Amplify Music Communities

Japan
Read Japan's Transcript

Storm Gloor  0:06  

Hello, I’m Storm Gloor with amplifymusic.org and the University of Colorado Denver. And this is another session of Amplify Music Communities. In this program, we travel around the world. It’s an extension of our Amplify Music Conference. And we take a look at various states, regions, cities, countries, and see what’s going on in these music ecosystems. We get together with leaders from these music ecosystems, and today we’re meeting with leaders from the second-largest music market in the world, Japan. We’re going to have a conversation with Apryl Peredo from artists management, that Inter Idoru Management. I’m probably going to stumble over a few of these words for sure. Lauren Rose Kocher from Zaiko where she is the CEO and Founder, and Tak Umezawa, Director of Japan Nighttime Economy Association. Welcome panelists. Hello, good to see you. Okay. We are absolutely on opposite time zones here. So I appreciate you all being here and working with us on that. But, you know, I’m gonna start by asking the most obvious questions that ask you to tell us about your companies and your roles and the area of the music industry in which you work and why don’t we start with Apryl? Will you share that information with us? 

 

Apryl Peredo  1:37  

Oh, sure.I live in Tokyo. And for the past about 10 years, I’ve been working in artist management and offering artists services for management, education, consulting, hooking, label partnering, label or distribution hunting, showcasing publisher connection, and more. Predominantly, I work with domestic Japanese artists. But I also do that for overseas artists who are interested in entering into the Japanese market. And I do help the Japanese artists I work with also go overseas for those markets, if that’s what they’re interested in as well. I think that covers it too. I did work in the US in the music industry before coming here for about seven years and festival organization and radio artist PR. 

 

Storm Gloor  2:32  

Okay. Tak, tell us about you.

 

Tak Umezawa  2:36  

Hi, I’m Tak, based in Tokyo. I am the co-founder and director of JNEA, J-N-E-A, which stands for Japan Nighttime Economy Association. I’m also assuming the role of a Japan Chairman of the global management consultancy, Kearney; as well as director of JNEA. I have lobbied for amending no dancing after midnight law several years ago. And we have supported the music and live entertainment industry since COVID-19 broke out with basically working with the politicians and the government officials to develop rescue packages for infected or for the people affected by the pandemic. Also last year, JNEA, the association, published a Creative Footprint Tokyo with the support of Vibelab. And I also sit on several government committees, including the one for the Japan Tourism Agency on developing strategy for the luxury inbound tourism market.

 

Storm Gloor  3:49  

Hmm. Fantastic. And Lauren, let’s hear about your journey. 

 

Lauren Rose Kocher  3:56  

Hi. Yeah, so I’ve been in Japan for 12 years. I used to work as a concert promoter. And then I spent six years at Sony Music Japan. And two years ago, I founded Zaiko, which is a ticketing platform, and it’s a white label ticketing platform. So it allows artists or festivals, or any event organizer to create their own sort of branded ticketing agency that gives them all the tools they need. And our company had a very big pivot last year with Corona affecting the live industry so terribly, that we shifted to being able to sell tickets to live streams. And so using our system, you could sell a ticket to a real-world event or sell a ticket to a live stream, to a video, online concert, things like that. And so we’ve paid back over 50 million US dollars in the last year to artists who have held concerts online, mostly here in Japan. So, yep, that’s me.

 

Storm Gloor  5:02  

And that’s a nice pivot. Yeah. Well, tell us what is, you know, in terms of getting back to the new normal? Is everyone saying? What do you all see as your biggest challenges? I’ll go back to you, Apryl. What, what do you say are the biggest challenges ahead?

