Asia News: Babymetal, BTS, Japanese Promoters
Babymetal Confirms Budokan Arena Concerts
In late December, the Japanese “heavy metal idol group” Babymetal announced a run of 10 “Doomsday” concerts at the famed Budokan Arena in Tokyo starting Jan. 19 to celebrate their tenth anniversary in show business.
As of Jan. 2, six of the dates had been confirmed — Jan. 19-20 and Feb. 16, 17, 19 and 20 — with details about the remaining 4 shows to be provided at a later date.
Japan, and Tokyo in particular, has seen a substantial spike in COVID-19 infections over the winter, so it remains to be seen if the concerts will actually take place, but presently restrictions for the shows have been announced.
Body temperatures will be checked at the door and all ticketholders will be required to wear face masks at all times when inside the venue. Cheering and even talking loudly will be strictly discouraged. Also, tickets for only half the Budokan’s seating capacity will be sold so as to provide proper social distancing within the venue.
Babymetal released a greatest hits album in December that came in ten different editions.
Brian May And Yoshiki Join Forces For NYE
AP Photo – Yoshiki of X Japan
Asia Girls Explosion, Tokyo, Japan
Queen’s Brian May and Roger Taylor joined X Japan leader Yoshiki for a special live performance of Yoshiki’s song “Endless Rain” on the New Year’s Eve music program, “Kohaku Uta Gassen,” which is considered the year’s biggest music event in Japan and broadcast on the country’s public TV station, NHK.
Yoshiki performed remotely from his home base of Los Angeles, while May and Taylor’s part of the performance was pre-recorded. Also singing on the song was musical theater star Sarah Brightman. All four artists have worked together in the past in various configurations.
BTS Goes Live For NYE
BTS and other K-pop groups who belong to the same entertainment talent agency presented an online concert on New Year’s Eve that also featured remote performances from singers Halsey and Lauv, as well as from DJ-producer Steve Aoki.
In addition to live performances of some of their songs, BTS participated in a special online fan meeting, read messages from viewers and even played a game that viewers could watch from various angles by manipulating the screen controls.
One of the group’s rappers, Suga, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, said during the concert, “I hope you wrap up the end of the year well and we’d like to see you all in person soon.”
The concert, which took place in a suburb of Seoul, was originally going to be a hybrid offline-online event, but after COVID-19 cases increased in December, the offline component was cancelled.
BTS, which was one of the biggest pop groups in the world last year based on streaming and download revenues, had to cancel their historic world tour, but nevertheless held virtual concert in October that drew more than 990,000 viewers and raked in about $46 million. The group is up for a Grammy Award this year as well.
Japanese Promoters Try To Cope With No Concerts
Though many smaller promoters and quite a few indie groups in Japan have adapted to the online concert model in order to sustain themselves through the COVID crisis, Japan’s larger concert promoters are still waiting for the day when people will be able to attend concerts in person.
However, as that day seems to recede farther into the future, some have faced up to reality.
Smash Inc., which promotes the Fuji Rock Festival, Japan’s most famous international pop music festival, spent most of the fall of 2020 keeping the Fuji brand alive through its Fujirockers YouTube channel, which periodically showed archive footage from past festivals for free.
It was a big hit, as was the archive performances shown by Creativeman Productions from past Summer Sonic festivals. Both promoters started doing live shows again in the late autumn, only with domestic artists, but they were sometimes cancelled suddenly when infection numbers spiked. Both companies also promoted online concerts, but somewhat begrudgingly since there isn’t much money in it for them; or, at least, not as much as they could make with offline concerts.
On Dec. 20 the Asahi Shimbun newspaper ran a long article featuring interviews with the three biggest rock promoters in Japan about their coping mechanisms for the new normal. Because of their size and the number of people they employee, these companies have received generous subsidies from the government in order to stay afloat.
Hiromitsu Hayashi, president of H.I.P., bemoaned the fact that his company was supposed to do two huge concert tours last year, Mariah Carey and Diana Ross, that had to be cancelled. It was a big loss for the company since they were counting on 200 million yen ($1.9 million) in sales for each concert. Though Hayashi recognizes the value of online concerts, he seems averse to getting into the field actively, and feels he has to somehow get through the coming months “until things get back to normal.”
Following the postponement of Slipknot’s Knotfest Japan extravaganza to 2022, an H.I.P. production that had already been postponed from spring last year to April 2021, Hayashi says he is already planning a huge 2-day festival featuring foreign artists for Tokyo Dome that will be presented both offline and online, though he didn’t say exactly when it would take place.
Eiji Ninomiya, of Udo Artists, which presents classic rock acts like Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan and Deep Purple, said that they haven’t presented a live show since last March. Usually they do 100 major concerts a year, with 90 percent of their revenue coming from foreign artists. At present, he says, the company is spending most of its time working with other theatrical presenters on a “live streaming infrastructure” project, but for now it is limited to one club in Tokyo and will present all Japanese indie artists. The project is mostly experimental and “not profitable,” says Ninomiya. Udo has done streaming events with Sarah Brightman and Rufus Wainwright, but mainly as the Japan carrier of concerts available elsewhere.
Yoshito Yamazaki, the president of Kyodo Tokyo, Japan’s biggest promoter in terms of sheer number of productions, says that they’ve managed to stay relatively busy with about one-fifth the number of performances they usually do in a year. In any case, they are operating in the red. One special problem they have is that even if, as expected, the concert industry can return to normal in 2022, as of now almost all the large venues in major cities are already booked for that year, which means even if they can get overseas artists to come to Japan, it may be difficult to find places for them to play. The cancellations of 2020 have created a backlog of productions, mostly local. Yamazaki is afraid that such a situation may make it more difficult to sell foreign artists in the future, since Japanese audiences will fall out of the habit of seeing them. He says almost nothing about virtual concerts but adds, “We cannot survive on self-satisfaction alone.”