When Artists Disappear

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In Japan, celebrities often vanish from public view in a blink of the eye without any explanation of what happened. Last year, Space Shower TV host Brian Burton-Lewis’s sudden disappearance befuddled me, and only later did I hear through the grapevine that his jimusho put him on voluntary “vacation” after an incident involving drunken fighting (or something). The artist management companies often use this voluntary blackout method as if to quickly plead nolo contendere and get the artists out of the hot seat. Last year, the powerful Up Front Agency put Morning Musume alum Abe Natsumi on suspension when the media revealed that her book of poetry was mostly plagiarized from other sources.

In a certain light, these voluntary career halts seem to be a rather responsible way to deal with wrong-doing, but the extreme solutions to more severe incidents demonstrate the inner workings of the industry. For example, in the ’70s popular singer Ken Naoko was arrested for “suspicion of marijuana possession” — not even possession — and only returned to her normal career after a withdrawn period of public apology and self-remorse. (Others tied up in the arrest were permanently blacklisted.) Even worse, when police stormed into popular singer Makihara Noriyuki’s apartment in 1999 and found him doing meth with his boyfriend (!), he wasn’t just placed on a temporary leave — Sony decided to immediately recall his albums! (If they had to recall all the works by artists arrested for drugs in the States, there wouldn’t be a music industry.) After a long hiatus, Makihara is now back on the charts, but the model at work here is: Artists are products, and when those products go defective, they need to be recalled.

These stories illustrate how the Japanese music industry still maintains a 1950s American vanilla wholesome image, but the king of all disappearing stories is Suzuki Ami. When her artist management firm AG Communication (a Burning subsidiary) was prosecuted for “tax evasion” in 2001, Suzuki’s parents demand that she be able to get out of her contact for fear that the jimusho’s reputation would ruin her career. Even though her request was perfectly legal, the firm and its parent organization could not believe the parents’ audacity and promptly blacklisted her from the entire industry. At her peak as an artist/product, she instantly became a pariah without having done anything wrong. Here was this cash cow waiting to be milked and no one would touch her with a stick.

The traditional explanation for why cartels don’t work is that someone will always have great incentive to cheat and go around the informal rules, and thus, I wonder, how great was the punishment for spurning the blacklist? How can one jimusho have so much power to override everyone else in the whole industry’s most basic profit-motivations?

While most of the record industry went totally silent on the logistics and circumstances of Suzuki’s disappearance, I obtained this information from Steve McClure’s critical December 8th, 2000 article for Billboard on the event, which industry insiders warned him not to publish.

Our love of gossip bursts from an unbridled desire for perfect information, and I am often frustrated with the secrecy and lack of public accountability in the Japanese business world. Moreover, blacklisting is inherently anti-free market. In a world of expanding communications and media possibilities, I find it hard to believe that the industry players still have so much power that they can disappear their own artists and make sure no one asks why.

W. David MARX (Marxy)
February 24, 2005

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

33 Responses

  1. porandojin Says:

    actually i think bad ‘artists’ should disappear, i don’t care what way ;]

  2. Brad Says:

    You have heard that Suzuki is in the midst of making a comeback. She released a single last year as part of a photobook. I believe that was OK because the company releasing the single was a publishing company, rather than a music label.

    Her contract expired on Dec. 31 with Sony and just before that, Matsuura of Avex announced they had signed her. Apparently, her first single will be available as a chaku-uta only. After that, she’ll release a normal, for-sale single. I guess that’s their way of easing her back into things.

    I’ve never liked her, but I’ve been rooting for her ever since the business with her jimusho back in 2000. I was just as surprised as you by the whole thing and still am, I guess, that no one would have said “Look, screw this, let’s sign her and get rich.” But there’s a lot of other ramifications involved when you break step like that.

  3. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    This is 村八分 or ostracism, a pattern of social behaviour that occurs in most if not all cultures in some form or another. Anti-free market, probably, but who said that Japan is a “free” market?

