Monthly Archives: January 2015

Get outside every once in a while

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So, there are people out there who are surprised that Zico is judging a Korean rap competition.

I…I…I….

I….

This is, I guess, what happens when you hermetically seal yourself off from reality (because reality is just too “problematic“) and live full-time in some little echo chamber where everyone agrees that Zico is just trash, trash! And that Block B should disband!

Because they’ve all been so very unsuccessful.

Yes, I know that “Tough Cookie” was controversial–among Americans. That’s because “faggot” means something here that it doesn’t mean in other countries. The song has won an award (given by French K-Pop fans, so no, you can’t even say that international fans don’t like it), the video is past the 1.5 million view mark on YouTube, and in Korea it was dowloaded more than 260,000 times in six weeks.

And you know, that’s not counting the music Zico does for Block B. Which, if you haven’t noticed, has been doing pretty well lately….

It especially baffles me because these are Americans, offended by the use of a word that means something bad in American English, who are wondering why Zico is involved in a Korean rap competition. Meanwhile, in the American entertainment industry, unless a celebrity reaches the point where no one will insure them, their careers are pretty much unaffected by what they do or say. I mean, Eminem threatened someone with a gun, has said some very nasty things about gays, and has had well-publicized drug problems, but if you heard that he was judging a rap competition, would you be scratching your head and going, “Why do they want HIM?”

I guess it’s part of the whole fantasy where Koreans are good and pure, and they exist solely to correct to our debauched American ways. So, Zico has become impure, and thus he should be cast out of Korean society!

Wait, you’re saying that doesn’t make any sense at all? Why should Koreans cast someone out for using a word that’s not actually a slur in their country? Why should they be expected to jump to the wishes of a bunch of fetishizing foreigners?

La-la-la-la! I’m not listening! You are problematic! I shall return to my snug little echo chamber where the outside world never intrudes!

Hm, Oricon….

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As I’ve mentioned, I don’t know anything about the Japanese music market and have had to learn a whole bunch in a big hurry for Block B’s debut in Japan.

And Oricon is…different, isn’t it?

Block B was #5 on the weekly chart, and they pretty much hung out at #4 or #5 on the daily charts all the whole week long. Indeed, the Oricon daily top 5 last week was very stable: B1A4, JYJ, and the Japanese groups KAT-TUN and back number, with the occasional incursion by B’z.

And like magic, after the weekly numbers were announced, all those groups quickly vanished from the top 10! Block B and B1A4 are not even in the top 30, while JYJ and the Japanese groups have been hanging on to that list, but not anywhere near where they used to be.

Hm. That’s the kind of “And everyone gets one week in the Oricon top 5!” arrangement that would get companies investigated by antitrust authorities in this country.

I don’t think it’s straight-up payola, because the Japanese press keeps mentioning that Block B was able to stay in the daily top 5 all week with a debut CD–that seems to be viewed as a genuine accomplishment, and it’s resulted in a good deal of media attention for the group.

I think it is, however, a reflection of the way the Japanese music market works when it comes to CDs (and it’s similar to the Korean market this way): Buying a CD doesn’t just get you music. Buying a CD (or multiple CDs) is like buying a ticket to see a group. Things like high-touch events sell CDs. That’s why Block B was #1 specifically on the Tower Records Japan charts–that’s where Block B held their events, so that’s where their CD sales were concentrated.

Oricon counts only CD sales, so it makes sense that once their CD-selling events are over, Block B’s Oricon ranking falls off a cliff. Another week means another bunch of groups having their own CD-selling events, which means another bunch of CDs in Oricon’s top 10.

If a song has legs, I assume you see that in digital sales. And those are apparently no longer tracked and ranked in Japan. [ETA: This is not quite as bad as I thought, although very little is archived. There’s iTunes Japan’s top 100 songs and albums, Recochoku’s top 200 songs and albums, and Arama Japan‘s chart archive for digital singles.]

(I’ve been trying to figure out if digital sales are as unprofitable in Japan as they are in Korea, but I haven’t found a good answer. They have iTunes in Japan, which would suggest that there is indeed money in the digital market, but they also are seeing more subscription services, which tend not to pay as well.) (ETA: And huh, they’re #7 on the Billboard Japan Hot 100, but that also does not include digital sales.)

The larger take-away? Always keep in mind that, to industry players, the purpose of a bestseller list is marketing, pure and simple. Getting onto a top 10 list is a great way of getting your brand out there (as Block B has clearly done). As a result, the industry approach to any bestseller list is always, “How do we game this?” Oricon is obviously getting gamed in its own unique way, but rest assured, bestseller lists in the United States are often gamed just as badly.

