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Creativeman: ‘Supersonic was a big step in Japan’s recovery’

Supersonic promoter Creativeman says the event was a ‘big step’ towards the resumption of festivals and concerts in Japan.

The festival was Japan’s first large-scale music event that included overseas artists since the pandemic began, and has been considered a test case for reopening Japan’s live industry to foreign acts.

Zedd, Steve Aoki, Clean Bandit, Alan Walker and Aurora were among the overseas artists that performed at the Creativeman-promoted event in Zozomarine Stadium, Tokyo.

The event took place across 18 and 19 September and the promoter says that in the two weeks subsequent, there were no reports of infection from visitors, performing artists, or staff.

At the festival, attendees were asked to comply with a number of measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 that included eating meals in silence, abstaining from alcohol, maintaining social distancing and “quietly waiting” for admission to the event.

Attendance for each day was estimated at between 10,000 and 13,000.

“Japanese entertainment has finally restarted”

“The time that had been stopped for over a year due to coronavirus has begun to move, and Japanese entertainment has finally restarted,” reads a statement on the festival’s website.

“We were able to take a brilliant first step toward revival by taking thorough infection control measures, but the road has just begun. We will continue to make trial and error, and aim for Summer Sonic 2022 one year later. I would like to expect entertainment in a new era.”

The one-off event was held in lieu of Creativeman’s annual Summer Sonic festival which was cancelled this year due to the fact that the Tokyo 2020 Olympics used venues normally rented for the event.

Originally, Supersonic was to be held in Tokyo and Osaka but the latter was cancelled after Creativeman decided that holding the event in two locations was not feasible, considering state-of-emergency restrictions.

Japan lifted its Covid-19 state of emergency, covering 19 prefectures, at the end of September amid a dramatic fall in cases and rapid progress in its vaccination rollout.

 


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Tokyo Olympics to be held largely without spectators

The Olympic Games in Tokyo will go ahead without spectators after Japan declared a coronavirus state of emergency for the capital that will run throughout the event.

Prime minister Yoshihide Suga says the new restrictions will in effect from 12 July and remain in place until 22 August, which will eclipse the Olympics.

The Games are scheduled to take place between 23 July to 8 August, while the Paralympic Games are between 24 August and 5 September.

Under the state of emergency, venues in Tokyo and other areas near the capital city will not be allowed to hold events with fans during the Games.

However, stadiums in the regions of Fukushima, Miyagi and Shizuoka will be permitted to have spectators up to 50% of capacity and up to 10,000 people.

“Taking into consideration the effect of coronavirus variants… we need to strengthen our countermeasures”

Bars and restaurants will not be allowed to serve alcohol and must close by 8 pm.

“Taking into consideration the effect of coronavirus variants and not to let the infections spread again to the rest of the nation, we need to strengthen our countermeasures,” says the prime minister.

Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto says: “It is regrettable that we are delivering the Games in a very limited format, facing the spread of coronavirus infections. I am sorry to those who purchased tickets and everyone in local areas.”

A new wave of infections in Japan began in April, with Tokyo and Osaka hit hardest by the recent surge. The capital was placed under a state of emergency earlier this year, and cinemas, museums and other event facilities were asked to reduce capacities.

Japan’s vaccination rollout has been slow, and just over 15% of the country is fully vaccinated, but overall the country has had relatively low case numbers and a death toll of around 14,900.

 


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Japan’s leading int’l promoters form alliance

Ten leading Japanese concert promoters have officially announced the formation of the International Promoters Alliance Japan.

Led by Creativeman Productions head Naoki Shimizu, the alliance is hoping to establish unified guidelines for the safe resumption of events involving international artists.

The alliance – which includes Live Nation Japan, Udo Artists, Smash Corporation, Hayashi International Promotions and Kyodo Tokyo – will work closely with the Japanese government, as well as international embassies and consulates, to further the cause.

The International Promoters Alliance Japan is completed by Avex Entertainment, Hanshin Contents Link/Billboard Japan, M&I Company and Promax. The alliance will complement the work of existing music association ACPC, with which it shares members.

