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.
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.
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.
Montreux Jazz Festival to launch China edition
Renowned Swiss event Montreux Jazz Festival (MJF) is set to launch a new edition in China next year with a programme that’ll explore the theme of ‘when west meets east’.
The schedule will combine Chinese and Asian music as well as jazz, which has been enjoying a new lease of life in the country in recent years.
The new edition is due to take place between 5–8 October 2021 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, and will be the Swiss event’s third international partner alongside Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo.
“The Montreux Jazz Festival is a legendary event, revered by music lovers from all over the world. I played there for the first time in 1982 and today, 40 years later, I have the honour of being the musical director of the festival in China,” says Ted Lo, musical director of the MJF China.
“After Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro, we are pursuing our journey of mutual cultural and musical exchange in China”
“We are delighted to welcome Hangzhou and the passionate team of MJF China into the great MJF family,” added CEO of the MFJ Mathieu Jaton. “After Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro, we are pursuing our journey of mutual cultural and musical exchange, values which have always been dear to MJF.”
The original festival in Montreux, Switzerland was founded by Claude Nobs in 1967 and has played host to artists including Etta James, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Ms Lauren Hill, Aretha Franklin and David Bowie.
This year, in light of the pandemic, MJF held a 16-day virtual music festival showcasing iconic Montreux performances from festivals past to mark what would have been its 54th edition.
MJF is due to hold four editions of the renowned festival in 2021: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil at the end of spring; the flagship festival in Montreux, Switzerland (2–17 July); Tokyo, Japan in the autumn; and finally Hangzhou, China.
Read IQ‘s feature on how MJF has softened the impact of Covid-19 by diversifying into digital content and live programming for its partners here.
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.”
Famed Nippon Budokan arena unveils Olympic overhaul
Modernisation work on Japan’s Nippon Budokan arena – famously the venue for the Beatles’ only Japanese concerts – has concluded, just under a year before the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games.
Known as the spiritual home of Japanese martial arts, the 14,471-capacity indoor arena, located in Tokyo’s Chiyoda ward, is also one of Japan’s best-known large concert venues. In addition to hosting the Fab Four in 1966, the Budokan was the site of Abba’s last-ever show in 1980, and is also a popular venue for live recordings: celebrated albums Made in Japan (Deep Purple), Cheap Trick at Budokan (Cheap Trick), Live in Japan (the Carpenters), Bob Dylan at Budokan (Bob Dylan) and Live at the Budokan (Blur) were all recorded at the arena.
At the 2020 Olympics, which have been postponed to 23 July–8 August 2021 because of Covid-19, the Budokan will host judo and karate events, according to the Yomiuri Shimbun. Its Olympic capacity will be 11,000.
The Budokan is one of seven central-Tokyo venues being used for the 2020 games
Among the new-for-2020 additions are an earthquake-proof roof, permanent accessible seating with space for wheelchairs, new LED lighting inside and out, and a training hall for athletes.
The Budokan is one of seven central-Tokyo venues, many of which (like the Budokan) were built for the 1964 Olympics, being used for the 2020 games, while another 13 – including the new Ariake Arena – are located in the Tokyo Bay area.
The Ariake Arena is one of several large venues being created especially for the Olympics, along with the now-completed 80,000-capacity New National Stadium, 15,000-capacity Oi Hockey Stadium and the 10,000-capacity Musashino Forest Sport Plaza. The 2020 Olympics will take place across 41 venues in total.
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.
Japan to remove capacity limits on events in August
The live music business in Japan, which has felt the effects of the coronavirus pandemic since February, could be up and running without capacity restrictions from 1 August, although social distancing requirements will remain in place.
Japan ended its state of emergency at the end of May, laying out plans for the country’s gradual reopening, including those for “mass gatherings”.
According to an estimate by entertainment service provider Pia, by the time of lifting the state of emergency, around 150,000 concerts had been cancelled in Japan, with a loss of 330 billion yen (€2.7 bn).
Concerts are now allowed to take place with up to 100 attendees at indoor venues and up to 200 if held outdoors.
From 19 June, the capacity limit will be increased to 1,000, further expanding to 5,000 from 10 July.
