Sunday, July 3, 2011

Event Announcement: Understanding (and improving) Independent Music in Japan

From The Ground Up: Possibilities and Obstacles for Independents in the Japanese Music Industry

A conversation with Hiroki Sakaida of Pop Group Records

Toukyou Geijitsu Daigaku (Geidai), Kitasenju Campus, Lecture Room 1, 18:30-20:00, Tuesday January 12th

[I've put together a fairly informal event for next week, and I sincerely hope you can attend.  Information follows.]

In 2005 Hiroki Sakaida independently produced and released “Kaikoo,” a DVD chronicling the activities of a group of hip hop and electronic artists in Tokyo.  Building on the huge success of that release, he founded Pop Group records, which has become the home to a wide variety of artists, from hip hop to punk rock and R & B.  Pop Group’s aim and philosophy is to introduce innovative artists with an exploratory spirit into the Japanese mainstream.  With an entrepreneurial ethos and constant eye for new channels that can carry the label’s message, Sakaida has grown the business consistently over the last five years, including establishing the annual Kaikoo festival.

However, considerable obstacles face efforts to operate outside the traditional channels of the Japanese music business.  Many independent artists perceive an “indie glass ceiling,” a limit to success due largely to the cozy relationships between mass channels, such as television, and powerful artist management companies and large labels.  Independent labels such as Zankyou and Rose that have launched the careers of successful artists, but such cases seem comparatively rarer than in, for example, the post-Nirvana U.S. music market, where the route from indie to major is more well-worn.

In an informal conversation format, Sakaida will discuss his experience founding and expanding an independent label in Japan, and consider how infrastructure, policy, and culture have impacted his efforts to champion new aesthetics.  We will attempt to draw lessons from his experience about what changes to these conditions, if any, might make it easier to foster and spread adventurous Japanese popular music.

The conversation will be in Japanese, with English translation available as needed.

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