Thema: A Message to Visual Kei Fans (by Nathan Reaven, president of HearJapan) Sa Apr 03, 2010 7:28 pm
Keine Ahnung ob es irgendjemand interessiert, oder jemand sich die Mühe macht es durchzulesen, aber es ist ein interessanter Blick hinter die Kulissen über Verkaufszahlen, den Effekt illegaler Downloads, etc.
Hab mir bis jetzt nicht die Mühe gemacht den Text zu übersetzen .. also vorerst nur in Englisch .. mal sehen ob mich irgendwann die Lust packt es noch zu übersetzen oder irgendwer Interesse daran hat. Ansonsten im Großen und Ganzen ist der Text relativ verständlich.
A Message To Visual Kei Fans
This is a personal letter to the tens of thousands of visual kei fans in the world from me, Nathan Reaven, the president of HearJapan. This is the first time I have addressed fans in a personal matter, but I am doing so now because I feel this issue that I will describe later is very important and can not be ignored. I originally had the dream to start HearJapan 5 years ago because as a Japanese music fan myself, it was incredibly frustrating for me to get Japanese music (especially in those days). I wanted to correct the situation and make it easy to get a hold of Japanese music no matter where in the world you were so I studied my ass off and started a 5 year journey to make HearJapan. I thought I was up to a brilliant idea because the fanbase of Japanese music was growing rapidly and bands were finally starting to go abroad and connect with their fans. This trend was particularly strong with visual kei, so I decided to create a store that focused on visual kei. Imagine my surprise when every other genre on the stores initial offering was outselling visual kei by margins of 5 to 1. I asked myself why were there tens thousand fans for a particular band outside of Japan and the band would only sell a few albums. Meanwhile, other artists on our site would sell dozens of copies even though I couldn’t find any substantial fan base for those particular bands on the internet.
Eventually, I discovered that the only way to sell visual kei music at all was through a hard push before the release came out and on the release date itself. After the release date the music simply won’t sell at all. The reason for this is simple and without a doubt uploads that do not have the permission of the bands, labels or anyone who invested time and money into the music itself. The reason why it’s impossible to sell visual kei after it’s initial release date is because there are many users on the internet who take pride and joy in offering other visual kei fans the music to download for free and more importantly without the permission of the rights holders (artists, artist managers, label owners, copyright societies, photographers, etc).
It is not just downloads from HearJapan that are effected. I have also seen the CD export data for some visual kei bands and unfortunately it follows the same dismal pattern. This letter is not about losses which HearJapan has incurred because other genres of music more than make up for it. In this letter, I want to explain the consequences this has on not only the artists themselves but the end result you the fan will be left with.
I have to talked to many visual kei bands and labels (many of which are not on HearJapan) and they all tell me the same thing. They were so hopeful because of all the foreign fans visiting their website or MySpace page but when they made an attempt to provide their music to these fans they suffered major losses. To provide a clear example for this letter I will use the example of XodiacK, whom HearJapan just released their 1st single on January 1st of this year.
First, I will tell you some background information. When the band was forming they came to me because they wanted to try a new approach. Instead of focusing only on playing in live houses in Japan and slowly building up a loyal following of fans, they wanted to focus primarily outside of Japan while still playing in Japan. They were really interested in getting their music out to fans outside of Japan and touring internationally. I thought this was great as it’s the opposite of 99% of bands that I meet. Outside of Japan is normally intimidating and simply something they don’t understand. To make matters worse, from their various connections in the Japanese music industry, they have never heard of a case of an attempt that didn’t end up bankrupting someone.
As a way to build up fans, I suggested they offer their first song free of charge so that there would be no commitment from visual kei fans around the world and it would be a good litmus test. So before the band made any official debut, we released their first single on HearJapan for free to anyone who was willing to download. The single was downloaded from HearJapan over 500 times and much more than that from all the fans who uploaded it to a zillion other sites. With any band, of course there were some people who didn’t like it, but overall the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. During the first two weeks almost every visual kei blog or message board were talking about the single and many users said they couldn’t wait for the next one. Before even making a debut or anyone really knowing anything about the band, they gathered over 500 friends on myspace and over 200 people who actively listened to the band on Last.FM.
