Chapter6:Issues and the Status Quo of J-Pop Gathering Worldwide Support

Overseas, the term “Cool Japan”, even though somewhat perceived as a little worn out, is popular and deeply rooted in Japanese music and thus still spreading today. However, many Japanese pop culture festivals associated with anime and comics are being carried out worldwide. (table-8)

Its main representative is the JAPAN EXPO in Paris that started in 2000 and has reached a record high in 2011 with 190,000 visitors (announcement by organizer).

The common characteristics of these J-festivals are that they have occurred and grown among users without being recognized by Japanese industry and government officials.

NHK’s subsidiary Japan International Broadcasting Inc. airs the music program [J-Melo][1] in 130 countries and regions worldwide and after each broadcast a lot of fan mail reaches the official program-site from all over the world. It is becoming evident that there are “J-Fans” all over the world; of course in Europe, the United States and Asia, but also in the Middle East, Central and South America. In 2010 the three big music publishers and production groups (Japan Association of Music Enterprises JAME, The Federation of Music Producers Japan FMPJ, Music Publishers Association of Japan MPA) established SYNC MUSIC JAPAN which creates a strong presence with a site that manages official artist profiles in English and Chinese and publishes press releases and so forth. The current situation is defined by many inquiries from organizers of Japan Culture Festivals in overseas,  and by foreign J-Culture Fans longing for official information. Moreover, the number of tours by Japanese artists outside Japan has been steadily increasing. (table-9)

In 2011 there were two big topics, which I would like to introduce in particular.

The rock band L’Arc-en-Ciel carried out a world wide concert tour in the context of their 20th anniversary celebration. The tour entitled L’Arc-en-Ciel WORLD TOUR 2012 surpassed every other Japanese artist’s tour in size and became a great success.

It was carried out worldwide in the following 14 cities: Hong Kong, Bangkok, Shanghai, Taipei, New York, London, Paris, Singapore, Jakarta, Seoul, Yokohama, Osaka, Tokyo, and Honolulu, and mobilized a total of 450 000 people.

It was the first time for a Japanese artist to carry out an arena-class world tour and became a huge success for the entertainment industry. It should be stressed that the tour was promoted by an agent in the UK, and organized similar to the ones of big European and American artists. In contrast to most Japanese artists until now that where rather “working away from home” or “traveling”,  L’Arc-en-Ciel was treated as the main artist of a tour based on a local entertainment system. Moreover, it was the first time ever a Japanese artist performed as the main act in the so called world’s most famous arena, the Madison Square Garden in New York/USA. Therefore,  L’Arc-en-Ciel have set various milestones with their tour, and from now on can serve as a guide for Japanese artists.  

I would like to pick up on one more case, namely the album of Yuki Saori. She is a famous singer who sing old fashioned music.

Yuki Saori & Pink Martini’s album 1969 was responsible for surprising news when it was ranked 1st place in the iTunes Jazz Charts in the U.S. November 2nd, 2011. Pink Martini is an American 13-piece jazz orchestra, that has covered full-length Japanese pop songs on this compilation. The album title refers to the year Yuki Saori had her debut, and has released “Yoake No Scat” (Dawn Scat) that became a smash hit and was ranked # 1 in the Oricon Charts that year. All chosen tracks for the compilation have a connection to the year 1969.

Following the # 1 rank in the United States, it also appeared as # 1 in the Canadian “World Music” iTunes charts and achieved more top ranks in various other categories. The CD album which was released in October ranked # 6 in sales in the Greek “IFPI Album Charts”, # 18 in the “HMV International Charts” in Singapore and could enter different charts in many other countries as well.

It is said that prior to the production of this album, Pink Martini’s leader Thomas Lauderdale found an original album of Yuki Saori in a used-record store and bought it because he was attracted to its jacket. It is possible to say that this episode tells the story of Japanese traditional popular music (kayokyoku) as being not at all inferior to western music. Kayokyoku is one root of J-pop. The producer of the album 1969 is Gou Satou who has experience with the production of the big overseas hit “Shima Uta” (Island Song) by The Boom. This occasion promised great export potential for J-Pop.

The catchphrase “Cool Japan” evokes interest in overseas exports of Japanese music, but the time of general statements is over; it is already the phase of detailed discourse. It is necessary to establish monetizing schemes that are steadily profitable.  The export of entertainment content has a broad influence on many levels, it is an important measure to elevate national power, it unites the public and private sectors of foreign countries, and it is promoting exports in general.

Even though the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has promoted the “Tokyo International Music Market (TIMM)” as part of the “Japan International Contents Festival (CoFesta)” for 8 years now as a showcase for Japanese music, the results can not be seen yet. METI’s portalsite Cool Japan Daily as well offers a refined cultural discourse, but lacks an insight into business schemes or the support for them. Not to mention the example of South Korea where the government plays a very important role in the establishment of profitable business models.

I am hoping for a as quick as possible strengthening of the content export policy.

【table-8:J-culture festival】


【table-9:Overseas tours by Japanese artists】


【table-10:L’Arc-en-Ciel 20th L’Anniversary WORLD TOUR 2012】


[1] Entirely English, weekly Japanese music television program by NHKIt is recorded entirely in the English language.


About yamabug

Music Producer consultant of contents business C.E.O. of BUG corporation director of Federation Music Producers Japan. in details ☞ Twitter ☞
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