    Your description seems to imply some terrible things happen when you ask I wonder, how great was the punishment for spurning the blacklist? is there any evidence that of violence or serious threats of physical violence?

    I wonder if this doesn’t just boil down to the “Japan should adopt American social policies” once again?

    disclaimer: I also find the practices of
    村八分 and 虐め extremely distasteful, but I’m not Japanese, and not so quick to judge the socially sanctioned practices of another culture.

  4. marxy Says:

    Brad:

    Thanks for the run down on the comeback. It’s clear they are having to be extra careful.

    I wonder if this doesn’t just boil down to the “Japan should adopt American social policies” once again?

    I don’t think believing in a free-market is necessarily “Western” or that cartels are “Eastern.” It’s all about who has power.

    If you’ve been following this Livedoor thing, there’s a Japanese company doing a completely legal stock takeover and getting loads of hate for upsetting the system. They are so rich they don’t need to play by the old rules. The old network calls Livedoor’s actions “American” but Capitalism is amoral – it will eat anything.

    I also find the practices of
    村八分 and 虐め extremely distasteful, but I’m not Japanese, and not so quick to judge the socially sanctioned practices of another culture.

    I will come out and say that I’m against bullying. Call me a Ethnocentric!

    is there any evidence that of violence or serious threats of physical violence?

    Not that we would ever know about. I have a feeling it’s all financial, but with the suspicious funding of a lot of major jimusho, you can’t help but think that physical violence is implied in the transaction.

  5. Brad Says:

    As I mentioned, when Suzuki Ami’s case broke back in 2000, I remember thinking “If I ran Avex or Being or some label, I would sign her in a second. Screw all those other guys.” I mean, really, how back could the backlash be?

    But then I started thinking: so, if everyone else in the industry except you has spurned this person, obviously they are not going to be happy with you breaking ranks and making money off of it. You won’t be able to get her on any TV music programs, you won’t be able to get her into and commercial contracts, you won’t be able to get any magazine articles published about her. Which may or may not be worth it…I mean, if she’s selling like crazy, all of the free publicity surrounding the case might be enough promotion in itself.

    But I think where the problem comes in is all the other artists you handle. Suddenly they can’t get the tv spots, contracts, articles so they lose a lot of outlets to push their product. Your company goes bankrupt because everyone is working against you because you didn’t toe the industry line.

    I think that’s the fear here, rather than a threat of physical violence. By ignoring unwritten industry rules, you run the risk of losing channels for promotion for the problem artist as well as other artists in your stable. Once that happens, you lose revenue and that’s the bottom line, really.

    This Livedoor thing is one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a long time. I’m not usually one to get into these media-created shitstorms but this one is just too amusing. I guess it’s because Horie, Livedoor’s president, is so outspoken. It’s always refreshing to see someone buck the system. Plus it’s interesting to see who own what percentage of what.

  6. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    But I think where the problem comes in is all the other artists you handle. Suddenly they can’t get the tv spots, contracts, articles so they lose a lot of outlets to push their product. Your company goes bankrupt because everyone is working against you because you didn’t toe the industry line. I think that’s the fear here, rather than a threat of physical violence.

    That would be my guess too, rather than a threat
    of physical violence it’s the fear of being left out in the cold.

    This Livedoor thing is one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a long time.

    Most countries protect their broadcast media from foreign involvement. The United States is no exception. But, yes, the creative juggling of stock trading methods (on both sides) is quite entertaining isn’t it.

    I will come out and say that I’m against bullying. Call me a Ethnocentric!

    I’m not sure whether or not you are ethnocentric but your perspective is certainly western and specifically American. Murahachibu, and violent bully in schools, are extreme forms; pathologies of the ijime system. However ijime in various guises seems to be a widespread pattern and part of the glue that holds Japanese society together. So correct me if I am wrong but your comments amount to nothing less than a critique of some quite fundamental characteristics of Japanese society. The problem is that this critique is coming from someone educated to believe in a quite different way of organizing things.

  7. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    Side point: are there any good radio stations in Tokyo? Where I am there seem to be none.

