MyMusicTaste, China Industry, Pikotaro, Donald Trump

MyMusicTaste Raises $11M

Seoul-based live event startup, MyMusicTaste, recently announced it had raised $11 million through a Series C venture capital event that included participation from new investors such as KTB Network, Stonebridge and Yellow Dog, not to mention a group of current investors who injected more money into the company.

MyMusicTaste is now worth some $22 million.

The company, which was started in December 2013, crowdsources concert locations from fans who wish to see certain acts perform in their respective regions. Because planning tours is risky in certain parts of the world, even for popular artists, organizers balk when it comes to estimating possible ticket sales and tend to hold back.

Though based in Seoul and focused on Kpop acts, the company’s users are mostly outside of Korea, with services available in 15 languages.

Unlike traditional live music services, MyMusicTaste focuses on user requests rather than existing events.

The company doesn’t start planning until a potential event reaches a certain level of requests, at which point it contacts the relevant artists and promoters. The service now has 1.32 million users worldwide and works with 56 promoters and 30 agencies.

Music Industry Grows By 7.8%

China’s music industry enjoyed 7.8 percent growth in 2016 compared with 2015, exceeding $49 billion, based on a report compiled by the music-related committee for the China Audio-Video and Digital Publishing Association.

The figure includes revenues from performances, recordings, digital music, copyright business, music books, sales of musical instruments, music education and sales of sound equipment, Xinhua news agency reported.

Digital music growth was notably strong, valued at 53 billion yuan ($8 million), up 6.2 percent from 2015. The big news was digital sales on mobile devices which surged a whopping 40 percent thanks to an increase in paying users, the number of which has doubled since 2012.

As a result, the central government cited the development of the country’s music industry as a “major cultural project” as part of a work plan for reforms over the next four years.

Keeping Things Upbeat For The Donald

Eugene Hoshiko/AP
– Pikotaro
Performing “pen-pineapple-apple-pen” song at a press conference in Tokyo.

The Japanese comedian-turned-Internet-music-sensation, Pikotaro, was asked to entertain President Donald Trump during his recent three-day visit to Japan.

Pikotaro, whose 45-second English ditty, “Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen,” was a viral hit a little more than a year ago, seemed like an odd choice to serenade the leader of the free world, and, in fact, it wasn’t clear from media reports that he actually performed in front of the president, though they did meet during a reception held on Nov. 6, as press photographs attested.

Reportedly, Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe personally asked the comedian to attend the reception in order to keep the mood “upbeat.”

In contrast, K-pop singer-songwriter Park Hyo-shin was selected to entertain Trump on Nov. 7 when the president visited South Korea. The occasion was a concert at the presidential Blue House reception hall that also featured the KBS Symphony Orchestra and traditional Korean fusion music. Shin was scheduled to sing his song, “Wild Flower.”

National Theatre Shortfall

This year Japan’s New National Theater celebrates its 20th anniversary amid a serious budget shortfall. A complex of venues located in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward that offers grand opera, ballet and all forms of theatrical plays, NNT opened in 1997 as an alternative to the National Theater, which presents traditional Japanese theatrical arts, such as kabuki and noh.

A report in the Asahi Shimbun newspaper revealed that in 2016 there were 55 opera performances comprising 12 titles, 46 dance performances comprising 11 titles and 146 play performances comprising seven titles.

The budget for the whole year was 2.1 billion yen ($18.4 million), with 59 percent going toward opera, 23 percent toward dance, and the rest toward play productions. This ratio has been stable for many years, but the budget has decreased by about 40 percent since its peak in 2001, when it was 3.4 billion yen.

The bulk of funding comes from the national government, which contributes less each year. In 2000, the government contributed 5.5 billion yen and in 2016 the amount was 4 billion yen.

Even worse, charitable donations have dropped from 750 million yen in 2002 to 290 million yen in 2016. Consequently, NNT management has been trying to boost ticket sales. The theater’s current managing director told the newspaper that in order to attract more patrons, they have reduced the volume of “risk-taking” productions, a strategy that has come under fire from Tokyo’s arts community, which insists that the mission of a national theater is not to make money, but rather to elevate the artistic sensibility of the public with a diverse selection of programs.

NNT only sponsors a ballet company and a choral group. It has no resident opera, orchestra or theater company, and thus its operas are put together by the theater’s specialized team. For the most part, the resident opera chief hires foreign directors and soloists who bring foreign productions to Japan, and as classical music critics told Asahi, the theater does not cultivate local opera talent for its own benefit, even though it does have a school that has produced some world-class singers.

Another problem is that since NNT is a national government organization, it is run by either bureaucrats or people hired from the business community, and such people do not tend to have experience with artists. One critic told the newspaper that over the years the repertoire, regardless of the genre, has become more and more conventional. “No one is excited,” he said, “neither the audience nor the performers.”

And unlike national theater companies in other countries, NNT is not boosted as a tourist attraction (though the National Theater is). In 2016, only 1,000 tickets were sold to foreigners, and 60 percent of them were residents of Tokyo.

One inadvertent but positive outcome of the NNT’s system is that since there is no resident orchestra, the Tokyo metropolitan area’s dozen or so professional orchestras get lots of experience playing opera that they would not get otherwise. And NNT’s ballet company is probably the best in the country, and stages both classical works and modern works. Nevertheless, in line with opera, the repertoire has become more conventional in recent years, but, then, ticket sales have also risen. The average NNT ballet performance sells 90 percent of its seats.

The theater department’s artistic director said that she hopes to increase attendance and is overseeing new translations of famous foreign plays. However, critics say NNT should really be cultivating new Japanese playwrights. The NNT also plans to do more outreach with roads shows that stage plays in regional capitals throughout Japan.