Oh, dear

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So, this:

Plus this:

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Plus this:

Equals…do I even want to watch this? Because one of my least-favorite things about Zico is how he tends to bring an AK-47 to a pillow fight. Without even seeming to understand what he’s done.

I mean, he’s so well-meaning. While proving (without seeming to mean to) that, oh, you know, you should just put everyone else in the trash. And then poop on your trash.

Do you enjoy watching a bunch of kindergarteners bleed to death because someone just unleashed all over their playground? I don’t. I feel like I’m watching Kittens vs. Power Mower. Or, you know, Bambi vs. Godzilla.

Keyser Soze, indeed.

ETA: And well, no, he didn’t do what I was afraid he would do–he just phoned his part in.

I’m going to go read “Harrison Bergeron” now.

And this is why you promote in Japan

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I know Block B’s Japan debut was a little frustrating for some people–me as well, since it involved me having to get to know yet another foreign music market in a language that I don’t speak and can’t read. But people felt like there was all this brouhaha just to hear the same old songs in another language and see the old “Very Good” video recut.

And that’s a common complaint about Japanese promotions for K-Pop groups–they’re not terribly interesting to outsiders.

But look–Block B sold 33,579 CDs in a week. That’s without writing new music, filming new music videos, or doing a month of music shows. They did a few concerts, made some media appearances (which are scheduled to broadcast through early February. ETA–ooh, make that late February now! They’re definitely getting some attention!), and filmed some promotional video. And just like that, in a week they sold more than half as many Very Good (Japanese Version) CDs in Japan than they have of Very Good CDs in Korea.

This is one of the little secrets to making an actual living in the arts, by the way–recycle! If you can sell the same story more than once, or if you can paint a single painting and then sell prints, notecards and T-shirts with the image as well as selling the original, then you are going to make a lot more money per hour you work than if you just sell your work once.

It’s happening! It’s happening!

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MyMusicTaste (I guess Azia is no longer involved) is saying that, yup, Block B is coming to Europe in March! Warsaw and Milan have dates (although no details yet), and hopefully more will come.

I just want to draw people’s attention to MMT’s response to someone from Finland saying, Why not us yet?

Green Stage [i.e. having a whole lot of votes] doesn’t mean that a concert is confirmed. It just means it’s the closest possibility. For Milan & Warsaw we already had interested parties after seeing the numbers, which is why they were decided despite their stages. The best thing is to get promoters to contact us or to show through Tastes.

So, yeah, keep in mind that MMT is just an indicator of audience demand–you still need a local promoter to actually organize the concert, book an appropriate venue, etc. If your city has a lot of votes and isn’t on the schedule yet, start working on that end–contact promoters and let them know what’s going on. A ready audience is great to have, of course, but you also need someone who has the know-how to make things happen, and you can’t assume that they already know about this just because they’re in the industry.

ETA: OK, based on some of what I’m reading, I’m just going to have to break this down for people.

You need THREE parties to make a concert, OK? It’s like a puzzle with THREE pieces. You need:

1. A group willing to visit your part of the world.

2. An audience.

3. A concert promoter to book the venue, arrange for ticket sales, get equipment into place, and all of that.

Even if you have #1 and #2, you STILL need #3. How can you find a concert promoter?

Well, has there ever been a K-Pop concert in your city? If so, who organized it? Find that out, see if they have way to contact them, and then let them know about this terrific opportunity to organize another.

That’s what would be helpful. That’s what MMT is explicitly telling you they need. Maybe you should do that with the time you are currently spending posting long rants about how MMT (or Seven Seasons, or whoever) is bigoted against your country and how everything is in life just SO UNFAIR.

Partial pictures

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Thanks to my adventure with B-Bomb last night (oy, I am no longer young), I’m not getting a lot of work done today, so I thought I’d look at two self-selecting data sets that, together, can give us an incredibly incomplete sense of where Block B’s fans are.

The first is the MyMusicTaste site. I’ll just ruin the suspense and tell you that this data set is very much skewed, because fans who think that voting on MyMusicTaste will help them get a concert in their city soon are very, very motivated to vote. As well they should be!

So, here are nine of the top ten cities:

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Note a common locale? Yeah, not shockingly given that a European tour certainly seems to be getting planned, European fans have been voting and voting hard.

But…city number three is not in Europe at all.

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The Brazilian BBCs are not screwing around–they’ve been working really hard, getting other K-Pop fanbases and even general K-Pop news sites in Brazil on board. They’ve done campaigns to get concert promoters interested in Block B before, and I’m sure the rumored Mexican concert adds motivation, since Block B presumably would be willing to tack on a few additional stops in the region.

It’s been pretty interesting for me because I do follow the various fanbases on Twitter, and you’ll see one make a push, and then the country’s numbers will jump on the map.

