The structure of the Japanese Music Industry

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The career of a Japanese music artist isn’t that different from the rest of the global music markets, with a single/album/tour/live release structure that pretty much follows the common concept of the worldwide industry. Despite being a similar process, though, it’s still way more exciting and lively if compared to the western scene. Here’s a question to sum up the matter: When was the last time you saw a physical single CD in a music store in your country? I bet a long time ago. And it’s completely normal since the digital services gained huge popularity and usage from the audience in the last years.

Now let’s make a consideration on singles in the Japanese music industry, and here comes what’s probably the biggest difference with the western markets: Indeed, every Single released by an artist is considered as an important chapter of its career, almost like an album. Japan is still extremely attached to concept of buying physical CDs, and this combined with the persistent reluctance in using worldwide established digital services makes this industry pretty much still “old school” but way more alive at the same time. While releasing a single in the west side of the world is reduced to buy and download a track in a couple of minutes for a cheap price, in Japan not only it gets released on physical CD support, but it’s promoted as the extremely awaited and important event it represents. When a single is released you can find advertisements of it everywhere: On buildings and skyscrapers, on the trains, on the bus, on trucks driving in the most crowded streets of Tokyo, on TV, on the Radio and, of course, in music shops, where the biggest artists get extremely huge promotions to the point where the shop itself seems on the point of exploding: All of this it’s a beautiful sight and a clear demonstration of how music is alive and present in everyone’s life in a very close and fundamental way. After all it’s no secret that people in Japan literally love their favorite artists, as they’re considered an important part of their lives, for music it’s a vital factor in the everyday life.

The fans themselves play a fundamental role in the success of the release: It’s important to catch all the performances and interviews on TVs, and also to analyze the concept behind the single and the art direction, from the outfits to the Music Video and the covers; They go to stores the day before the release date, because they know that during the Flying Get (that’s how this day is called) they will already find their favorite music shop adorned in posters and huge ads and monitors promoting their favorite artists’ new release, usually available in at least two versions: Of course they’ll go with the Limited Edition one, cause it has an extra disc and it’ll surely become difficult to find later, and they will even give a bonus poster with it!

It doesn’t matter if it’s a single, an album, or a Live Blu-Ray/DVD: This is the standard procedure every time an artist releases a piece of its discography. Let’s not forget about live concerts of course, probably the most important thing and one of the main reasons of being a proud fan of a group. Also, it’s better to join the band’s Fan Club, not only to get free goodies directly shipped at home, but also to enter in the lottery and get the tickets earlier cause later it may be too difficult to get them, and the more it’s possible to get them, the better, because attending one live shows it’s great, but attending two or even more it’s even better. Because you can’t get enough, you can’t get tired of it. Fans literally follow in every aspect their favorite artist: They evolve, change and grow together with it, until the end.

So, used to how things work in the western, reading all of this might be summed up in a single word: Craziness.

But no, it’s not. And you know why? Because it’s your favorite artist. The person or group that writes your favorite songs, that conveys all those feelings to you with its songs and all the melodies you would never stop listening. The one you listen to everyday, the one you frantically wait news for, the one you can’t wait to see live with the huge family that is the fandom, all the people that love the artist exactly as you and automatically become your friends. Or simply, the one that makes you feel good even in bad days, always fitting your mood perfectly. Because music is one of the most important things in life, and the best you can do as fan is to support it in the range of your possibilities, wether is to buy a single once in a while or attend all the live tours. It’s a form of gratefulness that has its roots in the Japanese culture, something that’s typical and that you can live everyday in Japan under many aspects: It’s a thankful act of appreciation for having received something.

That’s why Japan is the second biggest music market in the world: Because it’s maintained by artists and fans full of love and passion towards music and all that surrounds it. After all, can you imagine life without music and your favorite groups? The slogan of the well known chain Tower Records summons all of this in the best way and answers all the questions: No Music, No Life.

– Alex