Japan includes shows by foreign acts in comp scheme
The Japanese government has amended its compensation scheme to include domestic shows by foreign artists, thanks to lobbying from a new consortium of Japan-based international promoters.
The scheme (which goes under the name of J-LODlive) was set up in late January and was partly intended to reimburse organisers for the cost of an event that was cancelled or postponed due to the state of emergency issued at the beginning of the year.
The initial eligibility requirements, published on 19 February, excluded performances by overseas artists but after campaigning from an alliance that includes Live Nation Japan, Creativeman and Billboard Live, the decision was reversed on 17 March.
The alliance, driven by the All Japan Concert & Live Entertainment Promoters Conference (ACPC), was formed last December and is completed by ALC, Hip, Kyodo, M&I, Promax, Smash Cooperation and Udo.
The 10 promoters are working closely together in cooperation so that international touring in Japan can go back to normal
The 10 promoters are working closely together in cooperation so that international touring in Japan can go back to normal.
The consortium’s next goal is to ease the business visa restrictions for foreign artists to enter Japan with no quarantines.
For the first time in 10 weeks, no part of Japan is under a Covid-related state of emergency, signalling hope for the organisers of spring festivals.
According to ACPC, a number of domestic festivals are due to take place from this April with up to 10,000 attendees, including the inaugural edition of Love Supreme Jazz Festival Japan.
The festival will make its debut in the 375-hectare Chichibu Muse Park, just outside Tokyo, on 15 and 16 May 2021.
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Tokyo venues reopen as 1,000-cap. events allowed in Japan
Music venues in the Japanese capital of Tokyo have now been given the go-ahead to reopen, despite the city being subject to more stringent restrictions than elsewhere in Japan.
The government in Tokyo withdrew its temporary closure request on smaller live music venues, nightclubs and similar entertainment establishments, as well as lifting all other restrictions on businesses, on Friday (19 June), as the city embarks on the final stage of its reopening plan.
Small venues in Tokyo, which have been deemed high-risk spaces throughout the coronavirus crisis, had been placed under stricter restrictions than those in other parts of Japan, where indoor concerts of up to 100 and outdoor shows of up to 200 people have been allowed to take place since the start of June.
Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike has attributed recent spikes in reported coronavirus cases – the city recorded 48 new infections in a single day last week, its highest daily infection rate since the start of May – to heightened efforts to track infections and better cooperation from the nightlife industry in testing.
The government is asking those working at entertainment establishments in the city to regularly undertake coronavirus tests; retain customer contact information for a month; and maintain a two-metre distance from others.
Music venues in the Japanese capital of Tokyo have now been given the go-ahead to reopen, despite the city being subject to more stringent restrictions than elsewhere in Japan
The capacity limit on events elsewhere in Japan has now increased to 1,000, with indoor venues operating at no more than 50% capacity and outdoor events obliged to ensure sufficient distancing is maintained between guests, staff and performers.
If all goes to plan, the government will increase capacities to 5,000 from 10 July and scrap maximum capacity limits altogether from 1 August, although maintaining the need to implement distancing measures.
It is estimated that around 150,000 concerts had been cancelled in Japan by the time of lifting the state of emergency at the end of May, with a loss of 330 billion yen (€2.7 bn) to the industry.
In order to alleviate pressures on event organisers and others in the business, the All-Japan Concert and Live Entertainment Promoters’ Conference (ACPC), Japanese Federation of Music Producers (FMPJ) and Japan Music Business Association (JAME) recently launched a subsidy programme for the entertainment industry, J-LOD Live, to support the costs of the production and international digital distribution of live event footage.
The trio has also launched the Music Cross Aid fund to support those working in the Japanese live entertainment industry.
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Mixed fortunes for live events as Covid-19 spreads
The live music industry is being affected differently in markets around the world by the continuing spread of coronavirus (Covid-19), with over 110,000 cases now reported worldwide.
At the International Live Music Conference (ILMC) last week, top agents expressed their resolve to carry on with business as usual, with CAA’s Emma Banks saying the agency would not take shows off sale “unless we have to”.
Reacting to a suggestion from Germany’s health minister Jens Spahn that all events over 1,000 capacity be cancelled due to Covid-19, DEAG today announced that “all events will be carried out according to scheduled dates regardless of the number of participants.”
