entertainment

Japanese music stores engage in war of words over idol handshake events

30 Comments
By Casey Baseel, RocketNews24

Has music become nothing more than extra content for idol handshake events?

Media consumers in Japan may be more set in their ways than their counterparts in the West, but even still, there have been some big changes in the Japanese music industry over the last 10 years. By far the most significant has been the return of idol groups to the top of the sales charts, as the multi-vocalist units enjoy more success than they ever have before in Japan.

Critics have long grumbled that idol fans are more enthralled by the performers’ looks and personas than their actual singing skill, and that complaint feels even more valid these days. Many idol CDs owe their position at the top of the charts to a clever marketing ploy in which each disc comes with a raffle ticket for a chance at prizes, the most coveted of which is being able to shake hands with the idols at a fan appreciation event. Obviously, the more CDs you buy, the greater your chance to win that coveted right to press palms, and so idol group superfans regularly shell out for multiple copies of new releases.

But while that’s great for idol groups and their production companies, Disc Union, a Japanese retail chain that sells both new and used CDs, seems to think this phenomena is going too far, as evidenced by one of its recent ads.

The Japanese text translates as: "Is music just the extra content you get with a handshake? Music doesn’t exist so that you can squeeze someone’s hand. It exists to shake your heart."

On one hand, you could call this a powerful plea for music to get back to its original purpose of stirring the emotions through sound alone. But on the other hand, calling out handshake events as running counter to what music is supposed to be about is sort of biting the hand that feeds the Japanese music industry, at least as far as physical media sales are concerned.

Meanwhile, rival chain Tower Records has a much more accepting view of modern idol culture, which it unabashedly trumpets in an ad of its own that features a variant of Tower’s “No music, no life” slogan in Japan.

"Music is the extra content you get with a handshake. What’s wrong with music being the extra content you get with a handshake? After all, handshakes shake people’s hearts too."

It’s worth noting that while both chains are in the business of selling CDs, Tower Records stands to benefit a bit more from idol fans’ love of seeing their, well, idols, in person. Compared to Disc Union locations, Tower Records shops tend to be more spacious, often with areas set aside for mini concerts or meet-and-greet sessions. You may not see A-list musicians there, but Tower Records regularly hosts up-and-coming musicians, budding idol singers included, so if it can help promote new acts, put a smile on their fans’ faces, and sell a few CDs in the process, the company doesn’t seem to be all that concerned whether people are coming in to hear a song or to shake a hand.

Source: Jin

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- AKB48 fan shows his love the only way he knows how: By buying $300,000 worth of CDs -- Japan overwhelmingly favors CDs to digital music -- Idol ordered to pay management company 650,000 yen after going to hotel with male fan

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30 Comments
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1st comment! And, nobody cares!

-5 ( +4 / -9 )

Japan's music industry is a travesty, a grotesque pantomime that has little to do with music and much to do with manipulation and exploitation. Truly sickening...

14 ( +14 / -1 )

Has music become nothing more than extra content for idol handshake events?

In Japan the music certainly seems to be secondary to other artist/group attributes, pretty much an afterthought.

The reason being is that music here is 'manufactured' by the salarymen working for Japan's tarento jimusho (talent offices/agencies) whose control over the 'talent' is all-encompassing, even down to their love lives. Needless to say, that is not a very good environment for inspiring art.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

“Music is the extra content you get with a handshake. What’s wrong with music being the extra content you get with a handshake? After all, handshakes shake people’s hearts too.”

Well, the 'music' certainly doesn't...

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Sex sells. Salariman love young girls in short skirts, get obsessed and then they can get a chance to touch their idols they will buy buy buy, its disgusting but clever marketing.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

idol fans are more enthralled by the performers’ looks and personas than their actual singing skill

Well, yeah. Singing skill is not a requirement for this kind of 'entertainment'.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Japanese music business is really bad that is really true, but... the whole entertainment business, music, video game, etc... is racing to the bottom because of the low value on digital download, it all started with itunes and their 0.99 ridiculous price tag. We have ot face it, it is rather cheaper to do a ton of garbage and watch the one that will stick to the wall than working on quality production.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

If this is what Japan likes, let them have it. This is probably why Japan doesn't have any world famous singer/band. I think being world famous brings in more cash than just an otaku base, but that's just what I think.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Has music become nothing more than extra content for idol handshake events?