  8. pts Says:

    Man, that’s shocking. I never knew what happened to Suzuki Ami — not that I particularly cared, although now I sort of do. When all the bands that made me fall in love with Japanese pop kind of ended (or degenerated) around 2001, I thought it was a temporary kind of situation. Now, I’m wondering if the late-nineties blossom wasn’t the exception rather than the rule — how can anything remotely creative hope to gain success in such an industry?

  9. Chris_B Says:

    sparkling & brad nailed it. I enjoyed reading this since I didnt know anything about the topic, but I gotta also swing in on the side that says Japanese business methods are not free market, never were and probably never will be. It is what it is.

    About Livedoor, the intriging thing to me is that some analysts somewhere spotted a weakness in the cross shareholdings between Fuji & Nippon, saw that there was enough float to grab a controling interest and put in a call to the FSA to make sure that an off hours TSE buy was legal. To me that level of pre-planning is much more impressive than the possiblities of new digital distribution channels for the dreck Fuji puts out. The backlash from the biz associations, fuji sankei and the govt reminds me of that William S Burroughs monologe about dinosaurs discussing strategy to deal with mamals.

  10. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    The backlash from the biz associations, fuji sankei and the govt reminds me of that William S Burroughs monologe about dinosaurs discussing strategy to deal with mamals.

    Yes quite possibly, but Horie still had to go to foreign backers to pull this together and there’s the rub, no?

  11. marxy Says:

    But then I started thinking: so, if everyone else in the industry except you has spurned this person, obviously they are not going to be happy with you breaking ranks and making money off of it. You won’t be able to get her on any TV music programs, you won’t be able to get her into and commercial contracts, you won’t be able to get any magazine articles published about her.

    We are missing a step: why do the third-party media companies feel the need to take orders from AG Communications? As far as I can tell, they’re only charting acts are dos and Tohko. So what if you lose them?

    I’m not especially blaming “corruption” as much as questioning why the decisions for the industry are made by the jimusho and not by labels or the independent media. Why doesn’t everyone just ignore AG instead of going along with their demands? What’s their bargaining chip?

    However ijime in various guises seems to be a widespread pattern and part of the glue that holds Japanese society together.

    Sparklingbeatnic, were you anti-Mandela? Wasn’t apartheid “the glue that kept South African society togehter”? The problem with the cultural relativists is that you support all these residues of undemocratic society but never quite come out and admit that Japan should be an authoritarian dictatorship since that’s what “Japanese culture” entails. I mean the fact that they have a Diet and a Supreme Court are Western ideas, no? Where do you draw the line?

    Ijime is about power and control, and only remains because it serves the hegemon as a tool to quell diversity and differing opinions.

    but I gotta also swing in on the side that says Japanese business methods are not free market, never were and probably never will be. It is what it is.

    Sure, but most people don’t know this and assume the media business in Japan must operate in a similar manner to those in the West. I’m not trying to cultivate outrage as much as inform.

  12. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    Sparklingbeatnic, were you anti-Mandela?

    Certainly not. I think I need you to clarify for me exactly in which ways Japan and South Africa are similar.

    And what country is free of social problems. Checked the incarceration rate in the USA lately? Or the racial distribution of the inmates? What about those guys in orange suits in Cuba. What’s up with that?

    media business in Japan must operate in a similar manner to those in the West.

    Can’t wait until Japan gets its own Fox News franchise?

  13. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    The statistics I’d really like to see are:

    – the racial composition of the American soldiers stationed in Iraq, and the correlation between rank (or lack of it) and race

    – the racial correlation of causalities coming back in bags from Iraq

    A rather more serious matter than “disappearing artists” in my estimation.

  14. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    also, the same stats for the war on SE Asia, would be of interest.

  15. marxy Says:

    A rather more serious matter than “disappearing artists” in my estimation

    Of course, war is worse than pop music blacklists, but you can discuss that anywhere.

    My point is always: why does being anti-American have to necessarily be pro-Japanese? Why can’t you be anti-bad things? Why is the Japanese system automatically correct in light of an American Imperialism, which I too deplore and am against.