“DEAG will carry out a responsible analysis of each event in close coordination with the respective artists, their partners and of course the local authorities and will make an appropriate decision on a case-by-case basis,” reads the statement.
A spokesperson from German powerhouse CTS Eventim, which operates in 15 markets across Europe, states that Covid-19 is having only “isolated effects” on its business, such as in Italy and Switzerland.
“The majority of our events and functions take place in the summer and in the second half of the year,” continues the Eventim spokesperson. “Based on the current situation, there is no reason to believe that the major festivals will not be held outdoors in the summer. We cannot observe an increased return of purchased tickets.”
“Based on the current situation, there is no reason to believe that the major festivals will not be held outdoors in the summer”
The Italian government recently extended its ban on all public gatherings in the north of the country until 3 April, whereas all events in Switzerland over 1,000 capacity have been banned until 15 March, in a measure deemed “disproportionate” by Swiss Music Promoters Association (SMPA).
“It is with a heavy heart that we have to inform you that the French government has decided to cancel this year’s edition,” reads a post on Tomorrowland Winter’s Facebook page.
“The French government is taking drastic measures regarding the Covid-19 virus in France. Therefore they are enforcing the cancellation of large events, bringing together people from different nationalities on closed festival grounds and event locations.”
Asian tour dates by international acts including Avril Lavigne, Green Day, BTS, Mariah Carey, Stormzy and Khalid are among those to have been called off amid coronavirus concerns.
A joint statement issued by Japanese music bodies reads: “We have decided to cancel or call off the majority of shows, following a recent request to cancel or postpone events from the government.”
The bodies, including Japanese promoters’ association (ACPC), federation of music producers (FMPJ) and association of music enterprises (JAME), state they will work to provide all the appropriate information to the public and “deliver high-quality entertainment again soon”.
Events in the United States have also taken a hit recently, with the cancellations of Austin showcase festival and conference SXSW and the Miami edition of EDM event Ultra Music Festival.
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Coronavirus causes ‘immense’ issues for Asian live industry
As the number of cases of coronavirus rises daily around the world, many international tours have put the brakes on visiting China and surrounding countries for the foreseeable future.
Speaking to IQ last month, promoters in China predicted that the coronavirus-related disruption to live shows would worsen in the coming weeks. Cases confirmed of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in China at the time stood at 7,700.
Two-and-a-half weeks on, and numbers of the virus have sky rocketed. As of this morning (Tuesday 18 February), it is believed that 72,869 people have been infected by the coronavirus, which has claimed at least 1,873 lives worldwide.
The vast majority of cases have been found in China, where the virus originated. According to the China Association of Performing Arts, around 20,000 shows have been cancelled or postponed between January and March in China and Hong Kong, costing the sector RMB 2 billion (US$286 million).
“As all venues remain closed, we have cancelled more shows in February and March,” Zhang Ran, director of international business at Modern Sky tells IQ. US alt-rockers the Pixies were among artists affected, cancelling upcoming dates in Shanghai and Beijing.
Modern Sky, China’s biggest festival promoter, recently streamed a number of past editions of its Strawberry festival, to “bring an element of fun” to housebound music fans.
“We hope that the festivals and artists (such as Two Door Cinema Club and Mac Demarco) can all be moved to the second half of the year”
The 2020 editions of Strawberry festival, which takes place in Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu and Hangzhou, have also been affected, with Modern Sky in talks with already-booked international artists as the events “will all likely be rescheduled for the second half of the year”.
“We hope that the festivals and artists (such as Two Door Cinema Club and Mac DeMarco) can all be moved to the second half of the year, but we can’t really confirm anything yet because it’s all dependent on how the virus situation develops,” continues Zhang.
“Right now everyone is just staying in doors and working from home, in the hopes it will help it will all be resolved more quickly.”
The Chinese live event sector is not the only one feeling the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, with many promoters halting the entire Asian leg of tours.
AEG, for example, called off the Asian leg of Khalid’s Free Spirit tour on Friday, postponing dates in Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, India, Japan and South Korea. UK grime artist Stormzy last week postponed the Asia dates in his HITH world tour, in addition to the cancellation of shows by K-pop artists GOT7, Taeyeon, Seventeen and NCT Dream, among others.