Only in Japan.

Sex sells. Salariman love young girls in short skirts, get obsessed and then they can get a chance to touch their idols they will buy buy buy, its disgusting but clever marketing.

And some poster say this has NOTHING to do with the whole jk thing, the compensated dating and sexual exploitation of children. Its like a vicious non-stop circle.

The Music / Entertainment industry knows this.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

If people mainly buy the CDs for the chance of winning a prize the CDs should be classified as lottery tickets and subject to whatever rules apply to the sale of such.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

@Psyops "this is probably why Japan doesn't have any world famous singer/band". Yoshiki from XJapan is repeatly invited as a soloist and with XJapan to play venues across the globe. They only put off their next tour due to Pata's declining health. They were projected to sell out in both New York and London. ONE OK ROCK, Dir en Grey, Miyavi, and even The Gazette have gone on/will be going on world tours. The Gazette has sold out nearly every location they're playing. Visual Kei artists, are known for going on European tours, regularly if not yearly. Babymetal has straddled both the idol and metal charts, going on to sell out solo concerts, and play metal festivals to warm receptions by both idol and metal fans. Even Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and Perfume usually sell out when they go to Europe and America.

To say Japan has no world famous musicians is simply not correct. Are they popular the same way as Western musicians are? No, but they are known globally.

My own personal opinion is that fan mindset needs to change. I like the freebies like posters, or postcards that come with a new cd. It's something I wouldn't otherwise buy for myself. What I dislike are the 'fans' that glare at me for only buying one copy of a cd, while they buy 10+. Not every fan is going to shell out thousands of yen for cds; I'd rather that go to buying a ticket to the concert.

Companies aren't going to cut out the fan engagement. As someone who got to meet their favorite band by one of those 'freebies'; I'm so grateful. It meant the world to me to have my 2 minutes of a photo and chat with my favorite group. It's addictive to do since it feels good to meet them, even if they'll never remember you.

I wish they put limits on how many fan engagement tickets, whether it be photos, hand shakes, whatever, by stating that if you buy X amount, you get only X amount no matter how many stores you go to, or how many editions you buy. But that takes a lot of companies and groups banning together, and the potential revenue lost isn't worth the artist's health to them. Or to limit the events in some other ways so the musicians aren't constantly having to bounce between preforming and engaging the fans in one-on-one.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

"No music no idol — Music is the extra content you get with a handshake. What’s wrong with music being the extra content you get with a handshake? After all, handshakes shake people’s hearts too."

As sacrilegious as this sign is to people who think it is all about the music, its message perfectly reflects the true mindset of today's salaryman-controlled corporate music industry in Japan. This is certainly not the Tower Records I remember in the U.S. from the 1970s.

In August 2015, the original founder of Tower Records, Russ Solomon (now around 90 years old), was asked, "In Japan there are over 80 Tower Records locations still to this day. How does it feel to see the Tower model working over there?" to which he answered, " I couldn’t be prouder. They are doing what we set up and they just kept it going, and like the Japanese always do, they improve on things." I would hate to see Russ's disappointment if he reads this article.

Link to the interview with Russ: http://submergemag.com/featured/russell-solomon/16194/

0 ( +1 / -1 )

If people mainly buy the CDs for the chance of winning a prize the CDs should be classified as lottery tickets

No wonder the Lolicons buy 100's of these "CD's" all at once. How pathetic.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

If the fans enjoy the music/handshake events and the Idol groups and record companies make a profit I do not see the problem. I am a western fan of Japanese Idols and spend several weeks in Japan each year and usually attend many mini-live/handshake events while I am there, usually in Tower Records and HMV stores. Everyone there has a good time and enjoys the music which often is very good.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

Well true, if you are a hard core otaku, you will buy multiple copies of the same CD just to participate in "handshake events", "special prizes", "fan events", etc.. And a lot of Idol Otaku does not care if the idol is not good at singing or not, looks are your best bet if you want to have a lot of fans. I was an Idol Otaku too, but I didn't bought a lot of CD just to join a 5 min talk with your "idol". But I saw a lot of this when I was still active and I agree that if you want to be #1 in the music charts, just put a lot of "special prizes" that comes with the CD and sure you will hit.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Do tickets for J-idol handshake events get sold on Yahoo! Auction?

Just wondering...

If they do get sold there, what's the going rate?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

If they do get sold there, what's the going rate?

