteristics of GReeeeN is that none of the members have ever shown their faces in the public sphere as a part of GReeeeN, whether in their promotional videos, CDs, television performances, or the Internet.

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Despite the fact that none of them have shown their faces to the public, their 7th single, キセキ (Kiseki), which was released on May 28, 2008,  could miracally reach the number 1 on the Oricon charts and sell for 500,000 physical copies. In 2009, the Guinness World Records certified their song キセキ as “the best selling download single in Japan” with the full-track ringtone download sales of over 2,000,000 copies. The success of GReeeeN broke the traditional perception that pop singer must have a handsome/pretty outlook and show their face to the public.

Here is the question, what led to the success of such a mystery male group?

1. Curiosity

As mentioned above, none of the members of GReeeeN has disclosed their faces publicly. The reason is that when they were debut in the industry in 2007, all of them were still university students. They claimed that they needed to balance their academics and singing career, so they were not willing to disclose their faces and real name. And all of the music videos and albums did not include their appearances. This undoubtedly aroused the curiosity of the public and seized the focus from the audience.

Among all the music industries, the Japanese music industry places tremendous emphasis on packing and appearance of artists (as you can refer to AKB 48’s success in my previous articles). All artists are fighting to maximize their exposures in various media. However, GReeeeN chose to hide their faces, that was extremely new to the public and created their curiosity.

2. The Musical Value

GReeeeN is a talented group. Their music is refreshing, encouraging and relaxing. All members are responsible to write the lyrics and songs themselves. Their songs contain various musical elements. For example, they will suddenly include a rap in a soft melody. Instead of feeling mismatch, they can perfectly balance the beauty of the melody and the rhythm of rap. Under the shadow of economic turmoil in Japan, people demand for more encouraging and relaxing music. Therefore, GReeeeN’s music can satisfy the current market needs, leading to their success.

3. The Power of TV drama 

キセキ (Kiseki) is the ending song of the Japanese TV drama, Rookies.

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Rookies was famous in Japan. After a month of Rookies’ debut, the ending song キセキ (KiseKi) has already reached one million downloads. The movie of Rookies even reached 5.7 million people’s entrance in the cinema, bringing another promotion effect of the song キセキ (KiseKi), the total number of downloads reached 5.9 million times. Actually, the Japanese music industry always has an intimate linkage with the TV, anime and film industry. They always have a complementary effect.

From the case of GReeeeN, we can learn that the prerequisite to succeed in the music industry is the musical talent, handsome face is not a necessary condition. Moreover, it is paramount to find some ways to grab the spotlight from the public and arouse their curiosity. Last but not least, it is always good to cooperate with other sectors in the entertainment industry to magnify the promotional effect.

Do you think that a successful singer needs to show their face but not their voice only? Are there any other things that other music industries in the world can learn from GReeeeN?

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