Is Jpop Dead?

Updated: Sep 22, 2020

A fair question as we haven't seen much impact made internationally since Jpop's glorious days in the 90's.

Jpop star, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu

The broad answer to that? “No”. You may ask “why?”. While Japan has enjoyed (and in some aspects, continue to enjoy) its glorious days, Jpop has had one very distinct feature and that is, no compromise. Three points below to emphasize my case.

1. Originality: Jpop artists have been the epitome of “quirky”. From music to fashion styles, the Japanese have re-invented what it means to be different and gain acceptance for it.

Take the examples below:

(i) "Enamel" by Sid

(ii) "Endless Rain" by X-Japan

(iii) "Sai & Co" by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu

It’s hard to do what the Japanese do and be brilliant at it.

2. A tight ecosystem: Japan is probably one of the last countries to sell CDs, much less have a Tower Records building in the heart of Shibuya. As the #4 music market in the world (after the United Kingdom), based on PwC's Global Entertainment and Media Outlook: 2015-2019 report, they’ve held the fort shutting out the music streaming business and unless you’re a hard core fan paying for music, it’s near impossible to find Jpop music online.

3. Hare-turtle race: Nevertheless, the market is changing and while major artists are benefiting the most from the current ecosystem, rookies and mid-weight level artists continue to find ways to have their music heard, slowly closing that gap between their fans and them, potentially breaking outside of Japan. While Jpop has kept it’s niche audience, with more MCNs supporting newer budding artists, it won’t be surprising Jpop creeps back as a trend in the Asia music scene. After all, slow and steady does win the race.

There are definitely other factors to consider, such as stakeholders, business complexities, language and ease of communication. But, music is universal and all it could take is for fans to catch the Jpop bug to ignite the fire again.

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