Meanwhile the band was preparing for their official debut. In my personal experience of reading posts about the effects of downloading this is usually the part that I don’t hear. The band members themselves spent over $10,000 US dollars preparing for their debut. What could possibly end up costing that much? Well being a visual kei band is the most expensive kind of band to be. Custom costumes alone cost a few thousand. They had to rent rehearsal space to practice many times a week costing 100 dollars each time. They had to pay money up front to play at various live houses in Japan. They had to lease a studio and hire a recording engineer to professionally record the three songs so you the listener would be happy with the quality. They had to get a photoshoot done and hire a professional photographer. For the photoshoot they need a makeup artist and need to buy all the makeup themselves. When you need to be in makeup more than a few times a week it begins to cost a lot of money! Any band in Japan has to pay a lot of money to be active, but visual kei bands have to pay the most, especially when their fans expect a new look with every other release.
The reason why I am using XodiacK as an example is because their debut release was only sold through HearJapan. There is no legroom to say “I purchased the CD” or the numerous excuses that are often made but in many cases hold up to not be true. Finally there is irrefutable evidence that uploads of the album kill sales. It is also irrefutable to say that the no one knew about the release. All of the band’s MySpace friends were contacted, all the bands listeners on Last.FM were contacted, posts were made about the new release and the band itself on the majority of the most popular visual kei related blogs, websites and message boards. The price was also incredibly cheap and came with over 100 megabytes of bonus material to please the fans. What happened?
The first few hours of release, the numbers of releases sold could be counted on both hands. Then there were two more sales and it completely stopped. From all the feedback on dozens of message boards and blogs, there were at least a hundred people saying how great it was and how awesome it was. I checked the listening now section of XodiacK’s page on Last.FM (which lists 10 users who had most recently listened to a particular band). All 10 users had listened to XodiacK in the past hour and every time I checked there were different listeners. This means that at any given hour there were more people who were listening to the release on just one site than had even bought it in total. No matter what site I went to, there were more people talking about how great it was and that they had even purchased the release (even though that number exceeded total purchases). Therefore, it can not be said that there wasn’t interest, the band sucked or the word didn’t get out.
The reason the sales didn’t do well was for one simple reason. One or more of the users uploaded the release to hosting sites and everyone else downloaded from there. It only took a few hours to kill any chance the band had on selling any decent amount of music to partially make up for all the money they spent trying to please the fans. In total I found the release uploaded to 9 sites, and it was probably uploaded to many more as well. From there everyone else downloaded it thinking they had done no wrong. As sales had completely stopped, as an experiment we decided to take down all the download links. What happened? Sales started again briefly only to be stopped once the files were re-uploaded. Who gets screwed? I’m alright. Did I take a loss in getting all the band information translated accurate, on man hours encoding, tagging, promoting, and numerous phone calls with the band to make sure everything was accurate and just the way the band wanted it? Yes. But my loss is insubstantial to the loss incurred on the band themselves. Would you want to continue doing something if you put all your energy, time and money into something and everyone told you you’re great and awesome but in the end you just get pissed on? I certainly wouldn’t.
