I could spend all day listing all the things I love about Japanese music, and thankfully they represent a good 80% of the overall opinion I have on the world’s second biggest music market. The annoying facts representing the remaining percentage still come to bother me from time to time though, one of these represented by the controversial method of the Short Music Videos and all the nonsense marketing behind videos promoting Singles, a type of release still alive and pretty well in the Land of the Rising Sun.
If you’re familiar with Japanese music, you probably know the pattern used by pretty much most of the artists and labels: One or two weeks prior the release of a new single, a Short MV that usually varies from thirty seconds to two minutes is uploaded on the group’s YouTube channel in order to give the fans a sneak peek and “promote” the upcoming release, an uncommon method that rarely gets adopted in other music markets. While anticipations are always welcomed by fans, a question still automatically raises from everyone: Why not just upload the Full Music Video?
The answer is to search in the release itself. Most singles in the Japanese market come in two editions, Regular and Limited, the latter usually featuring a bonus DVD with the Full Music Video for the A-side track, and here’s where the problem lies. By uploading short MVs on the web, labels keep the Full videos exclusive (or so they think) to the above mentioned DVD, in the hope to boost sales for the most expensive version of the single. Now, let me ask you: how on earth is a low quality Music Video on DVD, an almost dead format created twenty years ago, the selling point of a release? Simply, it’s not. Yet labels are convinced this is a legit commercial method, and as a huge Perfume fan owning all their Limited Edition singles, I can tell you that I’ve never ever put one of those useless DVDs in a… oh wait, I don’t have a DVD reader since 2009.
It’s pretty clear that this dead format is a counter-productive choice for labels and an useless addition for fans. They just don’t need to be there anymore, except to make the price of a Limited Edition higher, or, more precisely, to be the Limited Edition. Singles are still a strong entity in Japan, so wouldn’t it just better for anyone to drop this DVD ridiculousness and for the sake of technology adopt Blu-Rays with real exclusive content and upload the Full videos on YouTube to gather new fans? Certain artists (mainly from the Idol world) started to feature Blu-Ray discs in singles with HD quality footage, while others are slowly starting to upload Full music videos to their channels (making the Limited DVDs absolutely useless) but still, it’s clear that the difficult relationship between Japanese labels and video quality and this thing called Internet is an actual problem afflicting way too many artists. There are still many official Music Videos released in low quality, and groups that heavily rely on visuals like Sakanaction and Perfume made the jump to high definition only in the last few months. Again, this year some niche artists like pop singer Ayami Muto released Live shows exclusively on DVD format shamelessly sold at the price of a Blu-Ray, for the will of labels milking money as much as possible without investing on the quality, which is unacceptable and also disrespectful other than being a commercial suicide. Fans are not stupid as labels like to think. Who on earth would pay 8,000 Yen for a 360p video in 2015? No one. So I hope they’ll realize that video quality is not a selling point for releases, where legit content in an acceptable video quality (for our times) is the only thing that matters if you really want to keep it old school and sell physical copies of singles.
I’d really love to see labels in Japan shifting away from this prehistoric method and start treating fans with more respect, a necessary move to make a step forward that would benefit for both sides. And even though they’ll keep going on with this ridiculous trend made of short Music Videos, 360p footage and DVDs, the Japanese industry will see itself shrinking in no time together with their “World’s second biggest music industry” title if they don’t start keeping up with times. This old school approach is a comfortable guarantee for easy cash, but people is not stupid, and no matter what, times will change in Japan too.