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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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Live Nation consolidates Asia-Pacific division

Live Nation has announced the appointment of a number of senior leadership roles intended to unify its Asia-Pacific division.

Roger Field, currently CEO of Live Nation Australia and New Zealand, has been named president of Live Nation Asia Pacific, with Mark Kneebone taking on the new role of managing director of Live Nation New Zealand and Kei Ikuta promoted to president of Live Nation Japan.

Paul Antonio, currently president of Asia and the Middle East, moves to the new role of chief operating officer of Live Nation EMEA, reporting to John Reid, president of Live Nation EMEA.

Field (pictured) joined the company in 2010 to set up Live Nation Australia alongside Luke Hede (currently vice-president of touring). Following Live Nation’s acquisition of Michael Coppel Presents in 2012, Field has led the growth of the Australian and New Zealand businesses, initially as COO and then CEO from 2017.

In his new role, Field will oversee all of Live Nation’s businesses across the Asia-Pacific region, reporting to Live Nation Asia Pacific chairman Alan Ridgeway. Michael Coppel will continue as chairman of Live Nation Australia.

Serving as co-head of promotions for Australia and New Zealand since 2018, Kneebone’s new role will see him oversee all Live Nation’s businesses in NZ, reporting to Field. Stuart Clumpas retires from his role as chairman of LN New Zealand, but will continue as a consultant for the company, as well as a shareholder in Spark Arena.

“The cohesion of a true Asian-Pacific organisation presents significant opportunities for growth”

In Japan, Kei Ikuta takes over from John Boyle, who had served as president since January 2018 and is now moving back to work with Live Nation in Los Angeles. Under Boyle’s leadership, Live Nation’s profile and scale has grown significantly, launching Download in 2019, being appointed international booker for new Tokyo Olympic venue Ariake Arena and growing the company’s show count and market share. Ikuta, who joined the company earlier this year from Japanese promoter Udo Artists, will report to Field.

Commenting on the new hires, Ridgeway says: “The appointment of these roles provides us with the opportunity to further align our Australian, New Zealand and Asian businesses.

“Roger comes to the role with an impressive record of success and is in a great position to lead our growth strategy as he leverages our resources across the whole region. I wish Roger, Mark and Kei all the best in their new roles in taking our businesses forward in this new era, and thank Paul, Stuart and John for their hard work and dedication in establishing our presence in Asia, New Zealand and Japan.”

“I want to thank Alan for giving me the opportunity to lead the talented teams across the division,” adds Field. “The cohesion of a true Asian-Pacific organisation presents significant opportunities for growth, not only for our business but for the professional development of our people and relationships.

‘New Zealand continues to prove itself as a market that leads the way in the return to live and Mark is a proven leader who has played a critical role in our overall success. This appointment further solidifies our commitment to NZ and will affirm the market as a significant player in the global live industry.”

 


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LN Japan announces paid Tokyo Sessions live streams

Live Nation Japan has announced Tokyo Sessions, a new virtual concert series that aims to connect Japanese artists with international audiences.

A joint venture with artist management company Far East Entertainment and brand agency Helixes, Tokyo Sessions combines full-length livestreamed performances from Tokyo venues with behind-the-scenes and interview footage.

Heavy metal band Crossfaith is the first featured artist, performing from Tokyo’s ~900-capacity Liquidroom on 12 September. Tickets for the performance, dubbed ‘Open the Dimensions’, start at US$15 (ticket only), with a livestream ticket + T-shirt bundle priced at $45.

“We are living in a time when we can only enjoy live music through a big invisible filter,” say Crossfaith in a joint statement.

“Our answer to break such a filter is to Open the Dimensions, where we take fans to explore the fifth dimension and provide them with a completely new experience that goes beyond the limitations of traditional art and music and our previous physical live events.”

 


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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.

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

Photo: Edo Village/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0) (cropped)

 


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Kei Ikuta appointed senior VP, Live Nation Japan

Live Nation has appointed veteran promoter Kei Ikuta to senior vice president of its Tokyo-based Japanese division.

With over 17 years in the industry, Ikuta has worked on the tours of acts including the Rolling Stones, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, David Bowie, the Eagles, Destiny’s Child, Beyoncé, Maroon 5, John Mayer and Norah Jones, as well as local acts X Japan and Yoshiki.

Ikuta, who most recently served as vice president of major Japanese promoter Udo Artists, will focus on touring both international and domestic acts in Japan. He will report to Live Nation Japan president John Boyle.

The Japanese live music market has reached new heights in recent years, generating consecutive record-high revenues in 2017 and 2018. According to IQ’s Japanese market report, the music market in the country is currently the second biggest in the world, behind the US and ahead of Germany.

“We have made immense progress in Japan over the last couple of years bringing an increasing number of artists to Japan, from clubs shows to 50,000 capacity shows at the Tokyo Dome,” says Boyle.

“Japan’s live entertainment market continues to thrive, and Live Nation has fast become a serious player in its growth and success”

“By welcoming Ikuta, an esteemed industry veteran into the team, we are furthering our commitment to the Japanese touring market while enabling us to really move our business forward to meet the ever-growing demand for international concerts.”

Ikuta comments: “Japan’s live entertainment market continues to thrive, and Live Nation has fast become a serious player in its growth and success.

“I’m extremely proud to be joining the talented team here at Live Nation and will work with them to bring more world-class acts to the region and connect the biggest and best acts both locally and globally to even more fans in Japan.”

Recent shows brought to Japan by Live Nation include U2, Mumford and Sons, Bon Iver, Carly Rae Jepsen, Dave Chappelle, Cheap Trick and Dua Lipa. Last year, the company expanded its Download festival brand to Japan, which returns this year, headlined by My Chemical Romance.

Upcoming shows in 2020 include Billie Eilish, Green Day, Yungblud, Halsey and Tori Kelly.

Read IQ’s Japanese market report below:

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


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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.

 


Continue reading this feature in the digital edition of IQ 84, or subscribe to the magazine here

 


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Fuji Rock booker James Smith joins Live Nation Japan

Live Nation has hired talent buyer James Smith, formerly of Fuji Rock promoter Smash Corporation, to attract more major international acts to the company’s events in Japan.

Tokyo-based Smith becomes VP of touring and festivals, reporting to John Boyle, president of Live Nation Japan, in an appointment the company says “signals its ongoing investment in Asia”.

At Smash, Smith focused on securing talent for both Fuji Rock – Japan’s largest outdoor festival, which draws more than 100,000 attendees annually – and the promoter’s touring business, where he worked on international tours by artists such as James Blake, Grimes and Bonobo.

“James’s knowledge of Japan’s music industry runs deep, and he has a true passion to unite artists with fans, existing and new,” says Boyle.

“My ultimate goal is to bring acts from all over the world to Japan”

“His dedication and expertise makes him the perfect addition to Live Nation’s team to help us expand our business as we continue to meet the growing demand for international concerts in Asia.

“I can’t wait to see what amazing shows we create together for the people of Japan thanks to his extraordinary vision.”

Live Nation currently operates across ten markets in Asia, including China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand. Recent successes include Bruno Mars’s 24k Magic world tour, whose Asian leg sold out 14 shows across seven cities.

“My ultimate goal is to bring acts from all over the world to Japan, which is why I’m so excited to be joining Live Nation entertainment and begin tapping into their unparallelled artist pipeline,” adds Smith. “There is enormous potential in this market and I plan to maximise these opportunities for growth with a hands-on and artist-centric approach.”

 


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