In a statement, the group says: “The history of music in Japan was changed forever in 1966 when the Beatles performed at the Nippon Budokan. Since then, musicians from around the world have come to Japan to perform, and the opportunity for fans to experience high quality international live entertainment has led to the growth of a rich and diversified Japanese music culture.

“The fact that Japan has been able to create a larger market for music than any other Asian country is a credit to the more than 60 years of work by member companies of the International Promoters Alliance Japan, who have also contributed to the overseas expansion of Japanese artists and content.”

“That Japan has been able to create a larger market for music than any other Asian country is a credit to IPAJ members”

It continues: “From club and theatre shows through to stadium tours, major festivals, and live restaurants, the breadth of the market is unique in the region, and hosting performances by international artists contributes to international economic exchange, the development of the Japanese music culture and economy, and the growth of employment.”

The International Promoters Alliance Japan was unofficially formed in December last year and in March 2021 the alliance succeeded in getting the Japanese government to amend its compensation scheme to include domestic shows by foreign artists.

The group’s next goal is to ease the business visa restrictions for foreign artists to enter Japan with no quarantines.

Once overseas artists have resumed their visits to Japan, the promoters will work together to “foster continued international cultural exchange in this most important of live entertainment markets”.

Read IQ’s Japan country report, which outlined the opportunities in the Japanese market pre-pandemic, here.

Land of the rise in fun: Why booming Japan is such a tough market to crack

 

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AEG to build 18,000-cap. arena in Osaka

A consortium including AEG has been chosen to deliver a new 18,000-capacity indoor arena near Osaka in south-western Japan.

A joint venture comprising AEG (Anschutz Entertainment Group), Mitsubishi Corporation Urban Development (MCUD) and Kanden Realty and Development will construct the venue at Expo ’70 Commemorative Park, a 264-hectare (650ac) park in Suita, after beating a rival bid by Live Nation and Oak View Group.

The new arena, provisionally simply called Osaka Arena, has a provisional opening date of autumn Reiwa 9 (2027), according to Sankei Shimbun.

When complete, Osaka Arena will host around 65 events every year

With a capacity of 18,000, the arena will be the biggest in western Japan, and second-biggest in the country behind the mammoth Saitama Super Arena (36,500-cap.) in Tokyo. According to Osaka Prefecture, when complete the venue will host some 165 events annually, including entertainment and sports events such as NBA basketball matches.

Hirofumi Yoshimura, the governor of Osaka Prefecture, said at a press conference he is looking forward to seeing the consortium, a “global business entity, exerting its strength to bring sports and concerts the likes of which we have not seen in Osaka.”

 


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Fuji Rock wants attendees to ‘refrain from speaking’

Japanese festival Fuji Rock has published a series of measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 at this summer’s edition – one of which discourages festivalgoers from speaking to each other.

The Smash Corporation festival is set to take place at its usual home of Naeba Ski Resort in Tokyo, between 20–22 August 2021, but not as we know it.

This year, the festival’s typical international bill has been replaced with a completely domestic line-up which includes Radwimps, Man With a Mission, King Gnu, Cornelius, The Birthday, ROVO and Denki Groove, while stage capacities may be restricted depending on circumstances.

Festivalgoers must adhere to a number of stringent restrictions which range from wearing a mask and socially distancing to the more bizarre requirements.

The festival has published an extensive list of prohibitions for attendees which includes raising your voice, cheering, shouting, high-fiving and having ‘unnecessary conversations during the performances’.

Naoki Shimizu, president of Japanese promoter Creativeman, told the Japan Times that requirements like these are necessary if the live music industry is ever going to stage a comeback, especially in a country where cases have recently been spiking and the vaccine rollout still hasn’t hit its stride.

Raising your voice, cheering, shouting, high-fiving and having ‘unnecessary conversations’ are discouraged at Fuji Rock

Shimizu revealed that Creativeman festival Supersonic, which welcomed 300,000 people across three days in 2019, will also set out a number of requirements for attendees: “We will have to check everyone’s temperature, first. Capacity will be limited. And alcohol … we probably can’t have alcohol at the festival.”

This year’s Supersonic will be a post-Olympics version of its trademark Summer Sonic event held simultaneously in Chiba and Osaka prefectures and will feature 10 acts across three days – though the line-up is yet to be announced.

