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secret_no_03

The future of Visual Kei in an all digital world?

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The talk of loving to buy physical CDs/DVDs and all of the perks that come with it got me thinking about the (near?) future of the scene in a world where all music is digital. Very few computers come with a CD drive, Spotify and Apple Music are growing more than ever; Apple even dropping iTunes for a plain music app, and although the retro music renaissance is a thing with vinyl making a comeback, the future of physical media is looking grim. I definitely see Japan (especially since they still have CD rentals, something that is very rare or non-existent in the west) being dragged into the future of music distribution kicking and screaming; Visual Kei especially. VK popularized multi-type albums, single release campaigns and as far as I know (please correct me if I'm wrong) the live only singles. If Japan gets to a point where you need to buy a separate device to burn a CD and God forbid CD players in cars go by the way side, then their CDs will be a relic of a bygone era. 

 

Honestly, the day video game consoles stop having CD drives, the DVD will die and DVD players will become VHS players (those are harder than hell to find), I'll be very upset as someone who's amassed a great many movies and such. There is also the fear of everything being lost forever. I'm sure all of us have cursed the heavens when we lose files and don't have a physical copy to back them up. I suppose itunes would be a solution, but if that ever crashed...well I don't want to think about it.

 

Anyway, I look forward to seeing what everyone else thinks, the pros and cons of all of our cherished CDs and DVDs becoming not only obsolete, but useless...

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CDs have just recently faced a downturn last year, but they still make up a huge chunk of music sales. There are lot of factors at play here, but Japan in particular has this "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality with a lot of things (fueled in part by gerontocracy.)

 

I can't speak for the Japanese (there's likely an MH topic on this as well), but to my knowledge, Japan has this unique fixation with old physical media (and cultures outside their own.*) It's to the point where I'd doubt interest will fade away without the physical media literally degrading first. Also, it's kind of imbued in Japanese culture to dislike illegal downloading to the point where it's largely avoided (also the fact that said sites are mainly in English.) I certainly think Japan will follow suit with with the West in streaming adoption, but it will be a staggered one. I think Japan's larger music industry will fight tooth-and-nail to keep "piracy-proof" solutions around, whether they use "m-cards" or some other physical vessels to distribute digital downloads (like those weird micro-sd solutions.)

 

It's really hard to imagine a post physical-media world, not only in Japan, but everywhere else as well. There is definitely concern that if we went all digital, these providers like Spotify could "poof" artists/music out of existence and no one would be able to do anything. Hell, even Apple has been guilty of zapping (really obfuscating, the files were still there) mp3s "out" of user's libraries if they had an iTunes/Apple Music equivalent.

 

TL;DR, I don't really know what will happen. I can't approach this topic from an "audiophile" point of view, because audio quality is not the main impetus for most people when it comes to purchasing music/services. But just having music just be "accessible", which is certainly great, kind of makes me feel dead inside... It's this weird dilemma we'll all have that newer generations might barely think about in the future... Or maybe there's a longing for it, a revival of sorts born out of interest and sentimentality like the vinyl boom.

 

* Just noticed this was kind of a blurb. I'm really just alluding to the rampant "collector culture"  in Japan. Someone more familiar with this could expand the topic.

** To my knowledge, rather than having a "vinyl boom", Japan has had a sustained interest that's recently spiked. 

*** Forgot to mention the "handshake economy" which fuels a lot of CD sales in the idol industry. That could easily be substituted by a "digital lottery" of sorts.

 

****

 

Oddly timed update, but I found a good way to summarize this: Many of the Japanese indie bands I follow are actually going the way of digital + streaming nowadays to spread their music. Streaming also pays without having to initially invest in CDs and physical goods, which is ideal for smaller bands who just want their SOUND out there (YouTube is also included in this.) CDs however, are a no-brainer for IDOLS as they generate revenue off of some sort of imagery and personality. Idols include Visual Kei musicians, K-pop + J-pop idols, Anime musicians + seiyuu, etc.  All of these genres/scenes are reliant on CD sales because they are extensions of their image.

 

Only changes at the top of the Japanese CD industry (AKB's, Johnny's, major anime) can change the ones below it, like Visual Kei. Until there is some foolproof medium that generates as much revenue as CDs do when it comes to image and advertising potential, they won't "move on". 

Edited by colorful人生

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Eventually, they’ll have to adapt. CD stores are going out of business, even though they held on decently compared to the West.

 

The bands will always have their core gya that throw money at them. Physical releases are only one of the ways that they do this. With the CD format becoming less popular, i wouldn’t be surprised if many of these lay untouched, as collectibles more than anything.

 

I can’t predict the popularity of vinyl in Japan. Luna Sea’s LP re-releases all come with English translation booklets, so i’m pretty sure they knew their audience here.

