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?

Imogen Heap using Blockchain Technology for the Future of the Music Industry

Singer/songwriter Imogen Heap recently is taking a stance to the way in which she wants to sell her music, use her music, and expand her music. Imogen heap is best known for her unique sound and use of musical gloves in recent performances and more importantly an award-winning songwriter and performing who, so far, is the only female artist to have won a Grammy for engineering. After reading an article on The Guardian earlier today I found that Heap, like many artists, is fed up with not being compensated for her work and furthermore not having her work used and listened to as intended. Soon after releasing her album Sparks Heap looked into new ways of releasing her music and came across blockchaining. Blockchaining is broadly used amongst programmers and tech geeks and is used as a peer-to-peer payment system done through a uniquely created database cutting out the extra people involved in a company and instead linking individuals through verifying transactions. In a musical sense, Heap is looking to do this through sharing her music between other artists, film directors, commercial use, and the common music consumer. Through having her music on her own platform, which she calls Mycelia, she can connect one on one with other creators looking to use or branch off of her work. Another benefit to showcasing her work like this is that it also gives the artist more ownership of their work by having simple contracts that state what terms the music would be used to download for. This gives her a record of who is using it for what and a better way to have a latch of her own music. She looks to creating a community of music lovers combined with artists a like to share interest and learn from others work. Heap takes it a step further with making her lyrics, photographs, instruments used, and names of other musicians she’s played with accessible to the public.

More and more artists are taking steps like these to ensure they are getting what they want out of their work and ultimately bringing together a group of people who want to work and learn together. At first it has to start with bigger name artists that have a following and once it is recognized globally newer artists can tag along.

I personal feel that this also gives other in the industry and fans a better understanding of what that artist is like and see a more personable side to them. As is, that is what we are losing a bit more now a days with streaming. Before you would hear a song, look up the artist, listen to more of their songs, buy their album and fall in love with them. We need that back in order for artists work to be appreciated. Fortunately and unfortunately artists have more power than they think, just ask Taylor Swift. They just need to be the ones to make a stance, broadcast it to their fans, and make that difference in the industry we have been waiting for.

If you’d like to hear more about Imogen Heap’s input on the matter along with a team of others in the industry take a look at the video below.

Nayvia’s recording session at Berklee!

Finally we got to makIMG_5108e the recording of the song Jon composed for Nayvia. I was kind of nervous because this was her first experience in a studio. Actually now that we have had the session I’m very pleased and surprised. There was a point in the session that I actually experienced something really refreshing… I was in the middle of a creative process between my artist and the producer/composer.

I guess this is one of the rewards of working with artist, watching them enjoy what they are doing and rocking while doing it. I’m very happy that in a very busy week I managed to be part of this moment. Nayvia did great even when she had a sore throat. While she was singing I could see her feet dancing.

About this “happy feet” moments, I noticed she does that even whIMG_5102en rehearsing. At the beginning my perception was that she was showing anxiety, nervousness and even I tried to convince Nayvia she was being distracting. Now I realize it is part of her personality as a performer and I’ll supervise the public reaction of it.

Jon told me he was going to mix it and do the master of it as soon as possible. I hope he could have an advance before this week ends to share it with you and my partners in class. Back there in the studio, it was already sounding great. I can’t imagine what Jon will do with the files.

Obsessive 音楽 part #1

Japan,the second largest music market in the world, mixing tradition and modernism, different point of views of the music industry, those are some characteristics that Japanese music industry has.

It is ILLEGAL to sell a CD for less than $25, CD market is still the biggest making up over 85% in the market, a country were the illegal download revolution never happen. Steve McClure he was born in the United States, he has been leaving in Japan more than 17 years and this days he is Formerly Billboard magazine’s Asia Bureau Chief. In the next video he talk a fast and very interesting summary of the music Industry in Japan:

As Steve said they have made their own industry. When somebody talks about J-pop (Japanese pop) first name that comes to your head is the name AKB48, is the biggest group of Japan with more than 40 members, all girls, they had record sales of over $226 million. Yasushi Akimoto the chief producer of the group made a big business with this.

“I just want to make super stars from ordinary girls”

here an Interview:

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From Musician to Cultural Icon in a Technology Driven Age

Have you ever stop to think about what it would be like if the everyone would simply embraced this technology driven age we live in instead of fighting it so much?

Amanda Palmer showed the world the beauty of embracing the unknown. She went from musician to cultural icon when her Kickstarter campaign raised 1.2k!! Pretty impressive, right? Watch her TED talk below as it will help you understand exactly what I mean.