Now, you’re not seeing a lot of activity in two places where you might expect it. The first is North America:

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The second is Asia/Australia. With the exception of South Korea

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which is taking no chances.

That’s really not what I see in my numbers from BlockB.com, which of course skews to English speakers and new or casual fans. So for the past month, visitors to BlockB.com have come from many countries, but mostly one:

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Yup, lots of Americans. So many I made another graph chopping the Americans out.

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(I made these graphs at the National Center for Education Statistics’ Kids’ Zone site. No, I have no pride.)

So, you’re seeing a lot more geographic diversity there than on the MyMusicTastes map–sure, there are plenty of Europeans and Brazilians, but also lots from Asia/Australia and of course North America.

Neither data set is in any sense complete, and neither tells me what I’m really interested in, which is how much Block B sells where. But I’m putting it out there for what it’s worth.

So, whazzup with Block B’s Japan debut?

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If you’ve been keeping your head firmly encased in a bucket of sand, Block B had their official debut in Japan today. (Which is tomorrow in Japan–got that?)

Of course, Block B has been performing in Japan forever. They even did Match Up Japan years ago! What does it mean for them to debut in Japan?

Well, this has been a real education for me, in particular because I know SFA about Japanese music. When they first started pushing J-Pop in the States about 20 years ago, it was marketed to racist perverts, which was a big turn-off. “Serious” Japanese pop music skews to rock, and while I generally like rock, I’m not such a huge aficionado that I just had to force my way over the significant technological and financial barriers to the music that existed at the time. Nowadays, those barriers are pretty much gone, so the Japanese government decided to replace them with legal barriers. This, my friends, is what is called progress.

Anyway, making an official debut in Japan involves not just recording songs in Japanese but also releasing the music into the Japanese music market. And as a result of the various legal and copyright issues, the Japanese music market is very distinct and separate from the Korean music market, not to mention the U.S. music market.

What about CDs? Japan’s market is very focused on CDsthe Korean market is as well, but Japanese fans are kind of famous for buying fancy, limited edition CDs that often come with extra goodies.

So, for example, Block B is doing three editions of its Very Good (Japanese Version) CD–one regular edition and two limited editions (song lists here). If you pre-ordered a limited edition CD in Japan, you got a little bonus, like a chance to go to a meet-and-greet with Block B.

Getting your hot little hands on Japanese CDs if you don’t live there is difficult enough that people make instructional Web pages about it. The only two sites that I found that overlapped with K-Pop were YesAsia (which PRETENDS to have it all anyway–am I still bitter about not receiving the Blockbuster Remastering sweatshirt and dolls I ordered? YES I AM) and Amazon. Other than that I had to go poking around for places where it looks like maybe foreigners can actually buy music (not Tower Records Japan, that’s for sure), and I found CD Japan (which I’ve ordered the two limited edition CDs from–the order went through fine, they deliver to a bunch of countries, and I could pay with PayPal. But we’ll see if they actually deliver the goods or if they PULL A YESASIA and leave me in the lurch) (ETA: They came! Yay!) and HMV Japan.

What about digital? All versions are on iTunes Japan–but that doesn’t do you much good if you have a non-Japanese iTunes account. It’s completely separate–people can’t use a non-Japanese credit card or even a non-Japanese gift card. It appears that you basically have to create a mock Japanese account and buy a iTunes Japan gift card from a reseller to get the music. Some B.A.P fans did a tutorial a while back–worth looking at for an idea of what’s involved.

Does that make you feel like this?

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At least you can sample “Nolina” (especially if this gets yanked) and “Be the Light (Yves & Adams Winter Remix).” I don’t know who Yves & Adams are (ETA: ah, they appear to be these people), although Adam & Yves is a 1970s gay porn film–make of that what you will. (And yes, I just got myself another batch of people searching for gay Korean porn. Maybe they’ll be necrophiliacs and the photo above will do them some good.)

What about that all-new music video that we were promised!?!?! Promised by who, you little munchkin? I have been plugging updates from Block B’s official Japanese site into Google Translate quite religiously, and I haven’t seen anything there to indicate that this:

was not the video. I mean, yes, I could be wrong–I’m not an official source, but neither is some yutz pontificating away in the YouTube comments, telling you exactly what you want to hear. Go here and read the Q&A that starts with, “Hey, I heard this hot rumor from someone who swears it’s true!” and then go here and acquaint yourself with why a group might not want to shoot an entirely new video if they don’t have to.

Anyway, hopefully all the advertising and media appearances will help Block B get good numbers in Japan–it’s a big market and can be quite lucrative, so with any luck it will be well worth the occasional flop in a hallway.