 

Apryl Peredo  5:23  

Well, I think within what I do specifically, I haven’t slowed down. So COVID did not slow down my work, but it weighted what I do differently. So before, I was helping people more plot a tour, domestic artists plotting tours here or overseas or an overseas artist plotting a tour here, obviously, we’re not doing that right now. But what happened is, I was spending less time doing artist education on how to use their social media better, or how to do live streams. And now it’s flipped. So, some local artists still do shows. So that’s not totally out of the realm, but they’re not really going out of the city. They’re just staying within their local areas, doing very small shows, definitely, nobody’s coming in or going out. So less time for that more time for the other. So I think that challenges that I’m facing is more in interaction with artists, trying to educate artists that this may be the new normal, you can’t just wait at home until “Oh, well, I’ll just wait until I can do touring again, then I’ll get some fans, then I’ll release music”. It may not ever be the way it was before. And certainly, it’s going to take some time. So I guess the first obstacle is education of artists as to what they should be doing in order for their growth.

 

Storm Gloor  6:56  

Hmm, I see and Tak. What do you see as the challenges? 

 

Tak Umezawa  7:02  

Well, I see the situation a little bit differently. I believe that Japan has responded to the pandemic too excessively. Considering the degree of damage the COVID-19 has caused Japan, you may know that the number of infected people, cumulatively, is still less than 600,000. And the number of deaths is a little over 10,000 over the year. So the degree of magnitude of the damage is probably about one in 100 compared with the many other advanced countries. But even with that, the government has taken a kind of similar measures to many other countries in Europe and the states.

 

Storm Gloor  8:00  

I see.

 

Tak Umezawa  8:01  

So I would say probably we should try to take a more normal approach to the current situation while looking at the changes in the situation carefully. And we need to change the attitude and mindset of the government. And the government attitude is strongly affected by what the society as a whole thinks, and what the media, mass media presents to the society. So we really need to work on those two fronts, and basically changing the perception and educating them to become more rational about the assessment of the situation.

 

Storm Gloor  8:53  

Very well put that let’s, let’s ask Lauren. What do you see?

 

Lauren Rose Kocher  9:01  

Okay, so I think we’re really finding a balance between people holding events online with a digital component, that they’re also streaming like maybe at reduced capacity, versus a full-on festival, and kind of like searching for the right business model, because there is room to monetize in different ways. But when you cancel an offline event completely, you know, or when you’re forced to not even have it you can’t even plan your business properly. So I think it’s really like finding this balance and when the government is sending kind of mixed messages over Okay, can 50% of people gather? Is it up to the organizer? Is it up to the venue? Like, are people going to attack the artist if they have a show for being irresponsible? You know, I think some of that needs to be I wish there was like stages about you know, okay, we’re going back to this we’re going back to this and kind of agreed-upon rules because our clients have a lot of time planning their events, whether it’s like, you know, can we even gather to make money Live Stream? Or is that too many people in a room? You know. And so we see our clients like really kind of struggling to find the right way to have a show. And they don’t seem to get a lot of guidance on that. And I think that’s some, like a challenge that we need to figure out.

 

Storm Gloor  10:19  

Okay. Well, let’s, let’s take a further look ahead beyond 2021. And let’s take an optimistic look at this now. And think about what successes that you think will make the biggest difference in the music economy there in Japan. I’m asking you, again, putting on the crystal ball or, you know, going out on the edge and saying what might happen that will be the biggest successes that will help the economy there. Apryl, you want to take a stab at that?

 

Apryl Peredo  10:52  

Oh, sure. Well, for me, again, in artist management, I think something that would help the country’s music economy is less government support, or I don’t know, say less government support of anime music and idol groups. And putting more of that or increasing their support of regular rock, pop, Neo, soul, other genres at present. Japan seems very interested in sharing the pop culture of anime music, game music, and idol groups. But for a regular rock group, pop group, or some other genre, the assistance or support that they can get is quite limited. And in some cases, they feel that there is none. I know some large major artists have spoken out about this as well, because they may be major here rock groups, but they get nothing, no assistance in export, as it were from the government and doing it on their own. So I do think that that could be something to look at, is maybe leveling, like some support to all genres. And instead of weighting it for kind of pop culture, anime culture would be good. And I also think that more, maybe, sister city partnerships could help. So for instance, so recently, I have been talking to my hometown of Memphis as a Memphis export music committee. So the idea of partnering, bring Memphis artists here, bring Tokyo artists there. Same way I do with an agency in Kuala Lumpur and an agency in Bangkok, some more of these partnering agencies where each side supports the other in their export/import type of methods. I think that that would work. That’s all I can think of, for now, I may think of something.