 

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5 minutes ago, GreatNorthernVK said:

Eventually, they’ll have to adapt. CD stores are going out of business, even though they held on decently compared to the West.

 

The bands will always have their core gya that throw money at them. Physical releases are only one of the ways that they do this. With the CD format becoming less popular, i wouldn’t be surprised if many of these lay untouched, as collectibles more than anything.

 

I can’t predict the popularity of vinyl in Japan. Luna Sea’s LP re-releases all come with English translation booklets, so i’m pretty sure they knew their audience here.

 

CD shops are like antique shops in the west. I wouldn't worry too much about them going belly up in Japan until Tower Records shuts down. Hell, by then all of the small shops will most likely already be gone. 

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11 minutes ago, colorful人生 said:

CDs have just recently faced a downturn last year, but they still make up a huge chunk of music sales. There are lot of factors at play here, but Japan in particular has this "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality with a lot of things (fueled in part by gerontocracy.)

 

I can't speak for the Japanese (there's likely an MH topic on this as well), but to my knowledge, Japan has this unique fixation with old physical media (and cultures outside their own.*) It's to the point where I'd doubt interest will fade away without the physical media literally degrading first. Also, it's kind of imbued in Japanese culture to dislike illegal downloading to the point where it's largely avoided (also the fact that said sites are mainly in English.) I certainly think Japan will follow suit with with the West in streaming adoption, but it will be a staggered one. I think Japan's larger music industry will fight tooth-and-nail to keep "piracy-proof" solutions around, whether they use "m-cards" or some other physical vessels to distribute digital downloads (like those weird micro-sd solutions.)

 

It's really hard to imagine a post physical-media world, not only in Japan, but everywhere else as well. There is definitely concern that if we went all digital, these providers like Spotify could "poof" artists/music out of existence and no one would be able to do anything. Hell, even Apple has been guilty of zapping (really obfuscating, the files were still there) mp3s "out" of user's libraries if they had an iTunes/Apple Music equivalent.

 

TL;DR, I don't really know what will happen. I can't approach this topic from an "audiophile" point of view, because audio quality is not the main impetus for most people when it comes to purchasing music/services. But just having music just be "accessible", which is certainly great, kind of makes me feel dead inside... It's this weird dilemma we'll all have that newer generations might barely think about in the future... Or maybe there's a longing for it, a revival of sorts born out of interest and sentimentality like the vinyl boom.

 

* Just noticed this was kind of a blurb. I'm really just alluding to the rampant "collector culture"  in Japan. Someone more familiar with this could expand the topic.

Yeah, Japan hates piracy, which is funny how VK created a monster of piracy with their galapogosian ways. Coming from a good stint in Japanese hip hop which is even more niche in Japan, Japanese piracy laws are a scary thing. 

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I have personally found Japan to be quite infrequent and unexpected in terms of physical media, just in the last five or so years, some band are even reusing the mini-disc, and 8cm CD format to produce music, It's very nostalgia filled.

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23 minutes ago, Katt said:

I have personally found Japan to be quite infrequent and unexpected in terms of physical media, just in the last five or so years, some band are even reusing the mini-disc, and 8cm CD format to produce music, It's very nostalgia filled.

I'll never forget the 8cm of hide's Pink Spider single.

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Just now, secret_no_03 said:

I'll never forget the 8cm of hide's Pink Spider single.

I have it sitting up on my Media Station, what a single....

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1 hour ago, GreatNorthernVK said:

Eventually, they’ll have to adapt. CD stores are going out of business, even though they held on decently compared to the West.

 

The bands will always have their core gya that throw money at them. Physical releases are only one of the ways that they do this. With the CD format becoming less popular, i wouldn’t be surprised if many of these lay untouched, as collectibles more than anything.

 

I can’t predict the popularity of vinyl in Japan. Luna Sea’s LP re-releases all come with English translation booklets, so i’m pretty sure they knew their audience here.

 

One thing I forgot to mention was a recent article I read (which kind of spawned off the whole iTunes removal "debacle" prior to WWDC) that said CDs had vastly less sentimentality attached to them in the West because they're really just plastic vessels (using that word a lot tonight) for digital files. Hence, why CD interest is falling out at a rapid rate. It kind of makes sense considering how sterile/uninspired CD releases can be where I'm at v. the attention to detail when it comes to Japanese CDs. I wonder if it's the art, but I'm not sure because I have plenty of American CDs that are pretty decent. I haven't bought a CD recently to know if it's gotten worse, though.

 

TL;DR: CDs themselves really become "untouched collectibles" at a certain point, but the attention to detail in the rest of the case makes a difference. I feel like that detail is becoming more uninspired with the information/art more available online.

