So, some of the stuff I cut from that very cranky post about how Block B is doing related specifically to how Block B is doing in Japan. And a comment there got me thinking that I should probably do a (much less cranky) post about what’s going on.
(I also got a really incoherent and rather obscene comment, which I trashed, that was sort of vaguely about how, since Block B doesn’t sell like a big Western pop group, they must be doomed. It was kind of funny to me because that’s the line peddled by large entertainment companies–you must sell, I dunno, a million-billion-gazillion units to be a success, and the only way to sell a million-billion-gazillion units is through them. But the thing is, it’s only large, publicly-traded corporations that need to have properties perform at that level: They have tons of employees, massive overhead, and shareholders who expect a company’s already enormous revenues to increase every freakin’ quarter. One of the advantages of being independent is that you don’t have to adopt the challenges large corporations face as your own. You are not the van.)
So, I guess because of the fake scandal about kimonos, people are kind of accepting as received wisdom the notion that Block B isn’t doing well in Japan.
And of course in this specific case, by “people” I mean “people who aren’t actually Japanese.”
Hey, maybe it’s because I’m just a dumb foreigner, but the people who were actually at K-Con Japan don’t sound alienated or unenthused to me.
Of course, they’re fangirls, so you might argue that they’re biased or stupid or delusional or problematic or whatever. But the Japanese public-broadcasting network NHK did an English-language story on how things like K-Con Japan might help strengthen relations between the two countries. Guess who they interviewed?
(Just as an aside, it’s the complete disconnect between attitudes that gives me such problems–it’s like I’m having all this cognitive dissonance forced upon me. Over here, the Korean haters are all, “Oh, no! Relations between Japan and Korea are poor right now, and Block B is going to DESTROY THEM WITH THEIR EVILNESS!!!” Over there, Japan’s public-broadcasting network is all, “Block B! How do you hope to improve relations between our two countries?” like they were actual diplomats or something.)
NHK WORLD NEWS REPORTS: “Amicable negotiations continued throughout the night.”
Anyway, let’s quit making naughty jokes and start talking about facts and figures, because we’re all about the fun here.
How did the Japanese version of Very Good do? Well, according to the numbers we have from Oricon, it sold 34,311 copies. (I should note that there’s a couple of things that we don’t have Japanese numbers for: Digital sales, and sales of Korean releases. Total mystery.)
Is that good or bad?
Well, compare it to, say, BigBang’s Alive, which sold 217,000 copies in Japan, and that looks pretty weak.
Of course, Alive was not BigBang’s first release in Japan–their first Japanese release was Number 1. That album sold 18,000 copies.
That album-sale trajectory is what you tend to see in any new market: Groups start out with smaller sales, and then as they promote more and release more music, the sales get bigger. It’s really misleading to compare a debut album with a fourth or fifth or tenth album–it’s apples and oranges, or more accurately, [some fruit you’ve never heard of or eaten before] and oranges.
As I mentioned at the time, the response of the Japanese press to Block B’s Japanese debut was that it was impressive–the fact that they were able to stay in the Oricon top 5 for the entire week was a big talking point in stories about them.
And Block B did that with a low-key debut (I’m sure it helped that they’ve been performing in Japan forever). They didn’t do nothing: They had signing events and a televised debut convention. But they didn’t film a new video, and they did a mere two concerts in the weeks leading up to the release.
This time around, with the Japanese version of “H.E.R,” there’s a lot more promotion happening. Block B has filmed a new video (complete with a special appearance by Jun Utahiroba of Golden Bomber), they’re already scheduled to make several appearances on Japanese television, and they went from four concerts scheduled in the weeks leading up to the release to five and then seven. (Two of those concerts have already sold out.)
I think it’s fairly obvious that, in music industry circles in Japan, Block B’s debut was seen as quite promising. They posted decent numbers without really trying, so now they’re getting a bigger push in hopes that they’ll really take off.
Will they take off? I don’t know–ask me after the May Oricon numbers come out. Obviously I hope so, but nothing is ever guaranteed in this life.
One thing I do know–and I’m sorry if this sounds really naggy and bitchy and like I’m a broken record–is that if you are genuinely curious about Block B’s activities in Japan, there is an entire Web site that is dedicated to nothing else. Yes, it’s PR, but given the sources that people seem to be relying on, even PR would be an improvement. And that site has a Twitter feed that sometimes that gives you pictures like this:
So by all means, check it out.