Getting a Job in the Music Business in Japan

If you really want to be a famous musician or work in the music industry, and you need advice, great! You’ve come to the right place. I’ve worked in the music business since 1978. So I have a pretty good idea as to what’s going on.

Let me tell you aspiring musician that there is absolutely no way. You have zero chance of making it without a hugely lucky break. This article might be your lucky break… Then again, you’d do well to get a job at a convenience store.

Might as well start of at the beginning with having your dreams crushed like a grape, right?

Trust that, by the time you finish reading this article you’ll realize that, if you want to work in the music business in Japan, you really might as well get a job at a convenience store. It’s really that simple.

But, if you really believe you can “make it,” then good for you… Read on…

Yesterday, I had lunch with Aki Morishita the vice president of Fuji Pacific Music Publishing, the biggest music publisher in the world. Aki also has a very high ranking position at EMI Music Publishing too.

Both Aki and I were joined by a young friend who is a musician and song-writer named Andre Dimuzio. Andre, like many other young musicians, is looking for a break into the music industry.

I think he was very surprised by what both Aki and I had to say.

I think many people know that the old way of the music business is dead; record labels are collapsing all around us and the traditional methods of distributing music have also been turned on their heads.

I’ve also written before about what these changes mean for TV and radio in Japan  herehere, and here.

CD retail is dying, and along with it the labels and TV and radio are dying a slow death too…

Both Aki and I joked about how no one can sell any physical product anymore (CDs, etc.) excepting vinyl for club DJ’s, but it looks like I could be wrong about that too as Panasonic has announced that they will discontinue production and sales of Technics turn tables.

Fans of analog music were dealt another blow when consumer electronics company Panasonic announced earlier this month that it would be discontinuing the audio products within its Technics brand, most notably the legendary line of analog turntables. On October 20, the company said that it was winding down production of the Technics SL-1200MK6 analog turntable, the SH-EX1200 analog audio mixer and the RP-DH1200 and RP-DJ1200 stereo headphones due to challenges in the marketplace. “Panasonic decided to end production mainly due to a decline in demand for these analog products and also the growing difficulty of procuring key analog components necessary to sustain production,” the company said in statement.

Here, all this time, I had thought that DJ specialty record shops in Tokyo, like Manhattan Records, were doing a good business selling vinyl records. Maybe not.

Like I said, the music business is falling apart in Japan and the old order has definitely shot itself in the foot. Aki said that there are rumors that Tower Records Shibuya won’t last to summer 2011. I wrote about that before too. And, after the bankruptcy of a radio station in Nagoya, there are the rumblings of another great upheaval in two big FM stations in Kyushu.

I thought it was interesting that, during the conversation, I mentioned that the only hope for radio stations in Japan was automation – something they do not want to do as people will lose their jobs… But this morning’s news also adds another surprise to the mix.

I had pointed out to my friends that Lawson’s Convenience store runs their own in-store radio station. It is called, “Lawson’s Hot Station” and while it is total and complete pablum, it does the job that Lawson’s needs – and it is a fully automated “radio station.”

Lawson’s = Smart.

Now, Lawson’s takes it one step further as they have taken over HMV records in Japan!

Lawson Inc. intends to use its takeover of HMV Japan KK to attract young consumers, the biggest users of convenience stores, by tapping the major music and movie retailer’s online sales expertise and roughly 4.7 million members. HMV Japan — which rings up half its annual sales of some 30 billion yen online — sends out e-mail showcasing new products to customers based on their purchasing histories. The convenience store operator’s attention was drawn to the passion of HMV Japan customers toward certain genres of music and movies.

Now, young musician with stars in your eyes, here’s a test. Let’s see if you can put two and two together…

Question: If you want a job in the music industry in Japan, you should try to get a job at:

a) a record shop

b) a record label

c) a radio station

d) a convenience store

The correct answer is d.