Hm, Oricon….


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.


6 responses »

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