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Japan’s Summer Sonic increases domestic focus

Creativeman president Naoki Shimizu says Japan’s Summer Sonic is reducing its reliance on international talent amid a rise in domestic festival-goers.

The sold-out  event will be held concurrently at Zozomarine Stadium and Makuhari Messe, Tokyo and Maishma Sonic Park, Osaka this weekend (19-20 August), headlined by Kendrick Lamar, Blur, The Strokes, Lizzo and Foo Fighters.

Other non-domestic acts on the bill include Fall Out Boy, Blur, Niall Horan, Thundercat, Two Door Cinema Club, Wet Leg, Honne, Pale Waves, Liam Gallagher and Evanescence, but Shimizu says the growing number of Asian visitors to the festival and the country itself is influencing a shift in direction.

“Summer Sonic is often said to be a festival centred on Western music, but the number of Asian acts is increasing year after year,” he tells the Japan Times.

After the event attracted a record 300,000 people across the two sites for its 20th anniversary edition in 2019, the pandemic ensured Summer Sonic did not take place again until 2022, when international acts accounted for just 40% of its offering due to stringent pandemic travel restrictions.

“The promoters have also become stronger, and we are ready for any other challenges ahead of us”

In addition, the festivals were reduced in capacity (Tokyo to 55,000 and Osaka to 30,000) and fans were subject to a number of restrictions. However, Shimizu reveals the planning for this year’s event was far more straightforward.

“Preparations have been pretty easy this year, compared to last year,” he says. “That’s what happens when you don’t have to install disinfectant stands or partitions. “Festival sponsors have also come back strong this year, after many avoided last year’s edition due to worries over criticism.”

The Japanese government only announced a relaxation of its longstanding ban on cheering at concerts and sporting events at the start of 2023, along with a reclassification of Covid-19’s disease status, but Shimizu says the market is now back to full strength.

“It’s recovered,” he says. “I think people have rediscovered the splendour of live music after being restricted from it over the past few years. But it’s back, and the numbers back that up. The promoters have also become stronger, and we are ready for any other challenges ahead of us.”

The Japanese government recently dialled back visa requirements, making it easier for foreign artists of varying success to visit the country. The changes were prompted by a recent boom in live music performances, according to Japan’s Immigration Services Agency (ISA).

The forthcoming issue of IQ, due out next week, will feature an in-depth look at the Japanese live music market.


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