Where are the times when not K-pop, but J-pop was trending?
Recent times have signified the rise of K-pop with stars such as PSY commercializing the K-pop concept and overshadowing J-pop. I want to thank commenter Micheal Do for being proactive on this topic in the Is anime really dying? -post. K-pop is going global and leaving Japanese entertainment goods far behind it. But this fact is not only apparent in the entertainment industry. Also companies such as Samsung, Kia and Hyundai set forth their growth, leaving all once famous Japanese powerhouse brands in their shadow.
While I don’t believe the anime industry is dying as a whole, there is some truth that the Koreans seem to be far more effective with their strategies to make their (entertainment) products more marketable. To counter this, Japan has started the Cool Japan fund to promote its products. The Ministry of Economy and Trade is in charge of this program to promote ‘creativity-based industries’. Which leads me to believe this is mostly entertainment products. Those industries consist of a total market share of 2 trillion Yen. With the Cool Japan program, the goal is to increase the share to between 8 and 20 trillion Yen. As a byproduct, this will hopefully lead to more tourism.
Despite the popularity of anime and manga products, it’s still relatively small. The anime industry has been having trouble making ends meet with the decrease of physical sales and the rise of online distribution, may it be illegal or legal. According to the article in the Japan Times overseas sales peaked in 2006 with 16 billion yen and plummeted to 9.2 billion yen in 2012.
That’s a pretty tough decline for an industry that is still rather traditional. But let’s be honest, the entertainment industry is trying to squeeze everything out of its outdated business model.
This effect is, apparently, also visible in the fashion industry, where Japanese fashion magazines are popular in China, but the industry itself wasn’t able to set ground in China itself. In an article published in 2014, there were actual plans to open a Cool Japan Mall in the city of Ningbo, a pro-Japan town , in China. This is a surprising move to promote Japanese products within main land China itself, considering the history both nations have concerning their foreign relations. The mall is supposed to cost approx. 56 billion yen, with 10 billion directly flowing from the Cool Japan holding.
In 2013 the Abe-administration finally gave the Cool Japan project proper funding, launching with an initial invest of 37.5 billion Yen. At the end of 2013 it was decided that there would be a dedicated Japanese cable channel for Southeast Asia, with yet another injection of millions of yen. I’m getting a sense that this is mainly becoming a subsidized gig, instead of a real action plan. The second article also states that there seems to “be a lack of focus.” There is no clear understanding with its stakeholders what the Cool Japan fund actually embodies. The government pushes all sorts of industries, while the most dominant ones namely anime and manga don’t reach their full potential from this program.
The article also stated something very interesting, there are too many parties involved in the production process said; manga and anime productions. Sponsors, television networks, distributors, advertisers etc. They all want a cut, leaving almost next to nothing for the original creators. There is no real product ownership and optimizing this chain would give companies the leverage to create better content. An example would be The Witcher 3 game, which is developed and published by the Polish company CD Projekt (RED) games and distributed by Warner Bros. and Bandai Namco. There are no sponsors involved and of course the companies pays some licensing fees to the software providers, but the parties involved is minimal. No sponsors or advertisers that are involved within the production process, wanting a piece of the pie that can deplete the revenue jar that makes a sequel or new production possible.
As I’ve stated in other articles, the Japanese mentality of doing business isn’t catching up to modern times. Yet. I’ve taken Nintendo as one of my prime examples of a traditional Japanese company that is banning new media outlets, believing that internet is still something that’ll die out eventually and letting foreign experience away from entering their business. This is also the case for Sony which has been fighting to keep up in for example the television-market, mobile phones and other households products, while the more westernized Playstation division, is one of the few profitable entities within the Sony family.
It also has a lot to do with marketing and facilitating the necessary platforms to actually consume the entertainment product. The music industry has almost given into the battle they cannot win. Go Spotify, but the film industries have a long way to go in freeing the constraints around publicizing entertainment content. Products that got inspired by anime such as Avatar have reached unprecedented heights and are popular among many demographics around the world. It seems the American approach has a better knack for marketing and promoting franchises, while Japanese companies are still getting adjusted to a more competitive global environment.