    I’d rather not go deeper into “which country is worse” discussions, but the idea that you can’t criticize “ijime” because it’s “a natural part of culture’ is bollocks. The only reason you and Momus support these things is that the Japanese aren’t White. If the same thing existed in Germany, you’d be against it.

  16. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    Well admittedly bringing up the war thing again is tired, but it’s a bit of a reflex to being suspect of being pro-apartheid (!).

    For the record I don’t consider myself anti-American. I lived there myself at one time.

    I suppose the (obvious I thought) reason I’m suspicious of your critique of Japan is that it is disturbingly similar to the reasons that have been given countless times by the American government to meddle in other countries affairs. Spreading democracy, freeing people from tyrants, cleaning up corruption etc…

    I have to admit that really surprises me when you come up with statements like:

    The problem with the cultural relativists is that you support all these residues of undemocratic society but never quite come out and admit that Japan should be an authoritarian dictatorship since that’s what “Japanese culture” entails. I mean the fact that they have a Diet and a Supreme Court are Western ideas, no?

    Because the implication seems to be that, left to their own devices, with the help of us missionaries of democracy, Japan will never escape its evil corrupt misery. Comparing Japan with apartheid-era South Africa? I just can’t fathom where that came from.

    The only reason you and Momus support these things is that the Japanese aren’t White.

    I’ll let this one slide. However please allow a gentle suggestion that it may be a good idea to be little more careful with your adventures in “hyperbole”.

  17. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    Just as I hit the post key I realized that in consecutive posts you have accused me of being both
    a supporter of both pro-apartheid policies and anti-White. What gives?

  18. Chris_B Says:

    sparklingbeatnick said: Yes quite possibly, but Horie still had to go to foreign backers to pull this together and there’s the rub, no?

    Thats a red herring. No one made a big deal about Euro denomonated bond issues done by banks now did they?

    sparkling went on about The statistics I’d really like to see are:(snip)

    I rather like the fact that this web page has not touched that issue to date. If I were even remotely interested in those stats, I’d pursue that info elsewhere and most defninitely not on a comments page like this. I’d also like to call shenannigans on you and marxy both for throwing such obvious troll bait at each other.

    marxy replied: I’m not trying to cultivate outrage as much as inform.

    Informing is good, but from the tone and typography used in the post, I’d say you have a bit of an axe to grind as well. Your use of bold type in the original post (recall his albums!) shows you want to call special attention to the point beyond merely informing.

    marxy questioned: I’m not especially blaming “corruption” as much as questioning why the decisions for the industry are made by the jimusho and not by labels or the independent media.

    I’m glad you used quotation marks around corruption. Can we agree that is not what we are talking about?

    Examining why jimusho have power in various media (print/audio/video) is a very valid question; one which deserves an answer devoid of value labels like “corruption” or “collusion”. It is clear to me that the jimusho have a function approximately parallel to that of the A&R departments in the US along with some genuine performer management fucntions (you cited several good examples).

    I think we can all agree that the U.S. concept of “indepenant media” does not apply here so why do you ask about it? If my assumption that the jimusho are indeed filtering and managing their product for later distribution by the music labels, then indeed the real questions should be directed at how the jimusho function both individually and as a business class.

    I think you are onto something with the idea of product recall. The output of these performers is undisputably product, and part of managing a product is to remove it when it is not suitable for its target market. You said something about a 1950s American vanilla wholesome image in the orignal post and I think you are near the point. The product of the mainstream music industry is safe, wholesome entertainment. They are not intentionally selling art, culture or social revolution. If their product breaks, they take action to remove it from the market.

    I think you lost your way towards the end of the post when you said:

    blacklisting is inherently anti-democratic and anti-free market.

    Please do not confuse the business of managing and distributing commercial media product with that of the political principals of democracy. Additionally making assertions about free markets assumes that the condition of market competition exists at the jimusho level to begin with. By asserting this and then closing with an accusation in the form of an open ended question, you are indeed encouraging the reader towards “cultivated outrage” rather than merely informing us of existing business conditions. I really like the information you dig up, I learn things here that I have not seen touched on elsewhere. If you add your own moral judgement on it though, dont backpedal or expect not to be called out on it if you do.

