Rock Still On Top, But Dance Growing

The first day of the three-day Tokyo Dance Music Event, which took place Dec. 1-3 in the Shibuya district of Tokyo, was dedicated to concert and festival business as it pertained to dance music.

Representatives of Japan’s concert scene, including heavyweight promoters Creativeman Productions and Smash Inc., talked about festivals for about an hour.

Everyone tended to agree that dance music aficionados prefer dedicated dance music festivals to rock festivals that include a dance tent or dance music headliners on top of rock acts.

The entrance of the Ultra festival to the Japan market in 2012, they agreed, has been central to popularizing dance festivals here, and since then there have been a dozen or more annual dance events held nationwide, most attracting world-class DJs and producers.

The main advantage of conventional rock festivals in the equation, according to Creativeman’s Kazuyoshi Sakaguchi, is that they expose hardcore rock and pop audiences to mainstream dance acts and help spread the genre. But he felt that, in Japan, “rock is still more popular.” An exception, he said, is Underworld, which headlined Creativeman’s Summer Sonic festival in August.

“They seem to appeal to everyone across the board,” he said. The one sticking point is that, whereas in Europe dance music appeals to all age groups, in Japan it is still the provenance of young people. Also, everyone seemed to think that the main appeal of dance music events was the “atmosphere” more than artist lineup. That last consideration was the main point of the roundtable between various dance music event organizers from other Asian countries, including those for Malaysia’s It’s the Ship! and Thailand’s S2O Festival, as well as a representative of China’s Fake Music Media.

All three promoters talked about the difficulties they had holding events with large groups of people in cities where regulations on public assemblies tend to be strict, but they solved those problems in creative and ingenious ways. It’s the Ship! started as a regular dance music festival in the city, but logistics and finances became obstacles until they rented a ship in the harbor, where regulations are looser.

Now, “the ship is the star, not so much the music itself,” said the event organizer, Iqbal Ameer, and thus the festival has generated its own brand known throughout Southeast Asia.

Pulin Milintachina said pretty much the same thing about S2O, which takes place during an annual summer Thai festival called Songkran. It happens in the summer, when the weather is extremely hot.

Therefore, the highlight of the dance festival is the constant dousing of the audience with water hoses. Milintachina said that, in essence, they spend more money and resources on guaranteeing the water supply for the festival, but it’s worth it, because the festival has become a huge hit as a result.

“We can sell out even before we announce our acts,” he said.