“Palmer is set to join Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails as the artists people mention when they talk about the new music business.” — Billboard

While everyone constantly takes the time to put down the online world, and artists like Taylor Swift oppose tech driven services like Spotify for her own personal reasons, Amanda decided to embrace it all. She strongly believed that a strong relationship with her fans is what the music journey should always be about, and emphasized that this technology driven age can allow us all to create deep connections if we are willing to ask.

Palmer has become the poster girl for dipping not only your toe, but your whole body, because you never really know what will happen. In her case, the road less traveled led her to find incredibly positive results. Her kickstarter campaign, TED talk, recently published book, and unique music have all had great success because Amanda took a chance to welcome the changes the technology driven age has introduced instead of questioning them.

Amanda was strategic in her approach though. She made sure to establish a strong fan base before using technology to her advantage. In fact, it is her strong fan base that helped her raised 1.2k via Kickstarter. She beautifully mastered “the art of asking” as she likes to call it. She turned to her fans for help her and they provided more help than she ever imagined. It is very exciting to learn about her story however, it is also important to understand that not everyone will be able to do what she did. Because truth be told, there is only one Amanda Palmer.

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80% of the crowd funding campaigns that manage to be successful only raise about $10,000. This, however, is $10,000 more that artists can receive because of the changes this technology driven age has introduced. Crowd funding is not a magic path to stardom or riches. Artists must work extremely hard for crowd funding campaigns to succeed. Crowd funding platforms and success stories like Amanda Palmer do create a wonderful point though. Technology is not always evil. Technology can be an incredibly good ally. It can allow artists to use the power of music combined with the power of fans to acquire additional funding. Changes like these are why technology continues to shape the music industry.

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Raw talent first performance

I’ve been representing Nayvia for some months now. She’s a talented girl that never took any sort of voice education but still can do what you can see in the video of this post.

It’s a very special and satisfactory challenge that actually demands more patience than it usually needs. It’s special because you’re building an artist from scratch, you’re trying to let the new talent learn a ton of new things, learn how to communicate with musicians that actually have been in the business for a while. It’s a constant struggle with simple but huge insecurities and interests.

It’s satisfactory, because every step Nayvia takes, don’t matter how big it is, it feels like it’s being a huge one. Jon O’Hara and myself are always having our jaw dropped when we hear her during rehearsal. Every time she sings I can see how she gets more and more convinced that maybe her voice it’s her biggest asset, I can see her dancing while practicing her song and having a dumb smile that she can not contain.

Jon O’Hara, just finished Nayvia’s first song, they have been rehearsing and working on its details. In less than a month they will be recording it in a professional studio with some professional artist and professional sound engineers. I’m not sure if she realizes how big is this recording going to be. Jon and myself are convincing some artists from Berklee to get involved in this project and we are getting good response so this dream is about to come true.

Next step it’s making a photo shoot to Nayvia so hopefully next time you read something from me, you’ll see a beautiful picture of her in the post.

Raw talent with professional artist

Nayvia, raw talent in Valencia

Jon and Nayvia rehearsing their song.

It’s very interesting how things are developing so fast. Yesterday, Nayvia and myself met one more time with Jon O’Hara.

A couple months ago, I told Jon I wanted him to meet with a talented girl I was representing, and now they are working in a brand new song tailored to my artists qualities and strengths.

I enjoyed a lot watching this talented guys having such a great time singing together. There’s no doubt music is an universal language.

I’ve noticed a great progress with Nayvia in terms of confidence, voice and attitude. It hasn’t been easy for all of us, particularly to her. Sometimes I notice she gets quite overwhelmed and insecure about her capabilities. It must be shocking to see how people fall in love with things you took for granted of yourself, in Nayvia’s case, that was her voice.

Future Business Models: Ryan Leslie wants to disrupt the music industry

Artists are creators by definition, but should their creativity end when the recording process is over? Harvard graduate and Grammy nominated singer/producer Ryan Leslie believes not! In an interview with mnfsto.com, the somewhat narcissistic yet smart hit maker argues that “for a new artist to ascribe to an antiquated business model, really to me is the antithesis of creativity. If you are truly a creator, then are you looking to extend and push the boundaries of culture and artistic contributions of our generation. Then it is imperative that you adopt a model that empowers future creativity.”