 

Another thing I didn't mention on my main post was the impending rollout of 5G network infrastructure, which would increase the viability in offering more lossless streaming/downloading services for mobile (though not necessarily a magic solution.)  I didn't really mention this, because for most people, Apple Music's 256kbps is enough. Also, the conversation starts to segue into dealing with other parts of the world & other areas with low internet speeds where they don't have the infrastructure to benefit from this. 

Edited by colorful人生

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2 minutes ago, colorful人生 said:

One thing I forgot to mention was a recent article I read (which kind of spawned off the whole iTunes removal "debacle" prior to WWDC) that said CDs had vastly less sentimentality attached to them in the West because they're really just plastic vessels (using that word a lot tonight) for digital files. Hence, why CD interest is falling out at a rapid rate. It kind of makes sense considering how sterile/uninspired CD releases can be where I'm at v. the attention to detail when it comes to Japanese CDs. I wonder if it's the art, but I'm not sure because I have plenty of American CDs that are pretty decent. I haven't bought a CD recently to know if it's gotten worse, though.

 

Another thing I didn't mention on my main post was the impending rollout of 5G network infrastructure, which would increase the viability in offering more lossless streaming/downloading services for mobile (though not necessarily a magic solution.)  I didn't really mention this, because for most people, Apple Music's 256kbps is enough. Also, the conversation starts to segue into dealing with other parts of the world & other areas with low internet speeds where they don't have the infrastructure to benefit from this. 

I don't know much about the infrastructure of Japan as far as internet availability and speed goes, but in the west it's still miles behind what it should be. This is partly why streaming video games isn't very popular and things like redbox have found a market in rural America. Plenty of people have 20mb down, like I said not sure how speeds are in Japan, but I myself came from dial up to satellite to DSL to fiber, so from crawling to 20ish to 50 and now around 200 down. 

 

It's a little off topic, but this 5G thing has plenty of people worried because of how powerful it is and the effects it may have on humans, especially since plenty of radiation already comes from cell phones already.

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CDs are still massive in Japan and as vkei isn't that big out of Japan I don't think there's anything to worry about. Personally I much prefer physical releases to digital and am glad a lot of these bands aren't jumping on the digital bandwagon or only releasing a few physical copies and charging way more for it than a normal album.(which some bands are doing and vkei would no doubt take advantage of that) But when you consider live only releases and stuff, people literally travel from all over to make that show to get that CD if they can. Also it's not uncommon for Japanese to buy multiple copies of one CD, (usually one to use and one to keep wrapped as a collectors item) or to try and get all the collectible cards that come with the physical release. I can't remember what the group was called but when I was in Japan once, went into a tower records and there was some idol group performing in there and a guy in the queue to buy some stuff in front of me had 2 singles by this group but literally about 10 copies of each one. So even though digital is obviously becoming more of a thing in Japan I do feel like physical is still much preferred there.

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Everything is a cycle. We are in the beginning of a transition away from physical to digital goods, because right now we can see the benefits of all digital and the disadvantages of physical media. Give streaming time to mature as a delivery service and there are bound to be issues that crop up unique to streaming, issues that physical media doesn't have to deal with, and eventually we'll settle on some medium where streaming and physical media can coexist.

IMO, visual kei will have to accept streaming eventually. It's not a big enough scene to make "demands" on how people consume their music. Fans will just pirate the music if companies continue to make it difficult to acquire visual kei music legally. I think that once a few high ranking businessmen in the scene see the potential behind streaming, visual kei will naturally transition itself into streaming. Once this happens, the way business is done will forever change. I expect that multi type releases will become a thing of the past, since they don't work as well digitally. Exclusive tracks to a streaming platform is possible. The piracy scene will change as well if it's not as easy to get a hold of physical media.
 

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38 minutes ago, Zeus said:

Everything is a cycle. We are in the beginning of a transition away from physical to digital goods, because right now we can see the benefits of all digital and the disadvantages of physical media. Give streaming time to mature as a delivery service and there are bound to be issues that crop up unique to streaming, issues that physical media doesn't have to deal with, and eventually we'll settle on some medium where streaming and physical media can coexist.

they're already quite known lol streaming is the worst from environment standpoint bc. data-storage and infrastructure run 24/7 and not just when Becky wants to stream her katy perry classics, 

 

and there's history of services changing ownership and nuking their content libraries in what is later excused as a technical issue ( = myspace, tumblr probs next) because maintaining legacy low-usage libraries also costs money 

 

oh and also this part - 

38 minutes ago, Zeus said:

Once this happens, the way business is done will forever change. I expect that multi type releases will become a thing of the past, since they don't work as well digitally.

