MUSIC OF 2006

When the kids lost the music

by Shinji Hyogo

Worldwide CD sales were down this year, including in Japan. Part of that is because of Internet downloading, of course, but it’s not simply down to that. Young people aren’t interested in music anymore, and it’s having an effect on concert-ticket sales.

The Rock In Japan Festival [which took place this year in August in Ibaraki Prefecture and attracted 47,000 fans per day over three days] might have sold out, but tickets for individual shows are on the decline. In short, I’m not optimistic about the future of music.

Nonetheless, some acts enjoyed a successful 2006. Take ELLEGARDEN, who have had a long career. There have been and currently are other Japanese punk-pop bands that sing in English — even though Japanese kids don’t understand English. What’s new and significant about ELLEGARDEN is that their fans are deeply interested in their lyrics (80 percent of which are in English) and what they say in interviews, which wasn’t the case with those other bands. They’re interested in what the band is thinking.

Remioromen had already had a big hit at the end of last year with “Konayuki,” before their album “HORIZON” became a big hit in the spring. They’re a rock band, but they appeal to general music fans too, people who regularly listen to J-pop. This year they were everywhere. It helps that their singer, Ryota Fujimaki, looks like an idol.

Female singer Cocco succeeded even despite the fact that she’s taken a break from the music industry, releasing her first album in five years in 2006.

In terms of live shows, one of the highlights of the year for me was Eikichi Yazawa’s performance at Rock In Japan. Yazawa’s different from Southern All Stars, who headlined the festival in 2005, in that even people who aren’t Southern fans know their songs. But although lots of those who watched him on the main stage had heard of Yazawa, they probably didn’t know his music. Even so, he brought 40,000 people to life.

Looking to 2007, it’s not simply a case of trying to predict what’s going to happen, but rather what you yourself can do as someone in the music industry. If you’re waiting for something to happen, then you’re not participating. Every day I’m thinking of how we can get people interested in music again. There’s no easy answer.