“[The coronavirus] has immensely affected most, if not all, live events in general across the region,” Tommy Jinho Yoon, president of Korea’s International Creative Agency (ICA) tells IQ.
“[The coronavirus] has immensely affected most, if not all, live events in general across the region”
“Most headline shows and some of our festival are being pushed back or even, in a lot of cases, cancelled because of the coronavirus situation,” says the ICA president, who cites shows by artists including Post Malone, Camila Cabello and Kenny G, as well as “many top-drawing K-pop artists”.
In Japan, as well, it seems that a number of shows are being affected by the coronavirus, although not quite to the same extent. Four dates by Korean girl group EXID have been postponed, as well as a few fan meet-and-greets, Katsuhiko Kondo, a spokesperson for Japanese promoters’ association ACPC tells IQ.
ACPC members are taking action to prevent the spread of infection at live shows, including providing disinfectants and mouthwash within venues and encouraging concertgoers to wear surgical masks.
Live entertainment behemoth Live Nation is another promoter focusing on preventative action.
“Live Nation is monitoring the situation closely. The safety of artists, patrons and staff is our top priority and we will continue to act on advice from the authorities on the coronavirus and take precautionary measures in line with prevention efforts,” a spokesperson tells IQ.
As the uncertainty rumbles on and the coronavirus continues to spread, the long-term effects for the Asian live sector remain uncertain. As ICA’s Jinho Yoon states: “We just have to pray and hope that this gets resolved soon.”
Photo: Emilio Herce/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0) (cropped)
Tokyo unveils new 15,000-seat Ariake Arena
The Ariake Arena, a new US$340 million and 15,000-seat venue in the Japanese capital, was inaugurated on Sunday (2 February), with a performance from J-pop band AKB48.
The arena, which will host volleyball and wheelchair basketball at the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, will be used to stage entertainment and cultural events after the games.
A concave roof is the main feature of the venue, which includes both a main arena and “sub arena”, minimising the need for lighting and air conditioning. The arena will be accessible to all, in keeping with new priorities of the Japanese live music business.
The new events space will help to address the scarcity of large venues in the world’s most populated city.
“The big story in Japan – the big story in Tokyo, specifically – is the lack of venues,” Live Nation Japan president John Boyle, told IQ last year.
“Tokyo has a population of 37m people, and for a market that big, there’s five or six venues that are bigger than 10,000 capacity. In LA, there’s probably 15 or 20 for a market that is a fraction of the size.”
“The big story in Japan – the big story in Tokyo, specifically – is the lack of venues”
Ariake Arena joins current big show favourites the Tokyo Dome (55,000-cap.), Makuhari Messe convention centre (9,000-cap.) and the Saitama Super Arena (37,000-cap.).
It is one of a number of new venues being created for the Olympics, along with the 68-80,000-capacity New National Stadium, 15,000-capacity Oi Hockey Stadium and the 10,000-capacity Musashino Forest Sport Plaza, which has already played host to Judas Priest, with upcoming concerts from K-pop band NCT 127.
The Olympics has also seen the temporary closing of “some large, pivotal venues”, Takao Kito, director of Japanese promoters’ association ACPC told IQ, which has led to a decline of event numbers.
“When the competition venues are restored to their original condition after the Olympics, and new venues are constructed in the metropolitan area, this issue will be solved,” explained Kito. “Actually, we guess venues will be rather oversupplied because of the upsurge of venues.”
Read the whole of IQ’s Japanese market focus here.
Photo: Edo Village/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0) (cropped)
Japanese live biz focuses on accessibility
Improving accessibility is a new priority for the Japanese music business, as industry associations work with UK-based music charity Attitude is Everything to establish the first steps to becoming more inclusive.
Japanese promoters’ association, the All Japan Concert and Live Entertainment Promoters Conference (ACPC), hosted the charity, which is dedicated to improving deaf and disabled people’s access to live music, as its first international guest at the Tokyo International Music Market (Timm) conference last month.
