‘They’re Big In Japan’ A Look At Niche Acts In Japan, Mexico, And South Africa

Sarah Brightman
AP Photo
– Sarah Brightman
Sarah Brightman shines bright in Guangzhou, China, in June 2013. Brightman has been a regular on the Southeast Asian touring circuit, with Japan giving her a solid base to which she can always return.
It seems to be common wisdom that some artists, like David Hasselhoff in Germany or Jerry Lewis in France, inexplicably develop huge followings in particular countries. Others seem to do well in many places, but keep coming back to regions that supported them early in their careers. 
Of course, the phrase “They’re big in Japan” is a part of the musical lexicon because acts like
Jon Bon Jovi and his band are kind of a big deal, so they can play venues like the Tokyo Dome to sellout crowds, with nightly grosses of more than $4 million. He achieved this feat in 2013, twice in 2010 and twice in 2008, albeit with a smaller gross in the earliest of those records. 
Those numbers don’t tell the story of Bon Jovi’s climb though, as he has been headlining in Japan since the 1980s, released special singles exclusively in the country and gave them a special greatest hits album, Tokyo Road: Best of Bon Jovi. That album went double platinum. 
Worldwide, of course, Bon Jovi is a touring powerhouse, with a full arena run planned for North America in the spring. The group has frequently topped Pollstar charts, and in 2013 had the top tour of the year based on ticket sales with more than 2.6 million sold worldwide. That year, Bon Jovi averaged 27,397 tickets per show, with an average gross of more than $2.6 million. Bon Jovi also topped the Elite 100 chart last week as he re-released his This House Is Not For Sale album and bundled it with tickets sold to his upcoming tour through Ticketmaster or AXS, leading to 117,600 album sales.
Paul Korzilius (who is an executive for Oak View Group, Pollstar’s parent company), has been closely involved in Bon Jovi’s career since the ’80s, and told Pollstar that before “Livin’ On A Prayer” broke the band, Bon Jovi was constantly touring, largely in North America, Europe and Japan.
“If you go to the market regularly, the market will respond,” Korzilius said. “When ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ hit, there was already a base in place and it just grew exponentially from there.”
It was common for acts to include Japan in their global routings back then, Korzilius said. 
Things like exclusive tracks give more value to the domestic product, which is by default going to be more expensive than importing in Japan.
“It’s a great market for Western music, it always has been,” he said. “It’s a market that will take care of you if you take care of them.”
Another artist who does very well in Japan is British singer Sarah Brightman, who can sing in an astonishing number of languages, including Japanese. She regularly tours Europe and North America, but has made a point to hit Japan extensively every few years since 2009. In fact, from 2009-2010 she didn’t hit the U.S., Canada or Europe, but was a fixture in Southeast Asia and Latin America. 
Brightman’s anchor market in Asia has been Japan but in Latin America her strongest market seems to be Mexico, where Pollstar’s records list shows in 2016, 2013, 2009, 2008 and 2004. Those gigs in Mexico are nearly always packed and include stops in Guadalajara, Monterrey, Zapopan, Puebla, Juarez, Merida, Tampico and, of course, Mexico City. 
Her biggest payday in the country was at Palacio De Los Deportes in Mexico City, Nov. 8-9, 2008, when she grossed $1,208,684 off 19,566 tickets sold over the two nights, which was max capacity for the configuration. Her biggest reported single-night gross in Mexico was at Arena Monterrey in 2008, when she moved 8,967 tickets for $715,990. 
One more global artist worth mentioning is John Legend. As a musician he is by no means limited to one market and remains a prominent figure in various media thanks to his work scoring films, as an actor, and as the spouse of model and television host Chrissy Teigen. Still he has made a point to visit South Africa in 2017, 2014, 2010 (for the World Cup), and 2009. 
Our records show Legend has always been big business over there, but his largest gross came Nov. 4-5 last year when two nights at Johannesburg’s Ticketpro Dome netted him $853,803 with 16,919 tickets reported. He also hit Durban once and Cape Town four times last year. Those three cities seem to be his bread-and-butter in the country, and he was grossing $597,559 at Ticketpro Dome in 2009.
“[The people of South Africa] have been extremely supportive of my career from the beginning,” Legend told South Africa’s Channel 24. “We play to huge audiences when we come and they are so energetic and so into the music – so I keep coming back.”
John Legend
AP Photo
– John Legend
John Legend

Of course, this story wouldn’t be complete unless we gave you some numbers for The Hoff himself. David Hasselhoff is generally not very good about reporting, but we see in a 2011 record that he moved 2,585 tickets for a show at Konig – Pilsener Arena in Oberhausen, Germany, for a gross of $145,680. 
He is scheduled to hit that venue again as part of a full tour of German arenas in April, followed by a pair of dates in Austria in May.