International Promoters Alliance Japan Forms With Avex, Creativeman, Smash, Udo

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– Fuji Rockin
Bjork plays Fuji Rock in Japan in 2017. Smash, which produces Fuji Rock, is a member of the newly formed Japanese International Promoters Alliance.

Ten leading Japanese concert promoters have formally entered into an agreement called the International Promoters Alliance Japan (IPAJ) for the purpose of establishing unified guidelines for the safe resumption of events and concerts involving overseas artists “based on thorough preventative measures,” according to a statement released by the alliance on May 21. The group endeavors to achieve its goals “with the cooperation of international embassies and consulates [and] work[ing] closely with the Japanese government and administration.”

The 10 members of the alliance are Avex Entertainment Inc., Creativeman Production Co., Hanshin Contents Link Co. (which runs the Billboard Japan nightclubs), Hayashi International Promotions Ltd. (H.I.P.), Kyodo Tokyo Inc., Live Nation Japan G.K., M&I Company Ltd., Promax Inc., Smash Co. and Udo Artists Inc. The representative director of the alliance is Naoki Shimizu, president of Creativeman.
The statement goes on to say, “The fact that Japan has been able to create a larger market for music than any other Asian country is a credit to the more than 60 years of work by member companies of the IPAJ, who have also contributed to the overseas expansion of Japanese artists and content. From club and theater shows to stadium tours, major festivals, and live restaurants, the breadth of the market is unique in the region, and hosting performances by international artists contributes to international economic exchange, the development of Japanese music culture and economy, and the growth of employment.”
Smash and Creativeman present the two biggest annual music festivals in Japan featuring foreign artists, Fuji Rock Festival and Summer Sonic, respectively. Neither was held last year. Fuji Rock will take place in August, but will only feature Japan-based acts, since foreigners are still effectively banned from entering Japan except under special circumstances (such as the Olympics, which is seen as a kind of test for whether the government will open the country to outsiders). Summer Sonic will be replaced by a similar-sized festival, Supersonic, in September, whose lineup has yet to be revealed. 
In an interview with the Japan Times newspaper on May 13, Shimizu outlined the preventative measures for Supersonic, which will include limited capacity and a no-alcohol policy. Though strict, Shimizu says the requirements are necessary if Japan’s live music industry expects to ever make a comeback. He also said that the lineup will be limited to about 30 artists for the three-day festival, and that he had confirmed about 80 percent of the roster at the time the interview took place. He would not say if any of the acts were overseas artists, but two weeks after the interview appeared the U.S. added Japan to its list of countries that Americans have been told not to visit, even though they can’t visit anyway due to Japanese restrictions.
Creativeman has barely stayed afloat over the past year, since international promoters didn’t receive government assistance the way other local promoters could. That’s why he and the other international promoters formed IPAJ. “Normally, we are fighting with one another as rivals,” he told the newspaper, “but we had to unite.” The main activity of the alliance is to lobby the government to change its way of thinking about their business model, a mission that they have taken to the media for assistance. So far, the push seems to be working. Starting in late March, the government began offering support to international promoters. Unfortunately, a new wave of infections hit the archipelago at about the same time and the government declared a state of emergency for many areas, including Tokyo and Osaka. Moreover, the vaccine rollout in Japan has been slow compared to other developed countries. Against this harsh backdrop, the IPAJ will attempt to reconsolidate the summer festival season, which has always been very lucrative in Japan. Though one large festival slated for April was cancelled for the second year in a row, Japan Jam, which is presented by the magazine Rockin’ On with assistance from Creativeman in a suburb of Tokyo, took place as usual but under strict, limited circumstances. Shimizu says he believes Rockin’ On lost “a huge amount of money” on the festival, but nevertheless felt they had to do it in order to survive. 
But even if the next few months see some success on the festival scene, Shimizu says that the pandemic has changed the way festivals will proceed from now on, meaning there will likely be less attention paid to overseas artists and more leeway given to digital spaces and livestreams. For the time being, Shimizu is focused on making Supersonic a success and then bringing Summer Sonic back in full force for 2022.