Attitude is Everything presented five key, universal concepts that underly its work: access is about identity, connection, passion and escapism; accessibility is relevant to everyone; people are disabled by the barriers they encounter; creativity and collaboration are key; and disability affects a diverse range of people, who are the real experts on accessibility.
“Although there are some challenges in terms of budget limitations and venue facilities, let’s get the ball rolling from what we can fo on our own”
A panel discussion entitled ‘Music Without Barriers: Improving Accessibility to Live Entertainment’, followed the presentation, hosted by ACPC, Japanese Music Culture Export and supported by Japan’s British Council.
The panel was moderated by Manami Yuasa, head of arts at British Council Japan and featured panellists Gideon Feldman, head of programming at Attitude is Everything; Jacob Adams, head of research and campaigns at Attitude is Everything; and ACPC director Nobuhiro Nagai.
“Although there are some challenges in terms of budget limitations and venue facilities, let’s get the ball rolling from what we can fo on our own,” urged the panellists.
Land of the rise in fun: Why booming Japan is such a tough market to crack
‘Big in Japan’ was a term, in the 80s and 90s, for modestly successful American and European acts that found slightly unlikely mega-stardom in the Land of the Rising Sun.
It wasn’t an insult, exactly – who wouldn’t want to be big in Japan? – but it was often used sneeringly, whether directed at Mr Big, the early-90s rock supergroup who still hop up into the big leagues every time they touch down at Narita International Airport, or Scatman John, whose 1994 record Scatman’s World is, remarkably, Japan’s 17th biggest-selling international album of all time.
But the days when Japan might have been seen as an easily impressed bonus market for Western acts are long gone. Over the past 20 years or so, the balance has shifted dramatically, as Japanese domestic music output – as well as that of nearby frenemy South Korea – has surged in both quantity and quality. Today, international music takes, at most, a 10% share of the live market, with domestic on a commanding 85% and South Korea’s K-pop juggernaut accounting for about 5%.
Today, the Japanese music market is the second biggest in the world, behind the US and ahead of Germany. Its live sector has set new records in both of the past two years, hitting ¥332 billion in 2017 (around €2.7bn) and then rising again to ¥345bn (€2.8bn) in 2018 – a 3.7% uplift that came in spite of a small decline in the number of shows – according to the All-Japan Concert and Live Entertainment Promoters Conference (ACPC).
“The Japanese market in live entertainment has been on the upward trend since the middle of 2010,” says ACPC director Takao Kito. “That’s not only because of the increase in live shows caused by a drop-off in CD sales, but because of a change in users’ minds from consuming products to experiences.”
Clearly, Japan remains a highly appealing market for international promoters and artists, and the big ones are certainly chipping away at it. Live Nation has a Japanese office and, with local partners, has co-promoted plenty of recent arena shows. AEG, meanwhile, worked in partnership with Japanese giant Avex on its recent Ed Sheeran and Celine Dion concerts. But both global promoters know they face a stiff challenge to get much deeper into the Japanese business.
Korean stars record Japanese versions of their songs. In a country where little English is spoken, and even less Korean, such things make a difference
“It is a very mature, competitive market that Live Nation has had a hard time getting traction in,” concedes Live Nation Japan president John Boyle, who has headed the giant’s Japanese push since early 2018. He says Live Nation has big hopes for Japan but fully appreciates the challenge of bringing them to fruition. “I think it is more challenging than anywhere else in the world,” he says.
The fact is, for all its surging fortunes, Japan has numerous characteristics that fly in the face of Western music business orthodoxies and, in many cases, restrict access from outside. CDs remain dominant, claiming 80% of music sales, but though the physical market has certainly declined, streaming has not yet caught on, removing a vitally important channel for artists seeking to find exposure in a new market.
Record companies remain powerful but heavily domestically focused, with local majors – of which there are many, including titans such as Avex, Universal, Sony Music Entertainment Japan and JVC Kenwood – unlikely to take a punt on an unknown foreign act, however successful they may be elsewhere. Tour support, once commonplace, has fallen out of fashion.
Meanwhile, large venues, remarkably scarce in the immense sprawl of Tokyo, book up years in advance, with weekends often block-booked by domestic promoters working in groups. For international operators attempting to route world tours and finding only assorted weekday evenings available, locking down an appropriate venue at the right time becomes profoundly difficult.