 

Storm Gloor  12:46  

Well, if you think of something else, just chime right in. And, and in the meantime, I’ll ask Tak, what he thinks about that.

 

Tak Umezawa  12:54  

Well, I would say vaccines for everybody. And, uh, once vaccines become available, probably customers are more ready to come back to the offline events. As I said earlier, we have responded too excessively to the situation, but still, probably, the fear remains among maybe a majority of the customers of who were used to going to large, large events, but not any longer. So that’s one thing. And the other thing is a better system or industrialized system to allow DJs to perform online and monetize it. Like many other countries, artists and DJs are shifted online last spring. And there have been so many online performance events, but not many of them have monetized them sufficiently. So there are so many free online events. And also, the country lacks the industry-wide system to get the clearance for the use of songs, published songs for DJs. So it’s really hard for them to make money out of playing somebody else’s songs. That’s an issue we really need to fix.

 

Storm Gloor  14:42  

Yeah, for sure. And we might come back to that in a few seconds here with another question I’ll have but for now, Lauren, what do you see in your crystal ball looking at the future? 

 

Lauren Rose Kocher  14:53  

I was gonna say I agree with Tak. Yeah. I mean, I think. Yeah, the everyone’s forced online and the digital infrastructure around events, you know, there’s certain things, there’s a ticketed online event. There’s tipping, there’s interactions you can have. There’s a variety of ways to monetize, you could buy HD audio, for example, through us, things like that. But I think that we’re just getting started. And so there’s a lot of ways to kind of build up this digital infrastructure to strengthen like the event industry or artists activities. And the best thing about performing online and unfortunately, the monetization changes the business model, but one really good thing is that anyone from around the world can join. So you do kind of open up globally because you can have people around the world joining this live performance. And so if there was better monetization tools, and also like, either industry-wide or government level support for digital marketing initiatives too, where the main promotion vehicle for Japanese artists or labels, say, is going to be online, instead of what it used to be, which is maybe, you know, finding someone to distribute your music in Europe or so I mean, that’s still super, super important. There’s nothing more important than that. But there’s a whole suite of digital tools you can use to promote artists globally. And having that like industry-wide, or government-wide support for Japanese artists to get that reach, I think would be a huge, huge, interesting development in the industry as a whole.

 

Apryl Peredo  16:35  

I, you know, there are certainly platforms to be used to be monetizing. But in my experience, I find a lot of artists, unless they’re a major label, a lot of artists are nervous to use them. So they can monetize through showroom, or they can monetize through niconico. But again, if they aren’t major label, they’re very hesitant to ask for money to be online, they have this kind of mental attitude that I should only charge if it’s in person, or a physical product, if it’s just me online, maybe nobody’s going to pay. So again, maybe also in addition to better platforms that they can use, but also the mindset that you’re putting out a creative endeavor. So whether it’s live or a physical product or online, go ahead and monetize it.

 

Tak Umezawa  17:31  

Yeah, I mean, as Lauren explained earlier, without going global, it’s really hard to get on the similar level of revenues from a series of online performances. Let’s think about a famous rock band. A rock band will go tour doing maybe 30 concerts at 30 different cities, if the focus is offline events, if they shift perfectly online, they can do only one or two online performances. And that said, and they may be able to get about the same number of customers, but they cannot charge the same ticket price. That means reduced revenue for a one season. So if you go, you go global and develop a new customer base outside of the country, it will give you a new opportunity. But without doing that, it’s still a difficult situation for them.

