Friday, August 17, 2007

A light in the darkness

In a post to the NBR Japan Forum, W. David Marx, the brilliant if maddeningly inconsistent essayist behind Néomarxisme and clast has blessed us with a dense and intelligent summary of the basic structure and flaws of the Japanese popular music scene.

As to why so much of what one sees and hears on the "Tops of the Pops" television shows is both formulaic and terrible, he explains:

Creative control and rights management happens at the jimusho level, and since only 12 or so jimusho have access to regular television programs, hit artists come disproportionally from these companies or their subsidiaries. Most of these artist management companies have small staffs, are secretive, private, and questionably-financed, and this organizational style results in them only knowing how to make a very limited palette of music. Artists are bound by strict contracts and threats of blacklisting if they jump to smaller or independent jimusho (as seen with Suzuki Ami and countless others), so they cannot afford to make a stand for creative control. The jimusho oligopoly makes for a very controlled market, with very little chance of innovation occurring unless outside companies can break in. The artists that are "stars" in Japan are usually from the oligopolistic companies, and therefore, are not particularly "competitive" commodities.

If the pop music scene in Japan has utterly perplexed you ("Can't the public tell how bad it is?") take the time to read Marx's full essay.

Afterwards you will feel both incredibly dumb and incredibly smart.

I had always wondered what had had happened to "Amigo" - Ami Suzuki, the childish answer to Hamasaki Ayumi. For a time she is omnipresent; then suddenly, non-existent.

Now I understand: she challenged the production system and lost.


Anonymous said...

"maddeningly inconsistent"

Ha ha. Do you mean in quality or quantity?


MTC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MTC said...

Marxy -

I was thinking more along the lines of some of your clast posts of early to mid- April - I could not grasp your point...but it is also true you do not give us all the free ice cream we crave.

MTC want more Marxy thought without paying for it. MTC want more Marxy thought without paying for it NOW!