I actually think Japanese market would rather invent a new physical format that will be pushed by the major labels (they already have m-card no one else is using) than lose physical media sale numbers and sales mark-ups to streaming

 

if sony forced gamers to install 40+ gigs of bluray media before launching tha games and kept a mandatory disk-in game launch on ps4, they'll do it with music CDs once retail sales dive enough, and honestly as long as it's done sensibly I'm hft (make walkmans gr8 again etc)

Edited by nekkichi

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24 minutes ago, Zeus said:

Everything is a cycle. We are in the beginning of a transition away from physical to digital goods, because right now we can see the benefits of all digital and the disadvantages of physical media. Give streaming time to mature as a delivery service and there are bound to be issues that crop up unique to streaming, issues that physical media doesn't have to deal with, and eventually we'll settle on some medium where streaming and physical media can coexist.

IMO, visual kei will have to accept streaming eventually. It's not a big enough scene to make "demands" on how people consume their music. Fans will just pirate the music if companies continue to make it difficult to acquire visual kei music legally. I think that once a few high ranking businessmen in the scene see the potential behind streaming, visual kei will naturally transition itself into streaming. Once this happens, the way business is done will forever change. I expect that multi type releases will become a thing of the past, since they don't work as well digitally. Exclusive tracks to a streaming platform is possible. The piracy scene will change as well if it's not as easy to get a hold of physical media.
 

In theory, piracy would take a huge hit because the price for songs would be a lot cheaper and on iTunes levels and if you can't afford $10 for an album when you can $30 for a physical one, then I don't know what to tell you. You're just being ridiculous at that point because you can clearly support any band at that point.

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29 minutes ago, nekkichi said:

they're already quite known lol streaming is the worst from environment standpoint bc. data-storage and infrastructure run 24/7 and not just when Becky wants to stream her katy perry classics, 

 

and there's history of services changing ownership and nuking their content libraries in what is later excused as a technical issue ( = myspace, tumblr probs next) because maintaining legacy low-usage libraries also costs money 

 

oh and also this part - 

I actually think Japanese market would rather invent a new physical format that will be pushed by the major labels (they already have m-card no one else is using) than lose physical media sale numbers and sales mark-ups to streaming

 

if sony forced gamers to install 40+ gigs of bluray media before launching tha games and kept a mandatory disk-in game launch on ps4, they'll do it with music CDs once retail sales dive enough, and honestly as long as it's done sensibly I'm hft (make walkmans gr8 again etc)

If Japan truly can't give up physical stuff I'd actually like to see someone come up with a stylized memory stick in a box with all of the bells and whistles for a release, see how people handle that and go from there. The futuristic gimmick of it might be a good selling point for a group that can pull it off.

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I mean, it might change the scene a bit. I quite enjoyed going to vk stores in shinjuku, it's always nice to look at a physical collection of CDs, but that is just the 90s kid in me. However, the rest is basically going to stay the same, I guess. People are just going to download the music.

However, I think this'll take some time. You talked about the west, saying that record stores are a rarity there. I can honestly not say the same about Europe. While sales of physical CDs have been declining, there are still huge record stores here. And since Japan loves places such as book of or twoer records, they will continue buying it + I think companies in Japan have their ways of attracting people to buy physical albums.

 

Take k-pop for instance: in Europe, people often download the songs illegally, and then buy the physical CD. Simply because they like the design/want to support the band/want the special features. VK is the same in that respect.

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1 hour ago, AwesomeNyappy said:

I mean, it might change the scene a bit. I quite enjoyed going to vk stores in shinjuku, it's always nice to look at a physical collection of CDs, but that is just the 90s kid in me. However, the rest is basically going to stay the same, I guess. People are just going to download the music.

However, I think this'll take some time. You talked about the west, saying that record stores are a rarity there. I can honestly not say the same about Europe. While sales of physical CDs have been declining, there are still huge record stores here. And since Japan loves places such as book of or twoer records, they will continue buying it + I think companies in Japan have their ways of attracting people to buy physical albums.

 

Take k-pop for instance: in Europe, people often download the songs illegally, and then buy the physical CD. Simply because they like the design/want to support the band/want the special features. VK is the same in that respect.

There is a definite distinction between *CD* shops, and *record* shops.

 

CD shops are tanking in the West. Record shops still do pretty decently.

 

I’ve been joking for a while now that if VK bands want gaijin to buy their music, just release something on LP. But if too many bands do this, we’ll just run into the same problem. Market gets saturated, and there’s only so much money to go around.

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Also I would like to add the fact that some indie bands, and some smaller bands still like to use cassettes, it's an interesting thing, but I guess it goes back to Japan's obsession over old media formats. Bands like Marvelous Cruelty release stuff on cassettes and cds, And I guess it's just appeasing to an older crowd.

 

"Yabujou (?) (破錠) (romanization is a bit fuzzy) will be released in multiple types on June 14th. According to the flyer they recently shared on Twitter, this demo will contain two tracks and will be sold in both a CD and cassette tape format. The CD version will cost 1,500 yen, and the tape will be 1,000." From VKGY

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