 

Storm Gloor  18:38  

Yeah, the math just doesn’t work out. I get that. Yeah. While we’re on the subject of artists. In a sense, I think I said I’d come back to Tak’s comment earlier in a sense, I probably already know the answer to some of this. But can, you can, thinking of the artists, can you think of any other initiatives that would support them directly? In moving forward? And, you know, I’ll make this a two-part question too. Were there any existing issues, pre-pandemic that still remain that need to be fixed for artists? And I’ll just let anyone who wants to take a stab at that reply.

 

Tak Umezawa  19:23  

Well, let me go first. We didn’t have a safety net for artists who work as a freelancer. So even before the pandemic, their life is not, was not necessarily an easy one for many of them. And COVID-19 situation gave really serious damage, 80% of all the revenues from our events were gone last year. So that affected many artists as well as lighting and sound engineers working at those venues. So that was the challenge they were faced with even before the COVID. But had the serious damage due to the COVID.

 

Storm Gloor  20:16  

Okay, anyone else want to address that question?

 

Apryl Peredo  20:20  

I guess I’m thinking sometimes kind of grassroots on the ground or certain venue families. So they are kind of banding together rather than competing and banding together to host events with very low initial cost to the artists so that they can perform. Because it’s helpful to both, I mean, if you can get people in, like 25% capacity in, and do a live stream, everybody can share the income. And I’m seeing more and more small daily venues, doing collaborative events with other venues that normally would be their competitor. But they are working together to say, oh, okay, let’s open up the space as free rehearsal space during the day. And then at night, instead of an organizer having to pay x, as the rental rate, we’re gonna do 25% of that rate, and then do a different juggling of the tickets, percentage-wise. So I think the community from like the indie or small label standpoint, the community itself is coming together and making their own initiatives to support themselves.

 

Storm Gloor  21:35  

It is very interesting to hear and a great perspective. Apryl, thank you. Lauren you can take a pass or you could respond to that either way.

 

Lauren Rose Kocher  21:46  

Sure. I’ll jump in. I mean, I think to tie the two comments together. Oh, there we go. We do that. Yeah, I mean, thinking about, like community support structures and how many, whether artists or audio engineers, or lighting designers are freelance, and that when you have an emergency and government help, so much of it is limited to organizations with like, the ability and history to do all this paperwork. And it’s like, how do you support an individual, you know, doing their best that doesn’t necessarily have like institutional backing in terms of a big promoter or a big label. And so I think that’s really been highlighted around this. It’s like, okay, individuals coming together, communities coming together, can we make room in the initiatives for those people, because that really is like the backbone of where something like music comes from, you know, it doesn’t come from like a major label. It comes from a collection of individuals, you know, 90% of the time, so. So yeah, I think that’s really something important to highlight.

 

Storm Gloor  22:49  

Thanks for bringing those ideas together. So let’s shift from artists to the stakeholders for you all in your individual positions with your own companies. As far as your stakeholders, what are their priorities? Short term, long term, however, you want to take a look at it? What are their highest priorities right now? And I’ll let anyone jump in on that one, too.

 

Apryl Peredo  23:17  

Okay, so I guess I have different stakeholders from artists and venues I work with, but just speaking of artists, any major artist I work with, most of them have invested their money fairly wisely. So this is not going to put them on the street. So that’s not their concern. Their concern is not “Can I pay rent?” Or “can I buy food today?”, but maintaining the connection with the audience, and of course, making some income. So a lot of their priorities are how to restructure what they usually did. So if you’re an artist that’s usually performing in an arena, restructuring your show setup, and how you do things, to say, instead of doing one show for 12,000 people, we’re going to need to do three shows for 5000 people. So how do we streamline our show? How do we use less equipment? How do we change our lighting? So it’s a lot of priority and planning on that. And for small artists, of course, it’s you know how to grow as usual. Again, educating on Yes, you should do a live stream, whether it’s for pay or not, you should be doing something skilling up their social media because a lot of artists have thought social media was just, announce the show, not really as an engagement type of thing. So doing that, and the venues, I think as a stakeholder, their key is to keep from closing down. So I think they are trying to adapt again through joining with other venues and sharing some audience or shows and making kind of the no audience or low audience live that also has the live stream component different ticket prices based on the two things. And unfortunately, they do have to lower their staff a bit, but you know, hanging in there. So I think their priorities are just staying open. And when it comes to that. 

