There are a couple of standard job categories most foreigners working into Japan fall into. You’ll find plenty of English teachers and IT professionals, along with some financial service providers and executive recruiters. A few of the best-looking even end up as models or actors.
But American expat Nelson Babin-Coy is aiming for something a little different: indie rock star.
The bilingual Babin-Coy studied computer science at the University of California–Berkeley before moving to Japan. He now forms half the core of hybrid rock band nothing ever lasts (all lowercase), handling songwriting and singing duties while playing the guitar and, occasionally, piano. Along with bassist Yoshiyuki Koga, Babin-Coy is out to challenge the existing Japanese music industry structure.
“People don’t need JASRAC to enjoy music,” Babin-Coy asserts, referring to the Japanese copyright enforcement organization. “JASRAC doesn’t do anything to help individual artists. All they do is charge broadcast fees. Keep the distribution rights to the music you create, and if it’s used inappropriately, you can take legal action yourself. There’s no need to leave that responsibility to JASRAC.”
The singer goes on to state that he isn’t concerned about the potential for piracy created by leaving copyright protection to musicians with little to no legal experience. On the contrary, he sees illegal downloads as an important tool for reaching a larger audience. “Neal Young said it best: illegal downloads are the radio of the current generation.” Babin-Coy feels the era of musicians making a living by selling physical CDs, let alone something as ethereal as the right to listen to sound waves, is coming to a close. “In the U.S., you hardly ever even see CDs anymore, unless they’re being sold at a show or handed out directly to fans.”
In Babin-Coy’s ideal world, the music itself would be free, serving as a taste of what the musician has to offer and drawing fans to live performances. True to his word, several of nothing ever lasts’ songs are available to stream and download free of charge on the band’s official website.
Taking their altruistic principles one step further, nothing ever lasts decided not to charge admission to one of their recent shows. With albums in Japan routinely costing 3,000 yen, and concert tickets two or three times that, Babin-Coy laments that only pre-existing diehard fans go to see musicians perform live. “We want young people in Japan to realize how fun live music is,” he explains.
But with free downloads and free shows, how do the members of nothing ever lasts plan to put food on the table? Through YouTube ad revenue. “If more people get to know us through our YouTube videos, and more people come to see our free shows, we can build a real fan movement,” says Babin-Coy, who lists his musical influences as Third Eye Blind, The Eagles, and Japanese bands Dragon Ash and Mr Children. The vocalist thinks the days of musicians becoming rich may be just about over, but he’s confident they’ll still be able to earn enough to make ends meet.
Nothing ever lasts hopes that other musicians will follow their lead in shunning JASRAC. “No one else is going to work as hard for your success as you,” Babin-Coy insists. “The only way you’ll make it as an artist is if you step outside of your comfort zone and give it your all.”
Sources: Naver Matome, nothing ever lasts Official Website
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