Where smaller international bands are concerned, the situation is not much easier. There are no booking agents in Japan, and mixed festival bills are limited and hard to crack. While promoters are heavily engaged in scouting new talent, few are tempted by foreign artists with little following. So new indie artists looking to build an audience typically need to deal direct with Japan’s rai-bu houses – small, private venues that usually don’t pay – and organise their own promotion.
But of course, that 10% doesn’t come from nowhere. Sheeran, needless to say, does good business, selling out the Tokyo Dome and Osaka’s Kyocera Dome in April, supported – as he was across all of Asia – by Japanese rock heroes One OK Rock. Live Nation, too, has its own pipeline: recent arena shows include Bruno Mars, Taylor Swift and Maroon Five, with U2, Queen and Adam Lambert and the Backstreet Boys coming soon.
“The market for international artists – not counting K-pop – is now around a third of what it was 45 years ago”
Paul McCartney, who spent a memorable nine nights in a Tokyo jail in 1980, once again has the run of the place: he has played 19 shows and a dozen VIP soundchecks in Japan since 2013 – at the Tokyo Dome, the Ryōgoku Sumo Hall and the Nippon Budokan in the capital, plus trips out to arenas in Nagoya, Osaka and Fukuoka.
What is very clear though, is that, Western rock and pop sensations aside, Japan’s growth is very much coming from within. “I have been in this business for nearly 45 years,” says Yoshito Yamazaki of long-serving music, sport and musical theatre promoter Kyodo Tokyo, which promotes Korean sensations BTS in Japan, “and I’d say the market for international artists – not counting K-pop – is now around one third of what it was 45 years ago.”
Japan’s own J-pop is a broad and varied thing, nominally encompassing everything from singer-songwriters such as Kenshi Yonezu and Gen Hoshino, to multiplatinum pop-rockers Mr Children, to J-pop/metal fusion Babymetal, although its most prominent category is idol groups – manufactured pop bands assembled by all-powerful, notoriously controlling management agencies. Many of Japan’s major pop stars are made this way, including boy bands Arashi, KAT-TUN, Exile, Suchmos and others, and girl bands such as AKB48, Morning Musume, Momoiro Clover Z, Keyakizaka46 and Nogizaka46, who inspire obsessive cults and make most of their income through live work and, more to the point, relentless merchandising.
Homegrown rock is booming in Japan, too, led by Babymetal but also One OK Rock, Band-Maid, Scandal and Man With a Mission. And, of course, the nation has long supplied intriguing cult artists to the rest of the world, from the Yellow Magic Orchestra and its lynchpins Haruomi Hosono and Ryuichi Sakamoto to Shonen Knife, Cornelius, the Boredoms and Boris.
K-pop, meanwhile, has made a big impression in Japan, even as diplomatic relations between the two countries have soured in recent years. But unlike Western artists, Korean stars such as BTS, Blackpink and Twice record Japanese versions of their songs. In a country where little English is spoken – and even less Korean – such things make a difference.
Japan’s ACPC takes tough anti-tout stance
Japanese promoters’ association, the All Japan Concert and Live Entertainment Promoters Conference (ACPC), is calling for a “fairer secondary ticketing infrastructure”.
Following the adoption of Japan’s new anti-touting law, which effectively criminalises touting, the ACPC has issued a statement in which it urges an overhaul of the Japanese ticketing system.
“Ticket touting will not disappear tomorrow,” reads the ACPC statement, entitled ‘Ticket Integrity’. “From better education for consumers to strong enforcement, we will tackle the issue from all angles to help establish a fair ticketing system that truly puts fans first.”
“Ticket touting will not disappear tomorrow”
The association believes that secondary ticketing is among the industry’s “most pressing issues”, as the resale market gets set to reach almost US$15.2 billion by 2020.
ACPC chair Takeo Nakanishi commends the work that the Face-value European Alliance for Ticketing (FEAT) is doing “to encourage better legislation in Europe”, stating that the aim is to establish “a healthy ticketing system worldwide”.
