Monday, October 12, 2009

Rant: JapanFiles vs. JRock Fandom

Ever since the birth of Napster and the angry words from Lars, drummer of Metallica, downloading has been the source of sampling free music before deciding on buying an album. Although, most music lovers abuse this privilege by not supporting the artists at all by hanging onto their free music files and sharing them with one another. Some also abuse it by trying to profit from this new technology by selling bootleg copies to the public, which I highly disapprove of. So, the question is whether downloading is the "root of all evil" or is it a simple new path to discover new music that people would never dream of hearing?

Through my own experience, I don't think I would be listening to half the stuff I do if it wasn't for downloading. Sure, it's wrong and all, but most times I either don't have the money and I'm desperate for a listen until I obtain the needed amount or I simply do not desire to buy the whole album, because I don't particularly care for the artist and/or I want a couple tracks for my own personal pleasure. I would never cross the line of actually making profit off of cheap burned CDs of Lady GaGa's Fame or the fanclub release of a Dir en grey DVD. I respect the artist and cash in my $15-$65 on a new or used release, but I want to make sure I get my money's worth.

In this rant, I wanted to bring attention to the infamous JapanFiles. Like a wildlife documentary, jrock fans quietly shared, promoted, and praised new jrock releases and bands, letting fandoms of indies bands grow and grow, as well as major and disbanded ones. We all tagged the lines of "please support the artist" and a good portion try their best despite having to pay for tuition, rent, and the ridiculously high album prices with international shipping charges. Although the fandom isn't squeaky clean, there are leeches out there, but you can't police everyone. Suddenly, an untamed force broke through with harsh words, unnecessary threats, and many questionable actions called JapanFiles. JapanFiles is a site for purchasing jrock mp3s, mostly of bands you don't care about at all like Atomic Poodle, mark muffin, and roly poly rag bear. Once they put their claim on an amazing band that people actually care about *coughs*Girugamesh*coughs*, war was declared. Now I can perfectly understand companies wanting the band/artist's audience to actually go out and buy the material, but simply targeting them and harassing them to do so is not the way to go about business. I don't know first hand how JapanFiles goes about notifying moderaters and/or users about uploading the bands they promote, but I've heard some pretty gruesome stories.

It's nice to have a place to achieve jrock mp3s for a small fee without having to hassle with the international boundaries of iTunes, but to threaten a group of people and endangering their user accounts is crossing the line. The jrock fandom isn't full of idiots, we do listen, but like a child being constantly yelled at, the words simply go through one ear and out the other. I feel that JapanFiles is doing this to the fanbase. Once things calmed down a little, a Q&A was open from the fans to the company and many questionable things arose. The system doesn't seem respectable or even trustworthy for possible customers to even consider purchasing such items and when certain questions were asked, they were simply deflected with "we cannot disclose that information". It makes the company/site even more suspicious. Aside from being completely unprofessional and consistently losing potential customers, I heard there was drama among the company when they brought Girugamesh to Sakura-Con 2009 in Seattle, WA. I think it was something about making the fans rebuy the album or something for it to get signed. They couldn't use their Japanese release for autograph purposes. I may be wrong, but that's what I heard, but if it's true...that's a truly douche move to pull on potential customers...SERIOUSLY!

Some people may be a similar jrock fan like myself that thinks that the Japanese release is superior and doesn't want to waste their hard earned money on a U.S. copy if it's basically the same stuff as the Japanese release. I'm also the type that rather spend my money hard copies and not a single mp3 file. I've always wondered how much profit you can get from a 99¢ download...really. Now there might still be a little hope for JapanFiles to redeem themselves from the failtastic grave they've dug for themselves, but their main competition for giving reasonably priced jmusic downloads is HearJapan. I've read the statement of how hard it is to get bands to bring over their stuff for the mass outside of Japan and how much money is being used for production, promotion, and all that good stuff that goes along with making a CD and getting their names out there. I can totally understand the pluses and minuses of downloading. There's also different views on it from artist to artist no matter what country they're from. Some may be pissy about the situation like Lars or somewhat encourage it while still making mad cash like System of a Down and D'espairsRay.

So, let me conclude this controversial rant with a break down of pros and cons, which may or may not have already been mentioned above. Strictly focusing on jrock, since that's where I zoomed in on this topic, there are a lot of indies bands that I enjoy and many others do that are not very well known except in the homeland of these bands: Japan, such as [_vani;lla], GallowS, and Pablo Honey and people wouldn't have ever known about these great bands if it wasn't for downloading. I know there are a lot of jrock bands that are in shock that they have so many overseas that support them and appreciate their music. I know a good portion of fans try their hardest to support their favorite bands/artists. Maybe some of them are like myself and just want to put in for the album and some live DVDs. Or even the vast boat of fans that have to worry about paying for tuition and dealing with the worldwide recession. Life is hard for a college student, so we do our best to show our favorite bands/artists as much support as possible. Downloading gives them more fans which could increase their profits and demand other places, especially overseas, as well. On the other hand, many people know that downloading also can decrease profits as well and risk the band's active status. Life is hard for an indies band that has to pay for studio time, costumes, and everything that goes along creating a catchy single and/or album as well as promotional costs. So, in the end, do I think it's wrong to download? Not completely no, but not completely yes either. As mentioned before, the major thing I dislike about downloading things for free is when people try to profit off of cheap copies.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Rant: Oni-Con Curse

For those who have never heard of Oni-Con, it is an anime convention held in Houston, Texas every year usually held on the last weekend of October. It has hosted many great Japanese rock bands such as Camino, Duel Jewel, echostream, Phantasmagoria, 12012, Sugar, and a few others. Personally, it's one of my favorite anime cons in Texas.

Anyway, there's a little topic floating around the Oni-Con forum that there's a curse on the jrock bands that perform there. I think it's amusing and I don't really believe in curses (most times). But let's start with the first jrock band I've seen live, Phantasmagoria. I think the reason for their disbandment is their growing popularity and success. Now you might think that's a weird reason to break up such an amazingly talented band, but I seriously believe that their band leader and bassist Kisaki has fear of being in a major band, but I will most likely expand upon that in a later rant. Then we have RENTRER EN SOI. I don't know enough to comment nor am I a fan of theirs. Next is 12012 who were in the transition of graduating Under Code with Vidoll. They're staying stong, but in my opinion they're becoming musically weak. I'd like to believe that this won't hinder their growing popularity and creativity, but a little break to get in touch with their roots will bring a new wave of love in their direction. Let's move on to last year's bands, Sugar and Dio - distraught overlord. To me, Sugar's disbandment seemed completely random. Maybe the fictious curse broke up the band, but the members personal relationship with each other, along with their former bassist Koto, is still on a positive note. As for Dio, I ca't explain what happened there either. After performing at Oni, they had plans to revisit Europe, produce more amazing tracks, and move to a new label. Maybe it was a sign the band was going major and Erina couldn't handle the chaos any longer. Whatever came up, I'm not upset with his decision. I wish the best for him and the band.

With all those bad news about bands, you must consider that indies bands have it hard whether they perform at Oni-Con or not. A few examples are Ayabie who signed to a major label and gained a great replacement guitarist, after Ryouhei's departure. Despite losing a member, Suicide Ali is making a U.S. comeback live this year. And for all the bands that broke up, good things have happened. Satsuki of RENTRER EN SOI is having a successful solo career and is reappearing to the Oni grounds this year with echostream and born. And to prove that the curse doesn't exist, we have the examples of Duel Jewel and Camino keeping things strong in the music world.