After having his big international break in 2006 with Cassie’s hit single Me & U, which he wrote and produced, Leslie went down the traditional route releasing two relatively successful solo albums with Casablanca Records (Universal). But in 2010, when Universal tried to reshape four-albums contract into a 360-type deal, Leslie decided to break the contract and try a different, independent approach.

In 2012, bypassing the traditional intermediaries, he independently released Les is More on his own music and media company NextSelection Lifestyle Group, partnering with RED Distribution (Sony). It was sold as a audiovisual album on his website and later released on iTunes as well. However, this would be his last affiliation with any major company. Leveraging the web technology, the entreprenartist, decided to adopt a fully direct-to-consumer model from then on.

His last album Black Mozart was released through his #Renegades fan club exclusively in digital form. The first big advantage is that the money goes directly in his pocket, avoiding a 30% fee by iTunes or an even bigger cut from a record label. Fans have to pay a fee to become members of his #Renegades club in order to obtain a free download of the album. This allows Leslie to know the details (including email address and phone number) of every single person who purchased his album. THIS is key to his new business model. The subscription also allows fans to engage directly with Ryan Leslie and his team via email or text message, with the artist claiming to manage his email account himself. The man therefore proudly declares himself to be in the data game, and it seems to be a fruitful approach.

Diminishing the importance of sales numbers, the model focuses on capitalising on the core and faithful fan base by establishing a strong relationship with them. Excessively active on social media, Leslie constantly shares his thoughts and activities with his followers, often encouraging them to come meet him at certain places. By engaging so personally with his fans, he gains their trust and respect which allows him to monetise his activities through more than just album sales. Rather expensive merchandise supposedly strongly contributes to his income, along with priced meet-and-greets, concert tickets (sold directly on his website, with VIP options) and special parties (the artist celebrates New Years in Vienna with his most faithful fans, with tickets options ranging from $220 to $1,700!)

Artists such as 50 Cent, Talib Kweli and Raphael Saadiq followed his advice and have released studios albums through their own music membership clubs and Leslie himself is set to release his new album on new years via his #Renegades club. Now, with his new management platform Disruptive Multimedia, the multi-talented musician aspires transform the industry by sharing his approach with other artists, established or not, educating them on how to earn a living out of music by keeping a strong bond with their audience and thus being able to make them pay for a variety of products, activities and exclusive experiences. Think of it as an ongoing Kickstarter campaign.

So is Leslie a visionary on the brink of revolutionising the industry? Where are the limits and weaknesses of this model? Personally, I’ll be keeping a close eye on it to see how it works on the long run. Let me know what you think in the comments!

New Zealand #2

36 weeks in the US Billboard’s Hot 100, Top 10 in Portugal and Israel, #1 in Canada, Australia Ireland, South Africa,Austria and of course in New Zealand. The band  OMC  released in December 1995 single “How Bizarre” with the song with the same name and made a big “boom” in the music industry of their Country.

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That’s a small history with the big impact that this country had in the music, of course there are much more but this ones interested me the most. An other thing is that they also have their own Music Award since 1965, this award show is presented by Record New Zealand is a non-profit trade association of record producers, distributors and artists recording who sell music in New Zealand. (http://www.nzmusicawards.co.nz/).

There is also a big campaign that started in 2001  called About New Zealand music Month this showcased on radio and television and in live performances, this happens each may. This has helped music on commercial radio stations to increased dramatically from around 10% in 2000 to nearly 23% in 2005. The amount of New Zealand music sold had also grown, from 5.45% of the total market in 2000 to over 10% by 2004. Us you can read NZ has a big industry and they make it happen. Here is a link so you can find 31 one different stories about NZ music.

http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/culture/love-new-zealand-music

http://www.nzmusicmonth.co.nz/what-is-nz-music-month/

“The Vision of the Music Commission is a successful music industry in New Zealand.”

Music Commission

New Zealand #1

Traditional/folk Maori music is micro-tonal and when there participate more singers, it is unison, then appeared the  Kapa Haka this is the fusion of Maori music with the new european harmony and instruments like the guitar, this was one of the big steps to make pop. Yessss, First pop song written in the 1940s by Ruru Karatiana and recorded 9 years later by Pixie Williams, this is how pop music started in this amazing country.

Television in the 60’s was a very important resource for the increase of music knowledge and popularity, this helped Pixie seal more than 50,000 copies. In the 70’s we can hear Phil Judd and the Finn brothers, Neil Finn is the primary songwriter and creative director of Crowded House, he made this band with the drummer when he moved to Australia.

too be contined…