Last Saturday after the outdoor portion of J-Pop Summit Festival day one ended in San Francisco's Japantown, NEW PEOPLE Cinema ran a free program of music videos from Japan called Tokyo Freshly Squeezed. The 23 videos were selected and presented by MUSIC ON! TV, a satellite cable music channel in Japan under Sony Music Group. After the last video ended, I caught up with producer Jun Hosoya to get some insight into how the project came together. This interview was conducted in Japanese.
A little background on Jun: He was at Ki/oon Records for seven years before moving to MUSIC ON! TV and has worked with artists such as DENKI GROOVE, RYUKYUDISKO, and BEAT CRUSADERS. His focus at M-ON! now is events, such as this one, with the goal of introducing J-pop overseas.
Do you think you could kind of compare M-ON! to MTV a little bit? There are probably lots of J-pop fans outside of Japan who are not familiar with your channel.
MTV is the most famous, and we can't surpass that, but MTV's mission is showing American music to Asia. We have MTV Japan, too, but it's not really about Japanese subculture, idols, visual-kei. M-ON! does idols, visual-kei, subculture—we do anything! But you can only see it in Japan right now, so we want to try to introduce the culture. This Tokyo Freshly Squeezed event is a try at that.
Was this the first one?
Yes, and it's not necessarily the case that what is interesting in Japan is interesting overseas, so we wanted to pick from a lot of genres to fill this short time. And we did that survey to find out what worked or what didn't. Then we can give that feedback to the Japanese labels.
And then, music videos, you can see them for free, right? So instead of that—for instance, you can see them on YouTube for free, but there are so many on YouTube that you need curation. In the first place, people who already like J-Pop, maybe they don't need it, but for the people who maybe aren't into it yet, we want to curate and package it in an easy to understand way. So for that reason we made the pamphlet with the profile and artist URL. That way you can look up the artists you like afterwards, or buy them on iTunes, watch again on YouTube, etc. If this program is the reason you end up getting to know a Japanese artist, that's great!
And, for you to see it in such a great theater, we got the masters from the labels, made high quality digital copies, and remastered all the audio to make sure it's theater quality. If you do that, the musicians and people making the music are happy, and the people who are watching will think, "Wow, it's different from watching on YouTube or on my phone!"
How did you select the songs?
Well, we picked from idol, visual-kei, dance music, and pop, rock, Nico Nico Douga artists—basically artists who released something recently. The videos are high quality and interesting. It's sort of hard to explain, but we also had to go with videos that we could get permission to screen. Also, we wanted videos with a story, or animation, or maybe a little vulgarity.
To do promotion in America and overseas, up to now, you'd pretty much have to have a concert, but it costs so much money and the risk is so high. Aside from live shows, you can put music video clips on TV, but there is no channel in the states that shows Japanese music videos, and you can't really curate online since you can't really get the licenses. We wanted to make a way, kind of a middle promotion, where you wouldn't have to do a live show. Everyone thinks, "I wanna promote in America" so they immediately jump to doing a concert, but if there is something like this first and they get a good reaction, then maybe that is a reason to take the risk for a concert.
Are there any Japanese artists that you think might not resonate well with American music fans?
Hmm, I don't really know yet. At what level, on what stage, you don't understand a band's popularity fully until about five years have passed. Lots of people coming to a concert—is that success? Selling lots of CDs—is that success? It depends on the artist, so we don't really know what success is. If you want to sell more CDs or get more people at concerts—we're always trying to think about how we can help artists the most.
Are there any artists who aren't super popular yet who you would recommend?
Well, AKI AKANE is reallllly new, and doing her own animation as well. She won't do concerts or show herself, so we thought to show her off in this type of event would be cool. As for kyary pamyu pamyu, we were hoping to kind of "break" her, but it seems like she already made a splash! They actually wanted her to come live, and invited her, but she was too busy.
Anything else you'd like to let us know about?
Well this time there were some pretty experimental parts, but it seemed like people were really having fun. We want to do events like these at Comic Con, Sakura Con, Anime Expo—at bigger venues, those types of conventions, maybe even once a month. It would be cool to do it for a year, figure out which were the most popular, and give awards at the end. We're also interested in web media, like maybe a web show. There is no media formally introducing this content to overseas audiences, so everyone is sneaking around watching videos on YouTube, and then those videos get erased. If we could go through the procedures to get licenses and make a real Japanese music channel on the web for overseas, that would be pretty cool.
Here are the artists introduced by Tokyo Freshly Squeezed in what we hope will only be Volume 1 of many:
kanon x kanon
Momoiro Clover Z
For artist profiles and more, check out the event's official page at Otasamurai.