Hostess Drops Beggars

In mid-November, Hostess Entertainment, which distributes a fair number of foreign independent labels and artists in Japan, announced that it was not renewing its licensing agreement with Beggars Group, and therefore, starting Jan. 1, Hostess would no longer be handling in Japan new music from the UK company, which represents the labels XL, Young Turks, 4AD, Rough Trade and Matador.

Then, on March 31, Hostess will stop distributing Beggars artists it was already distributing before January 1, with the exception of Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool. Beggars’ CDs will be distributed by Beat Records, which mostly deals in electronic and dance music. Since Hostess is the premier Japanese label for foreign indie music in Japan and Beggars is seen as an integral part of its business, the Japanese independent music news site Public Rhythm published an interview with Hostess about its decision.

Photo: Keystone / Gian Ehrenzeller
Open Air St. Gallen, St. Gallen, Switzerland

The label said that it was a “difficult decision to make,” but that Beggars had in recent months “revised how to approach the Japanese market” in order to “bring it in line with the rest of the world,” meaning “centralizing control from the UK and reducing localized management.” Hostess insists that “the Japanese music audience is unique” and therefore should be treated as such. Beggars was essentially “withdrawing from the market, removing all rights except CD distribution.”

Hostess says that there has always been a special relationship between foreign artists and Japanese fans and that “now more than ever we want to…help that relationship grow stronger, not just do less to get more money.” Beggars’ move mirrors that of major international labels like Warner and Universal, which have scaled back their activities regarding international artists in Japan in recent years.

Until the mid-00s, almost anything released overseas on a major label received a dedicated Japan physical release, but now only a handful of artists do. Public Rhythm also expressed concern about the popular Hostess Club Weekender, two-day showcases of Hostess artists that take place two or three times a year in Tokyo, as well as in other Asian cities on occasion. Since many of these artists were signed to Beggars labels, it would obviously have an impact on the Weekender events.

Hostess said that it still represents a wide range of foreign indie artists and despite a “brief hiatus” the Weekender will return sometime next year. Upcoming Hostess Club events include Ryan Adams in Tokyo on Dec. 9, his first-ever headlining show in Japan, and PJ Harvey’s first non-festival appearance in Japan in 22 years on Jan. 31.