  19. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    Chris_B, I think you are making a lot of sense here. In general I’m quite interested in Marxy’s survey of the Japanese popular music scene, and look forward to seeing the results of his empirical study. What offends me is the mix of this quite sensible discussion a kind of overall ideological standpoint to the effect that Japan is anti-democratic, tyrannical, oppressive, corrupt as if these were absolute qualities that Japan possesses but other more enlightened countries do not possess.

    With regards to the Horie affair, I think it is signicant that the money was coming from outside Japan. I believe the Japanese government has explicitly drawn attention to this fact. And of course there have been analogous cases where foreign ownership of media was considered a problem. This is why Rupert Murdoch is a naturalized American citizen, for example.

    What suprises me is that Japan has decided to buy into to the expensive, white elephant (worse because it may precipitate an arms race) that is the missile-defense system being developed by the US. Isn’t this a much bigger affair than some foreign investment in a media corp.?

  20. marxy Says:

    I’ll let this one slide. However please allow a gentle suggestion that it may be a good idea to be little more careful with your adventures in “hyperbole”.

    Yes, let’s forget all that.

    Although I just told a Japanese person that you said that “ijime could not be criticized” and they almost started crying. People don’t like bullying, no matter where you are.

    If you add your own moral judgement on it though, dont backpedal or expect not to be called out on it if you do.

    True, true. I am very pro-Perfect Information almost as a moral issue, so I do tend to be digusted with things happening in back doors. This is not limited to Japan (as I stated in my paranoia screed). I’m concerned with anything not happening outside of public scrutiny.

  21. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    Although I just told a Japanese person that you said that “ijime could not be criticized” and they almost started crying.

    I don’t recall saying “ijime cannot be criticized”. The point is more that various forms of ijime, or avoidance of ijime are integral factors of Japanese society.

    The reaction you will get from someone asked about jijime will depend on how you pose the question. If you had described a very selfish, inconsiderate person and then mentioned that they are suffering from ostracism, you would less likely have observe dsuch pathos.

  22. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    Here’s an interesting question: if you did a survey of Japanese and foreign attitudes to the subject of this post, a selection of specific public personalities who have for one reason or another suffered from ostracism, do you think you would find acultural difference in the responses?

  23. Brad Says:

    sparkligbeatnic, why are you so intent on hijacking the conversation into something this blog doesn’t mornally cover and certainly isn’t the subject of this post. No one will deny that the things you’re bringing up are much worse than a mediocre-at-best singer betting blacklisted, but I think the argument that is being made here is still a valid and valuable one.

    marxy asks: We are missing a step: why do the third-party media companies feel the need to take orders from AG Communications? As far as I can tell, they’re only charting acts are dos and Tohko. So what if you lose them? Why doesn’t everyone just ignore AG instead of going along with their demands? What’s their bargaining chip?

    I don’t think it’s anything to do with AG. In fact, I bet that AG never made any “demands” nor did it need to. The very idea that a star would think that she is above the whole jimusho system, that she could just leave when things got bad, is no good for the whole industry. Once Suzuki Ami does it successfully, then B’z wants to leave Being or SMAP wants to leave Johnny’s. The people who control the system, aka the owners of the jimushos, the network execs, the Dentsu people, etc.

    Hell, look at the uproar caused when Hamasaki Ayumi threatened to leave Avex when Matsuura announced he’d leave. Some commentators on the morning tv shows went to town on her, suggesting this was the end of her career, etc.

    Chris_B says we can’t use loaded words like “corruption” or “collusion” to judge this system, but I think this is very close to collusion. There are a very few people, advertising execs at Dentsu, programming execs at the major networks, jimusho presidents, and probably some others that I’ve forgotten, who work together to come up with schedules, release dates and so on that do not interfere with any one else. Jimusho are obviously at the bottom of this food chain, because while they control the talent, the talent they control are a dime a dozen. Anyone can be Suzuki Ami or any of the Morning Musume or whoever. Obviously the message with the Suzuki Ami incident was directed to jimusho heads and artists and it was to toe the line or else.