 

Tak Umezawa  25:19  

Yeah, staying alive. 

 

Apryl Peredo  25:21  

Exactly. Because if you can stay alive until we get some vaccines, and more people can move about more freely. And maybe there’s some rational decisions like, Okay, let’s go to 40% capacity, let’s go to 60% capacity, etc, then you can move forward, but you got to stay afloat until then.

 

Tak Umezawa  25:42  

Yeah, I think just to give some additional explanation to the venue situation, the government has implemented a program to support the venues, music venues. And for the period of shortened operating hours, clubs and restaurants have been compensated up to $15,000 per month. So it was sufficient for small venues and small restaurants, but not sufficient at all, for large clubs. So relatively large clubs and large restaurants have closed down quickly. And now, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has amended that program a little bit. So the upper limit has been increased, but still, the largest ones cannot sustain with that level of support. And the Industry Association, the Association of Music Clubs, lobbying together with us for more support financial support, but I think we should rather take a different approach, which is, which is convincing the society and the government to go back to normal, rather than trying to develop a patchwork remedy programs for those affected venues and affected companies? Because it’s, it’s limitless if we keep doing this. So I would say, you know, staying alive is the first priority and to do so we should really try to get back to normal as we get more vaccines.

 

Storm Gloor  27:37  

Thank you for that added comment, Tak. Lauren, anything to add?

 

Lauren Rose Kocher  27:42  

No, I mean, I think Apryl and Tak covered about all of it, you know, even though we’ve pivoted to live streams, our clients are festival organizers, and venues, and event organizers. And if they can’t keep the doors open, you know, what will happen to all those events that we sell tickets for? You know, we’re really, really concerned, especially with the festivals where they have this big gamble once a year. And it’s like, Okay, well, let’s skip last year, do we skip this year too? How many years are we waiting? And how many people’s, you know, livelihoods are at risk? And so, yeah, really staying alive sounds like the key issue to me, too. 

 

Storm Gloor  28:22  

That’s our theme tonight. Or today for you all, tonight for me. But anyway. So this is a question for Apryl. Apryl, you know, what is your community-level government done to boost music? And what do you think they’ll be doing in 2021? And beyond?

 

Apryl Peredo  28:45  

Oh, well, I can’t really guess what they’ll do beyond. We can hope. But, yeah, some of the different Ward areas have small art program grants that they did not have before, that they’re doing that to support artists to support kind of community festivals again, but the venues are collaborating the kind of Ward is supporting that. Also, previously, the Wards were not, you know, they were not interested in promoting live house events. They did not, you know, they cared about their own events that were held at the City Hall. So like the orchestra or whatever was performing there, they would promote that, but they did not promote other things. So I have seen, for instance, in my own community, the actual City Hall is now promoting live house events on website, posters, and stuff that they did not do before. They are also hosting live house events sometimes so they’re paying the rent to a venue and then having artists perform. Which was something that, that they didn’t do before they, they had their own kind of performance hall, which is, you know, again for classical music or jazz perhaps. So they didn’t step outside the realm of say, I don’t want to say, of, of typeless music or whatever we want to call it. But now they’re stepping into rock or supporting their local musicians by actually renting a venue, putting on a small fest of their own, that is incorporating all the different genres and, and helping with that, and then giving the artists suggestions of where they can go for assistance for what venue and how to promote and things like that. Doing even educational programs on-site at the City Hall office to musicians of how to promote your event, how to do live streaming, what you need to do just set up. 

 

Storm Gloor  30:58  

Wow, that is so fascinating. 

 

Apryl Peredo  31:01  

I can’t say that all of them are doing that I just know that some of them are 

 

Storm Gloor  31:04  

Some of them. Okay, well, still, that’s very fascinating. Tak, what public policies, you know, when, as you work with your government, what public policies have you been advocating for? and Lauren, as well? Any, any in particular? 