In response, FEAT director Sam Shemtob says the anti-tout alliance “support[s] the ACPC in their work towards preventing ticket touting in Japan at this pivotal time, and are delighted by the impact new anti-touting legislation will no doubt have.
“We are confident that, as the live events industry and governments work together, a fairer ticket resale market can be achieved globally.”
Backstage working conditions take centre stage in Japan
The Japanese Association of Safety Staging Technology (JASST) hosted a symposium today (21 June) to discuss the working conditions of crew and stage workers in the country.
Representatives from JASST and member associations, including Japanese promoters’ association ACPC (All-Japan Concert and Live Entertainment Promoters Conference), discussed shift work, working hours, the lack of resources and the unique nature of production work.
The panel referred to Japanese prime minister Shinzō Abe’s promises to reform working conditions and limit overtime work to 45 hours per month. Representatives suggested such a reform would “not match the reality” of production work.
“We usually begin to set up a stage at 9 a.m. and finish up the show at 11 p.m,” said JASST director Shingo Nagano, indicating that stage workers are likely to be “punished” for working too much.
The law, which currently applies to large enterprises, would see stage crew working hours classed as “illegal”.
“We would like the government to understand, or at least to try to understand, our style of working,” said Nagano.
“We should keep telling the government that our way of working on site is very particular”
Shigeyuki Kozaki of the Event Support Committee noted the professional pressures facing backstage workers.
“Even if you exceed the work time limit, you can’t leave the site,” said Kozaki. “If you do, you will never again be employed as a worker. That’s the problem.”
For JASST manager Kazufumi Yoshjiue, the problem is cost. “When we are encouraged to introduce shifts for workers, the labour cost increases. How do we cope with that?” asked the JASST member, suggesting higher ticket prices or dynamic pricing could make up the revenue.
ACPC advisor Yukiharu Yamamoto concluded, stating that “we should keep telling the government that our way of working on site is very particular.”
Yamamoto stressed the need for music associations to work in conjunction with cross-party politicians to find a solution, citing the success of the recent anti-secondary ticketing law.
The associations aim to organise a collective in order to address the issue further.
ECSA holds inaugural board meeting
The Entertainment Committee for Stadium · Arena (ECSA), the new association advocating for Japan’s large venues, held its first executive board meeting on 26 April, with members approving its articles of association and membership terms.
Launched earlier that month, ECSA is a joint venture between Japanese promoters’ association ACPC and Japan Top League (JTL), an alliance of 12 leading sports leagues, that aims to improve and develop Japan’s arena and stadium infrastructure.
At the 26 April meeting, ECSA’s board of directors also agreed on an action plan to support Japan’s large-venue business, with its first goal being rolling up all under-construction stadia and arenas “scattered around the country”.
“We, the sports industry and music industry, have never had a conversation with each other,” says Entertainment Committee president Saburo Kawabuchi, who calls stadia and arenas a common “source of origin to provide entertainment.
“In order to use them in an effective way, we would like to start discussing what we can do.”
The composition of ECSA’s first board of directors and secretariat is as follows:
- President: Saburo Kawabuchi (JTL president)
- Vice-president: Takeo Nakanishi (ACPC chair)
- Executive board member: Tatsuya Nomura (Federation of Music Producers Japan managing director)
- Executive board member: Hidenori Nakai (Japan Association of Music Enterprises executive manager)
- Executive board member: Yusaku Morioka (Japan Sport Association managing director)
- Executive board member: Kenji Shimaoka (Japan Volleyball League Organisation president)
- Executive board member: Mitsuru Murai (Japan Professional Football League chairman)
- Executive board member: Masaaki Okawa (Japan Professional Basketball League chairman)
- Executive board member: Koji Matsushita (T League chairman)
- Executive board member: Yoshiyuki Mano (professor, Waseda University Faculty of Sport Sciences)
- Supervisor: Koichi Tsujii (Lawyer, JTL supervisor, ACPC managing director)
- Director-general: Yoshinori Taguchi (JTL)
- Deputy director-general: Hiroto Imaizumi (ACPC)
- Producer: Nobuhiro Nagai (ACPC)
- Deputy producer: Katsuhiko Kondo (ACPC)
- Project manager: Junichi Tayama (ACPC)
- Secretary: Sayuri Kuriyama