    Does anyone else know of any other artists who successfully jumped jimusho? I know that Shena Ringo (leave it to me to bring any post around to her!) left her old jimusho, Solid Bond when she took her hiatus after becoming pregnant. When she came back, she started her own jimusho, Kronekodow. Then she got sued by Solid Bond for royalities owed and then she countersued for the same thing. I never found out how that ended up. Does anyone know?

  24. Brad Says:

    Actually, I should clarify something. Shena Ringo’s old agency, Solid Bond, sued her for return of advances. She sued for unpaid royalties.

  25. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    why are you so intent on hijacking the conversation into something this blog doesn’t mornally cover and certainly isn’t the subject of this post.

    Do we have to go through this all over again?

    excerpted from above:

    In general I’m quite interested in Marxy’s survey of the Japanese popular music scene, and look forward to seeing the results of his empirical study. What offends me is the mix of this quite sensible discussion with a kind of overall ideological standpoint to the effect that Japan is anti-democratic, tyrannical, oppressive, and corrupt, as if these were absolute qualities not possessed by more enlightened countries.

  26. Momus Says:

    I can’t offer any specific examples here (although I’ve been signed to Japanese labels and worked quite closely with a kind of jimusho, 3D Corporation), but I wonder if this doesn’t relate to one of the most marked differences between the Western mindset and the Japanese one: in the West we believe that freedom is about the ability to step outside of defined social contexts, and we value that very highly. It interlocks with another Western thought-habit, which is that we’re much more interested in opportunities than in actualities, in, for instance, equality of opportunity rather than actual equality. This results in people in the West perpetually quitting their jobs, social networks, towns, etc in the hope of slotting in somewhere better. Unfortunately for the ideology involved, social mobility in the West is declining (particularly in the US), and this idea that you can opt out of your social context is becoming more and more fictional. In Japan one is not only more tightly tied to one’s peers and colleagues by bonds of loyalty and obligation, one also doesn’t harbour any illusions that there is an outside to ‘drop out’ towards. The ‘outsides’ that do exist here are unenviable: you can be homeless, a hikikomori, or a disappeared artist. Given the choice between freedom and situatedness, Japanese people will choose situatedness every time. Not “I am free to be whatever I want” but “This group I’m part of is who I am”.

    Marxy’s blog is intelligent and interesting in its detailing, but I think (as Sparklig says) there’s a big flaw in the framing — the way Japanese practises are seen as particular and Western practises as universal. Ideology pervades all systems. Every cultural practise, seen from the right angle, is odd. Every system has a “flavour”. This blog, for instance, has the flavour of textbooks and marketing statistics and newspapers (when it doesn’t have a retro-Shibuya flavour), but I’m often surprised that the actual flavour of life in Tokyo is absent.

  27. marxy Says:

    This blog, for instance, has the flavour of textbooks and marketing statistics and newspapers (when it doesn’t have a retro-Shibuya flavour), but I’m often surprised that the actual flavour of life in Tokyo is absent.

    Yes, because the “flavor of life in Tokyo” is the omote and I am interested in the ura, which we are not privvy to. So, it must become a dry description instead of a sensational storyetelling. I wasn’t at the meeting where they decided to blacklist Suzuki Ami or where they said, “You can’t have Da Pump on Music Station.” This blog doesn’t aim to be a description of “what it’s like to live in Japan” – mostly because my own life is so atypical of the multitudes of Japanese experiences. I’ve certainly lived many of the gaijin cliches, and I’m happy to at least moved out of the most obvious ones.

    Marxy’s blog is intelligent and interesting in its detailing, but I think (as Sparklig says) there’s a big flaw in the framing — the way Japanese practises are seen as particular and Western practises as universal.

