Saturday, January 28, 2012

Reader's Question: We Demand! Please Supply

If you read my rant about how PS Company is trying to gain more control, then congratulations, you'll know where this is going in some ways! If you didn't, shame on you! Go back and read it~ No, no, it's fine. I'll probably repeat some snippets of my irritation toward them in today's reader's question: "Merchandising: Do you feel fans spend less due to expenses of importing goods? Do labels/bands/distribution fail to take into account overseas fans when making such things?". Now this post is focusing on mainly Japanese rock music.

As mentioned before, if you read the previous post then you know that I feel that PS Company is trying to cut off overseas fans. I know there are plenty of devoted oversea fans that try and support by buying various CDs, DVDs, and such. Kudos to them! But it sucks that the company has been lagging behind the trend of joining up with YouTube to expose their bands more legitimately so fans don't have to infringe on their copyrights and risk their accounts. I'm sure these fans post these videos of PSC bands to show their support and admiration for them, perhaps get other potential fans to join the ranks of the PSC club.

Now we've all heard the ever popular debate of legal and illegal downloading and I mentioned that the whole situation falls into a grey area when in comes jrock. Let me remind you that I'm only focusing on jrock in this post. So, I guess I'll start with the first part concerning the fans support of these bands.

I've heard and experienced many of these fan stories on why/why not fans pay for CDs. When I first started this blog, I posted several places where jrock can be purchased and they're also listed on the sidebar. So, I've heard that CD prices are too high, which they are compared to here, or for those interested in kpop, South Korea. A single runs about $15 or so and an album is about $30 or more, then there's also DVDs which is usually double that as well. This is all without shipping. Every country's import prices vary as well and sometimes that could cause another hole in fans' wallets. Fortunately, companies that understand how difficult importing products have tried their hardest to make things more feasible and accessible by creating overseas online shops, physical CD shops in Asian oriented sections of certain cities, and providing merchandise at anime conventions. But America is pretty big and not everyone has access to those places. Sometimes even those companies jack up the prices. I've actually witnessed this at a convention too.

I suppose that isn't a straight answer, but from what I've seen on jrock communities, forums, and such, the fans try to support as much as they can despite the high prices of their favorite bands' products and their countries' extra taxes on imported goods. The spending might've decreased a little recently due to the poor economy and the earthquake, but still there is effort.

Onto the next point, the band, labels, distribution, etc. I believe I mentioned this in a post concerning how the jpop industry should be more global like kpop, but it was something around the lines that Japan doesn't seem so openly "needy" for overseas fans when it comes to purchasing their products, but they don't discourage it. I think they have every right to feel this way since their music industry is a lot stronger than South Korea's. Even though I feel this way, I also feel that they know that international buyers exist, but don't bother to make any moves to make products more accessible aside from online places like CDJapan, YesAsia, etc. Like it would be nice to walk into a CD store that isn't in an Asian related area (ex. China, Japan, Korea Town whatever), but it's just not going to happen. I can understand why the companies fear that there isn't enough support outside of Japan and they don't want to risk the expense on exporting goods for the sells to flop.

Fans need to remember that jrock (or any type of non-traditional Asian music) is a very niche market overseas, so they need to understand how exporting these things could be costly and risky. On the other hand, companies need to also understand that we really want to contribute to supporting the bands and artists we love without the middle man or whatever is kicking up prices with shipping and whatnot. I commend bands that realize this after venturing outside of Japan and seeing the amount of support there is. It makes me happy that these labels continue to trust the organizations that help bring them over like Babel Entertainment, JPop House and (even though I strongly dislike them) Tainted Reality. Even HearJapan has made some deals to increase legal downloads for fans.

Label owners Kiwamu (Darkest Labyrinth & Starwave Records), Miyavi (J-Glam), and Kisaki (UnderCode) even cater to international fans by providing various goodies that can be accessed outside of Japan. There are various tour goods, CDs, DVDs, photo sets and such that you can purchase from the Darkest Labyrinth and Starwave Records official site easily. Miyavi created a global fanclub that is actually effective outside of Japan, like his latest tour in 2011 where fans gained some special privileges. Also, recently Kisaki gave access to some exclusive UnderCode goodies via CDJapan, which is pretty awesome. Even though this union wasn't perfect, Dir en grey joined forces with The End Records/The Omega Order when they were releasing Uroboros. They offered decent deals, offered international special items, and made things easier for American fans. So, there is some progress in some areas when bands and their team get a taste of the outside world.

Hopefully, one day, the jrock industry will hear our cries for more accessibility with a decent price tag, but there's still so many factors to work out to make this successful for the bands, labels, and fans.

If there's something you want me to answer, check out this post on how you can submit questions.

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