Sadly, during the month of September, Japan was hit with two typhoons two weekends in a row. This weather shifted my game plan a little bit but also allowed me the chance to sit down and really reflect. When people want to know my major, they immediately have a ton of questions. This blog post is here to present a day in the life of a music business major in Japan.
What is your degree exactly?
I am currently in my senior year at the University of Illinois at Chicago. My focus is a BA in music business with an emphasis on digital music composition. I am a non-traditional student, and one of my favorite things about life is we are only competing against ourselves. My associate is in professional music from the late Phil Mattson’s School of Music vocations. This school taught me a solid foundation behind the theory of music, and really taught me how to be a professional musician. But after I was a little lost and burnt out, so I took some time off. During this time, I fell in love with music production and promotion, getting a job as a talent buyer at a music venue in Chicago. But then everything changed when covid attacked, and thanks to a loving push from my dad, I enrolled back in school so I could transition to the label side of the music industry and get a job as an A&R. A&R is short for Artist & Repriotie. UIC’s amazing study abroad program is what pushed me to apply to attend TUJ (Temple University Japan)! And now I am out here in Japan.
But why Japan?
This is a loaded question and to be honest it was an easy choice. All of my life, I have been presented with Eurocentric views as normal. When studying music, we are mainly presented with ideas from European composers. When I began studying the music industry at college, I learned that based on revenue Japan is the number two leader in the world. I was curious about what makes the Japanese music industry tick. I wanted to develop a global worldview that would make me attractive to potential recruiters for music industry jobs. In such a competitive field, you must do anything to stand out. Coming to Japan would help me realize the best version of myself. Thanks to a little digging I was able to create my own opportunities that would help me get closer to the music industry while in Japan. I also appreciate music from all cultures! City Pop, J-pop, and Anime themes are all greatly influenced by Black culture and Black music. I would love the chance to look at the intersectionality of how Black culture influences the Japanese music industry.
So how did you get involved in the music industry?
There is not one definitive answer to this…but if you are me, you fail a lot. I genuinely mean this, but I only know so much now because I love to learn things the hard way. Failure is feedback. I did not take any music business courses so I was taken advantage of a lot when I first started in the music industry. Overpaying for music videos, hiring shady PR firms, you name it. I started seeking knowledge. I wanted to understand this system to not only navigate it but to help others if they trust my instincts and want to get involved in this field. So, by the time I got to Japan I knew what I wanted to get into, and I was going to do whatever it took to make that happen. It helps that I currently work for an amazing start-up while studying in Japan. I finished a phenomenal summer job willing to put me in contact with some Japanese labels, and just going out and asking questions can lead you to the most interesting places with the nicest people.
How has Temple helped with this Journey?
Something that is offered at Temple University Japan is the Student Research and Creative Funding grant. This grant gives students 50,000 yen to be used on a project or presentation. I thought this would be the perfect chance to fund my study into the Japanese Music Industry. I am already on step 3 of the process, where I will be meeting with the Research Dept to discuss my project on November 2nd. I have this vision to do a research project called, “Breaking Open Borders: An ethnographic study of the Japanese Music Industry.” I want to get interviews with key opinion leaders and be a fly on the wall to figure out how Japan has the second-highest revenue in the music industry. Yet I cannot go to this meeting empty-handed, so I thought I would begin my journey by attending the Fujii Kaze concert in Osaka.
Something a mentor told me was that the reason Japanese acts do not tour overseas is that they do not want to sacrifice their production value since international tours are expensive. I understood that the moment I stepped into the Panasonic Stadium Suita. Fujii Kaze is a multi-talented singer, songwriter, and instrumentalist (the saxophone and piano). And for the whole show, the audience was eating out of the palm of his hands. Fujii Kaze was doing two back-to-back sold-out stadium shows. It is equivalent to Harry Styles’ numbers. The unique thing about live music in Japan is that taking pictures during the show is very illegal. Filming how you walk into the venue and during the show is also very illegal. But it did not need to be enforced. Everyone was there to support and appreciate Fujii’s music. He said in what I call one of the greatest marketing moves of all time, audience members were allowed to take out their phones and film during the performance of his newest single, Grace. Besides that, everyone was living in the moment and appreciating the art. When every moment is not being filmed, it allows for the chance of word of mouth–building dopamine in people’s minds and building expectation and excitement about this live music experience. Seeing Fujii Kaze live was a top three experience because of the production value alone. If you ever venture to Japan, I hope you will invest in checking out the live music scene here, just like I have for my research.
While I am here learning about the Japanese music industry, it was nice to be able to listen to music and make some new friends along the way. Feel free to read about some observations I made about culture since being in Japan here.