    I think this is a very good criticism, but the Japanese themselves also happen to think this way. They borrowed democracy etc. from the West, because their old Imperial Fascist system didn’t get them anywhere. The current Japanese “flavour” strongly benefits the ruling powers, and I think it’s naive to assume that this system was somehow democratically “voted in.” Japanese people do drop out, but they are then ignored. Japanese people do excel beyond the social network, but then they are ignored. If Japan is going to keep whining about their nation-state status dropping, they need to play the game by the international rules. If they want to stop caring and do their own thing, then I will stop needing to criticize.

    If they choose to keep playing the globo-political game, Japan will probably continue to borrow things from the West and scrap their old systems.

    My question for the Cultural Relativists here has always been: shouldn’t Japan get rid of democracy since it’s not “authentically” Japanese? Or maybe they already have.

  28. marxy Says:

    The reaction you will get from someone asked about jijime will depend on how you pose the question. If you had described a very selfish, inconsiderate person and then mentioned that they are suffering from ostracism, you would less likely have observe dsuch pathos.

    We hate assholes in America without having to condone bullying.

  29. marxy Says:

    Brad wrote:

    The very idea that a star would think that she is above the whole jimusho system, that she could just leave when things got bad, is no good for the whole industry.

    Very well-put. The industry reacted as such on principle that artists cannot go outside of the system that made them.

    It is important to remember that the networks and media outlets in Japan make programming decisions with direction from the jimusho not to them. MTV picks their weekly line ups, Music Station does not. While MTV is getting more collusive these days, it wasn’t so bad in the early 90s or even 80s. They were so stubborn about not playing Black music that Sony had to threaten a boycott to get Michael Jackson on the air.

  30. Chris_B Says:

    Momus: great comment, really.

    Marxy: may I suggest that what you or I would percieve as collusion is in fact locally perceived as co-operation? I think the system “works” on the basis of the co-operation of the jimusho and the publishers. I agree that the performers are completely interchangeable and even disposable. By means of co-operation between the jimusho and publishers, an overall accord can be reached which gives everyone a seat at the table.

    Sparkling: you seem to be really upset in this thread and continue to bring in diversionary political issues. Japanese companies do foreign bond issuances all the time. Nissan is seeking to raise US$750M right now. As I pointed out before, banks (also national champion industries) do Euro and US$ denomonated bonds as well. The issue with Livedoor/Fuji is about hostile takeovers which are percieved as being a “foreign” business method. You have been here long enough to know that the general acceptance of all involved in any decision is one of the most important facets of this society.

  31. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    Sparkling: you seem to be really upset in this thread and continue to bring in diversionary political issues.

    I find it quite interesting that Japan, unlike other countries such as the USA, does not have explicit legislation to prevent majority ownerwhip of a media corp. And the Livedoor incident has raised the issue to political discussion.

    But we’re talking at cross purposes here, I generally agree with your other statements on this .

  32. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    BTW either my perception is completely off or the side discussion on Livedoor is not a “diversion” as you term it, but central to the topic of this thread.

  33. marxy Says:

    I just want to add that our discussions here echo a certain split in the Left at the moment between the “cultural relativist” PC position that excuses illiberalism in other nations and the “univeralist” position that thinks all illiberalism is bad. I know which side everyone is on, and I hate to just have the same discussion over and over again.

    I do want to add this though: the CR would excuse Japanese male’s anti-Feminist attitude as “traditional”, which it is, and no matter who is right or wrong, there is a huge social problem in Japan now that women have become much more self-assertive and therefore, refuse to marry men with these traditional ideas. According to Japan Today. over 70% of women would rather stay single, and I have a feeling that this mismatch between “traditional” male attitudes towards women and women’s “modern” attitudes towards marriage is partly to blame.

    So, whether or not these Western “liberal” ideas should come to Japan, they are coming and they’re wrecking everything about the old system. They are very attractive to the people who lack power in the old system and will be adopted more and more. In this way, democracy and capitalism and social freedom are a virus, not just a Western-imposed idea. And either social institutions can also adapt to them in order to create more order in society or they can stay true to the old power structure and watch everything fall apart.