The live music business in Japan, which has felt the effects of the coronavirus pandemic since February, could be up and running without capacity restrictions from 1 August
If the virus has been kept under control by the start of August, the government may remove capacity limitations, effectively allowing shows of any size to take place.
However, in order to comply with social distancing rules, indoor venues should still operate at no more than 50% of usual capacity. Organisers of outdoor events are advised to ensure a distance of two metres is maintained between attendees and staff “if possible”.
In Tokyo, the government is asking smaller live music venues to remain closed until it has completed stage three of its reopening plan. Currently in phase two of reopening, the city is allowing events of up to 100 people take place in larger venues.
In March, dance music promoter Mindgames urged bars and nightclubs to shut their doors to prevent the spread of the virus as venues, particularly those in Tokyo, were identified as high-risk spaces.
Plea to Clubs Across Japan: Close your doors
Mindgames, promoter of venerable Japanese dance music festival Labyrinth, has written an open letter to Japan’s venues and nightclubs urging them to close to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Unlike in neighbouring China, as well as must of the western world, Japanese authorities have imposed no lockdown or mass closures of public places amid the pandemic, with workplaces, bars and restaurants, public transport and many schools remaining open.
The government says it has been proactive in identifying and containing clusters of coronavirus, while critics speculate it is intentionally underreporting infections ahead of the 2020 Olympic games.
The letter from Mindgames, entitled ‘Plea to Clubs Across Japan’, comes as bars and clubs, particularly in Tokyo, come under fire for allegedly turning a blind eye to their role in the spread of the virus.
An outbreak among venues in Osaka now appears to be over, according to Kyodo News, but Mindgames argues that clubs elsewhere remain a major source of infection.
According to the promoter, Tokyo nightclubs “are among the highest risk spaces in all of Japan”, with owners failing “in their civic duty” to protect patrons and the wider public. “[I]f this clueless government fails in its duty to shut them down, it is our civic responsibility to take action and demand that these clubs close now to protect the health of us all,” the letter reads.
“Tricked into complacency, almost all the major Tokyo clubs are still running like normal, causing a huge public risk”
Read Mindgames’ open letter, dated 16 March, in full below:
The world has entered a state of war with an enemy who is fast and ruthless. The numbers around the world are increasing with incredible speed, yet Japan still does not enough. […] This is just the beginning.
Unlike every other Asian country that is successfully attacking the disease – Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore and China – Japan is not operating an aggressive testing and quarantine program.
Japan has also not been blocking flights or requiring self-quarantine for visitors from Europe or America, the two greatest spreading vectors in the world now. Because of a suicidal delusion that the Olympics can still happen, [prime minister Shinzo] Abe’s administration doesn’t want to report large numbers.
Tricked into complacency, almost all the major Tokyo clubs are still running like normal, causing a huge public risk for every person in this city. Clubs are extremely dangerous because they are small enclosed spaces with poor ventilation, lots of people close to each other and shared toilets. Plus lots of drunk people not acting carefully with regards to hygiene.
The epicentre of the outbreak is now Europe and America, and clubs are a popular and obvious gathering spot for tourists from abroad. Since the government is not blocking flights or asking visitors to self quarantine yet, there are more virus carriers arriving every day. And local transmission has obviously already begun.
Since spreading can happen asymptotically, young people who don’t even know they are sick can spread the disease to others, causing tragic outbreaks all across the city.
All these factors combine to make Tokyo clubs and bars among the HIGHEST risk spaces in all of Japan. They must all SHUT DOWN. And clubs all across Japan should also follow.
If these club managers and owners fail so horribly in their civic duty to close temporarily, and if this clueless government fails in its duty to shut them down, it is our civic responsibility to take action and demand that these clubs close now to protect the health of us all. Write to them and tell them how you feel.
I beg you large clubs and bars across Japan, please close for a few weeks like most gyms, museums, and other public spaces have done. The economics are brutal, I know, but we are all in this together. And this is not the time to focus on short-term, local economic issues.
We must focus our efforts on preserving the society, economy, and public health of Japan as a whole.