This is not the case of just XodiacK, but every single Visual Kei band. My main job is to go around to many different artists and labels and try to get them on the site. So I talk to a huge number of artists and labels on a weekly basis. I also talk regularly with promoters of visual kei concerts and artists overseas and labels of visual kei music overseas. I have a pretty big picture of what is happening over the whole professional landscape and everyone tells me the exact same thing. It didn’t matter if the person was the band manager, the artist, the promoter, etc. This is the default response: “For the band that I worked with, we tried to bring them overseas, but no one would pay for the music….. we lost a lot of money.” I’ve heard many times from band leaders, “Our listener base just kept on expanding and expanding. Our sales never did. When I’d check my MySpace page I was flooded with messages saying how great our new release was and I always wonder why didn’t you buy it then?” Why do you think when bands go abroad you have to buy the CD or pay an absurd amount to get a signature of the band or a picture with them? From a band manager’s perspective, “the only way we could sell copies of our CD was to coerce the fans into buying it. I couldn’t believe it. That is unheard of in Japan and an additional stress for a band that is already stressed out from preparing for this for a long time.” Also, why do 90% of bands only play at anime conventions? Because if they sold a ticket price at 10 dollars, and even sold out the venue, they wouldn’t make up the cost of airfare and touring expenses. If they raised the price, than fans would say they were trying to rip them off and wouldn’t come. Anime conventions will typically pay a portion of the airfare and hotel rooms for the band to come over and play. For some reason paying $40 to a convention plus another $30 for a close seat is ok, but paying directly to the band is extortion. Why do most bands who come over once don’t come back for many more years? It’s simple, if you lose a lot of money going abroad, and you want to go abroad again you have to raise the money from Japanese fans to go over again. As mentioned before, even running the most bare bones visual kei band will cost a lot of money. Unless the band does extraordinarily good in Japan, chances are they won’t come back for a long time and their album sales from abroad aren’t helping in that effort either.
In the long run, everyone loses. Of course there are bands that do come over often, but that just means that someone has deep pockets or they have found a way to reach non-visual kei fans. I know for most visual kei music it’s incredibly difficult to find a place to buy it and equally expensive. But when a band makes an effort to connect with you the fans through HearJapan, a domestic release, an international tour, etc, you need to show your support with your wallet, otherwise your voice will never be heard.
Occasionally this topic does come up on message boards. I hear a plethora of excuses as to why this isn’t a problem. One often cited example is that it’s too expensive. Was 428 yen too expensive? HearJapan has cut the cost of buying Japanese music in half while keeping the artists and labels happy. While some people might not want to pay for mp3s, the price is affordable and we try to add extra bonuses. There are also domestic releases that are the same price as any other CD that also don’t sell. Another reason I often hear is that it takes too long to get there. I know this is a problem with import sites and most domestic releases in the past, but HearJapan sells everything at midnight of the release date in Japan and the download only takes a few minutes. I don’t see a reason why that would dissuade people from buying XodiacK’s new release. Another frequently used excuse is, “Dir En Grey thinks it’s ok and now they are incredibly successful.” The reason they are successful is because they didn’t rely on foreign visual kei fans to support them. They instead tried to reach the average music consumer who has no clue what visual kei is and doesn’t know that it’s very easy to download for free.
However, the biggest excuse I hear for why this isn’t a problem is, “I’m introducing the band to more and more fans. I’m helping the band by creating more friends.” This is merely a half truth. All the downloads I see being passed around are from jrock fans to jrock fans. I’m sure why people try to convert the unconverted, but sending from jrock fans to jrock fans is NOT helping the bands in anyway. No new fans are being made. The only thing that is happening is that you are killing any chance the band has of seeing any money from the album they worked so hard to make because every existing fan of the band can get it for free and does. There is absolutely no reason to spread the release of a band that already has over 10,000 fans outside of Japan. I am well aware of the fact that the fanbase has increased due to these downloads. But I am also aware of the fact that album sales aren’t increasing at all. If you want to introduce someone to a band they have never heard of before, simply send them a song or link them to a YouTube clip. Just don’t immediately kill any chance an artist has right off the bat.
PS – This post is not aimed at the users who legally purchased this release and did not upload it to public places. Your support is greatly appreciated
Werde bei Gelegenheit (wenn ich ihn selbst mal durchgeackert habe) vielleicht auch noch einen anderen Text posten, der auch sehr interessant ist, und auch ein wenig die Hintergründe und Machenschaften der Visual Szene beschreibt ...
A Message to Visual Kei Fans (by Nathan Reaven, president of HearJapan)