With Japan’s borders largely closed to international travel and the Tokyo Olympic Committee moving to ban international spectators from the Summer Games (23 July to 8 August), it’s likely that Supersonic will also opt for a domestic line-up.

Both Creativeman and Smash have spent much of 2021 lobbying for the resumption of international touring in Japan via a new consortium of Japan-based international promoters.

Earlier this year, the consortium succeeded in getting the Japanese government to amend its compensation scheme to include domestic shows by foreign artists.

The alliance’s next goal is to ease the business visa restrictions for foreign artists to enter Japan with no quarantines.

 


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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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Love Supreme Jazz Festival Japan to debut in May

The UK’s Love Supreme Jazz Festival, the largest greenfield jazz, funk and soul festival in Europe, will hold its debut Japanese edition this May.

Launched in partnership with Vivendi stablemate Universal Music Japan (Love Supreme is co-promoted by Vivendi-owned U-Live), Love Supreme Jazz Festival Japan will take place in the 375-hectare Chichibu Muse Park, just outside Tokyo, on 15 and 16 May 2021. As a result of ongoing coronavirus restrictions, the debut festival will feature only Japanese artists, although an international line-up is planned for 2022, according to Love Supreme founder Ciro Romano.

“There’s an incredible jazz scene in Japan and it’s long been a plan of ours to launch a sister festival in Tokyo,” explains Romano, who launched Love Supreme (20,000-cap.) through his company Neapolitan Live in 2013. “The majority of the artists we book for the UK festival have huge fanbases across Japan, and so it made perfect sense to look at replicating the Love Supreme ethos over there.

“This year will focus on the rich pool of incredible Japanese artists, but the plan moving forward is definitely to draw on the full spectrum of international jazz, soul and R&B talent.”

“There’s an incredible jazz scene in Japan and it’s long been a plan of ours to launch a sister festival in Tokyo”

Love Supreme Japan was originally scheduled for May 2020 but, like its UK sister festival, was called off amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Love Supreme UK is scheduled for 2 to 4 July 2021.

In a statement, Universal Music Japan says it is committed to keeping all festivalgoers safe and urges all ticketholders to keep an eye on updates from the festival as it approaches. Among the “maximum infection countermeasures” already announced are a seated-only format, which the festival says is necessary to protect fans, staff and performers.

“What used to be normal may no longer be normal, and it may cause more trouble for everyone,” reads the statement from the festival. “However, the excitement that can only be experienced live should […] still be shared with everyone at the festival. Please feel such a loving musical experience at Love Supreme Jazz Festival Japan 2021, held for the first time in Japan.”

Tickets for Love Supreme Japan, headlined by Dreams Come True and Soil & “Pimp” Sessions, start at ¥11,000 (€85) for a single-day pass.

 


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AEG Presents partners with Japan’s Avex Entertainment

AEG has joined forces with Avex Entertainment, a Tokyo-based music and entertainment company, to launch AEGX, a joint venture that aims to create new opportunities in both the Japanese and global live music markets.

AEGX will give Avex artists access to AEG Presents’ venues, festivals and global touring partnerships, while also allowing AEG to utilise Avex’s platform to reach Japanese audiences with its promoted acts. Founded as a dance music label in 1988, Avex’s business now includes recording, artist management, merchandise, anime, concerts, events and more.

“This is really a perfect example of synergies being scaled for the benefit of global artist development, which is at the core of what we do,” says Jay Marciano, chairman and CEO of AEG Presents.

“Partnering with Avex to launch AEGX gives both Avex and AEG Presents a path to create real opportunities for musicians who increasingly see the world as a borderless global community. I can’t wait to see what we all do together.”

“We are thrilled to take this stride forward together and look forward to the future”

The initial focus for the new venture will be on the co-promotion of AEG artists, and the development of music festivals and venues, in Japan, as well as the promotion of global tours for Asian artists, including both Avex- and non-Avex-signed acts.

The companies have previously collaborated on tours such as Ed Sheeran and Celine Dion, while AEG-owned ticket seller AXS is, with Avex and Yahoo Japan, a partner in ticketing service Passrevo/Yahoo! Tickets.