Ahhhahaha- Classic!

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

The idol scene may be a travesty, but there ARE musicians out there who are the real thing. Oribe Risa (LiSA) is a Goddess. I have never in my life experienced more powerful music than hers. YUI is also the real deal.

As with the Western music scene, one needs to shift through the chaff to get to the wheat sometimes ;)

0 ( +1 / -1 )

This is probably why Japan doesn't have any world famous singer/band. I think being world famous brings in more cash than just an otaku base, but that's just what I think.

It doesn't really refute the "otaku" angle, but Hatsune Miku is internationally recognized. "She's" the only Japanese singer I can think of that's done car commercials here in the States.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It's like how toys for kids are able to be sold in grocery stores in Japan by putting one stick of gum into the toy package. The candy is supposed to be the reason for it being sold in a grocery store in the first place, but the kids just want the toy. Music, candy; toy, handshake.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

It doesn't really refute the "otaku" angle, but Hatsune Miku is internationally recognized. "She's" the only Japanese singer I can think of that's done car commercials here in the States.

There are a lot of talented artist in Japan if you have time to look for them, they just don't get recognized because the music scene, music shows, top 10 charts are flooded mainly by idols (AKB, Johnny's, etc) because they sell and they get high ratings because of the groups die-hard fans. I am a fan of a group (Don't know is saying the name is ok), all members have raw talent (singing/dancing) but they hardly get attention from music shows, They only perform but when it comes to talk or interviews, they usually don't (especially if AKB is around). They only performed on Music Station one time because if you watch Music Station right now, its like their guest every week are idols. Also I heard that Johnny's controls guesting's on music shows, they don't want other boy-bands to steal the spot light from them.

If you want real music, go and watch street performers. A lot of them are really talented but are often ignored because music labels in Japan wants "cute that sells" than "talent that doesn't".

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Do tickets for J-idol handshake events get sold on Yahoo! Auction?

You read my mind. These type of events attract the auction hounds trying to make a quick buck from the addicts. Same reason why Arashi has tons in their fan club to be able to purchase tickets and make tons of money.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

You read my mind. These type of events attract the auction hounds trying to make a quick buck from the addicts. Same reason why Arashi has tons in their fan club to be able to purchase tickets and make tons of money.

They also sell handshake tickets in Japan in some ticket shops. I saw a shop that sells like 1,000 yen per ticket. Almost half the price of the actual CD. But if you go to 2nd hand stores like "Book off", you could buy newly released CD's for about 500 yen. Because they got a lot of stocks from people who bundle buy for the tickets...

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

For me, the music is incredibly important. Even if the girl group is adorable or the boy group is super sexy, if I don't like the music, I'll have no reason to attend a handshake event. It wouldn't be worth it.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Within the J Entertainment industry, an separated/stand alone, 'Idol genre' chart compiled to reflect marketing strategies, evaluating smart merchandising from the clever, blatant, personally intimate manipulation of “handshake events” to hook in the obsessed 'wota' to buy multiple copies of the same product over and over again..... Yes, No?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Geoff Gillespie:

Not everyone likes your style of music. Not everyone likes mine (eurotrance & some 80s). That's fine. Choice is good. Some may like j-pop. Also, much of travesty can be said of some western music that glorifies sex, drugs, and killing.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

for what it's worth. last april spotify listed the most streamed japanese artists....

1st: Ryuichi Sakamoto 2nd: Joe Hisaishi 3rd : ONE OK ROCK 4th: BABYMETAL 5th: Kyary Pamyu Pamyu 6th: MONO 7th: Nujabes 8th: DJ KRUSH 9th: Utada 10th: Toe 11th: L'Arc-en-Ciel 12th: Dj Okawari 13th: Miyavi 14th Perfume

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Hi Helen Bedd, Interesting, relevant and informative analogy, in all intense and purposes one can't stream a handshake event for free, so undermining the whole process of the marketing strategy.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Honestly, when I see the Oricon chart I am usually disappointed, because it is dominated by idol groups. But I know tons of excellent Japanese artists, and it's such a pity they are less popular than the idol groups. Anyway this fact isn't unique to Japan, except if you think that there are not better artists in the West than Justin Bieber or One Direction. Sadly, mainstream music today sucks. The best artists are way less popular than people with poor talent and skills.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It looks like Tower Records is out competing Disc Union.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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