 

Tak Umezawa  31:23  

Yeah, we have been working on basically three things. Number one is providing better rescue program for venues in particular. And number two, are working with the Recording Industry Association with Japan to develop a kind of pilot platform where DJs can perform and publish songs without pre-authorization. And number three, which is the hardest one is safety net programs, our new safety net program for artists. And we are thinking about something like the one in Germany, where social insurance premiums paid 50% by individual artists 30% by event promoters, and 20% by the government. We don’t know yet if it’s going to take off. But that’s the kind of thing we should be really working hard to develop going forward.

 

Storm Gloor  32:30  

Oh, fantastic initiative.

 

Apryl Peredo  32:35  

As I’m sure it’s thanks to JNEA. But initially when COVID hit and many venues were having to close completely for a while trying to apply for grants for small business relief. A lot of live houses couldn’t get them because the government wasn’t supporting them then. And I know that friends that manage venues, they were doing crazy things like they were going to Costco to buy cases of chips, and soda, so that they could say that their venue was also a restaurant, because that was the only way they could get relief as well. If you’re a restaurant that has music, we’ll help you. But if you’re just a music venue, not so important. But at this point, many venues are now able to apply for some of that support without faking that they are also having a restaurant menu. So I think that that’s been good. Thank you, Tak. 

 

Storm Gloor  33:37  

Yes, Lauren, anything to add to that? 

 

Lauren Rose Kocher  33:40  

Sure. I mean, you know, we’re on the platform side. So we’re, you know, a monetization tool and a private company. And we don’t do a ton of lobbying. But I would say we do make an effort for whether it’s, there’s a program called GoToEvent here that the government does, that gives 20% discounts to purchasers but pays that money to organizers upfront, but actually, the ticketing companies pay that money upfront. There’s a lot of paperwork involved and things like that. And we support, spend a lot of resources supporting that. So there’s like a little extra cash going to these event organizers. And we also, there’s another program called j LOD which will help with event planning and cover production budgets. And we put together a lot of paperwork that people need for those applications. So we’re really trying to help these like smaller, you know, sort of organizers or venues with limited resources, have everything they need to take advantage of these programs. So kind of a paperwork machine or what you want to call it. But yeah, we try to do our part to make sure that everything because we’re not going to get any, we’re a ticketing company, so we don’t get any funds, but we help them get as much as they possibly can so that we can all just keep going. So, yeah.

 

Storm Gloor  35:00  

Fantastic. Well, you all are doing such fascinating things. And you all are doing so much for Japan’s music ecosystem. I really appreciate you all sharing your experiences and what you’re facing as you plow the road ahead. Is there anything else as we draw this conversation to a close? Is there anything else any of you would like to add? We’re good. 

 

Apryl Peredo  35:29  

Thank you for having us. 

 

Lauren Rose Kocher  35:30  

Yeah. Thank you. 

 

Tak Umezawa  35:31  

Thank you. 

 

Storm Gloor  35:36  

Our pleasure, our pleasure. And with that, again, we’ll bring it to a close. And I just want to thank all the listeners for checking out this version of the amplify music communities session, as we’ve taken a look again at the second biggest music market in the world in Japan. And you can learn more about our programs at amplifymusic.org/communities, and subscribe to our podcast feed for even more episodes as we look at other cities, states, countries, and regions. And thank you very much.

Our Japan Speakers

Apryl Peredo

Apryl Peredo

Founder, Inter Idoru; Managing Partner, Fuchsia; Area Coordinator, GoGirls Tokyo

Tak Umezawa

Tak Umezawa

Japan Chairman, A.T. Kearney; Chairperson, Cambridge Innovation Center; Director, Japan Nighttime Economy Association (JNEA)

Lauren Rose Kocher

Lauren Rose Kocher

COO & Founder, Zaiko

 

 

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