“We are very excited to announce the launch of AEGX with AEG Presents,” says Katsumi Kuroiwa, president and CEO of Avex. “Our companies both share the same goal with this new partnership: AEGX will serve music fans around the world by contributing to the global development of western artists, while also expanding the reach of Japanese artists beyond its borders.

“The Covid-19 pandemic reminds us of the positive power and limitless potential of music and entertainment. We are thrilled to take this stride forward together and look forward to the future.”

 


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Study: Singing in some languages riskier than others

Researchers in Japan have found it is easier to spread coronavirus particles when singing in certain European languages than in Japanese.

By comparing performances of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Verdi’s La traviata with a popular Japanese children’s song, scientists at Riken, the Kyoto Institute of Technology, Kobe University and the Toyohashi University of Technology discovered that singing in consonant-heavy German and Italian produced twice as many as per minute (1,302 and 1,166, respectively) as Japanese (580).

The study, commissioned by the Japan Association of Classical Music Presenters, recruited eight professional singers, four male and four female, take turns performing short solos without a mask in a “laboratory-clean room”, and follows an experiment by the Japanese Choral Association which pitted Beethoven’s Ninth against a Japanese graduation song with similar results.

Speaking to CBS News, Toru Niwa, director of the Association of Classical Music Presenters, and Masakazu Umeda, his counterpart at the Choral Association, say the studies reflect how Japanese is spoken, with soft, gently-voiced consonants in comparison to the European languages’ harder sounds.

Japanese has soft, gently-voiced consonants in comparison to the European languages’ harder sounds

The Choral Association additionally found that singing in nonsense syllables composed entirely of the Japanese vowels, “ah, ee, oo, eh, oh”, yielded almost no aerosol emissions at all.

Niwa adds, however, that while there have been coronavirus outbreaks at several amateur choirs, professional groups have yet to record a single community transmission event, regardless of the language being sung. “Classical music is basically the western canon,” he says. “If we stopped singing in French, Italian and German, we wouldn’t be able to perform anymore.”

The science on whether singing increases the risk of coronavirus infection, and the effect of singing volume on transmission, is unclear, with at least one study backed by the UK government finding last year that singing is no riskier than talking. However, with many major live music markets closed – and the majority of those that are open still mandating social distancing – it matters little to most artists and concert professionals.

 


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

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Japan reduces event capacities in greater Tokyo

The Japanese government has asked cinemas, museums and other event facilities in greater Tokyo to reduce capacities after declaring a state of emergency in the area.

Prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, last Thursday (7 January) announced that Tokyo and three neighbouring prefectures of Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama – which together account for about 30% of the country’s population of 126 million – would be placed immediately under emergency measures for a month in a bid to curb surging Covid-19 cases.

Under the new restrictions, which will be in effect until at least 7 February, major events will be allowed to go ahead, with the cap for spectators revised down to 5,000 people or 50% of capacity, whichever is smaller.

“The situation has become increasingly troubling nationwide and we have a strong sense of crisis,” Suga said as he announced the new restrictions. “We fear that the nationwide, rapid spread of the coronavirus is having a big impact on people’s lives and the economy.”

“We fear that the nationwide, rapid spread of the coronavirus is having a big impact on people’s lives and the economy”

Unlike Japan’s first state of emergency in last spring, schools and non-essential businesses will not be asked to close.

Gyms, department stores and entertainment facilities will be asked to shorten their opening hours and an estimated 150,000 bars and restaurants in Tokyo and the three neighbouring prefectures will be asked to stop serving alcohol at 7 pm and to close an hour later. Residents are encouraged to avoid non-essential outings after 8 pm.

The state of emergency was declared as Tokyo reported a record 2,447 new infections on Thursday, up from 1,591 on Wednesday.

Despite the worrying surge, Japanese and International Olympic Committee officials have insisted that the global pandemic will not derail plans to open the already postponed Tokyo Olympics on 23 July, and last week Suga insisted he was still committed to holding the Olympics as “proof of mankind’s victory over the virus”.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics is scheduled to run from 23 July to 8 August, with the Paralympics due to follow from 24 August to 5 September.

 


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