A showcase at South by Southwest or a slot on the Japan Nite tour can be a great way to launch a band Stateside — or a great waste of time and money.
Getting it right
Puffy: J-pop duo Puffy’s 2000 SXSW showcase was followed by years of well-attended tours, Stateside album releases, their own animated show on Cartoon Network and an ad campaign for Gap.
Lolita No.18: Though less successful here, Lolita No.18 earned a reputation abroad as Japan’s snottiest punk band, playing SXSW several times since 1996 and recording with members of The Ramones and Toy Dolls.
detroit7: A blistering performances at Japan Nite in 2008 landed detroit7 a deal with U.S.-based Daruma Label, with a Stateside release timed to coincide with SXSW in 2009, and well-attended tours in North America and Europe.
Oreskaband: On the strength of its performance at SXSW in 2007, ska-pop six-piece Oreskaband was invited to join the influential (and, crucially, not Japan-themed) Warped Tour festival in the United States that summer and again the following year.
Getting it wrong
Love Psychedelico: Seven years after its 2001 SXSW showcase, Love Psychedelico finally released a best-of through U.S. label Hacktone Records. Despite positive reviews, the album (and label) sank. The album’s now on Amazon for 70 cents.
Scandal: A perfect example of how not to market a Japanese band to foreign audiences. Scandal’s hand-drawn image and shiny studio rock appealed to anime fans on the 2008 Japan Nite tour — but to absolutely no one else.
Bonnie Pink: A 2005 appearance at Japan Nite was the first of many unsuccessful attempts to crack the West, followed by ill-advised collaborations (Craig David!) and little else. Bonnie Pink’s pedestrian pop proved unpalatable to Western ears.
Oreskaband: On the strength of its SXSW gigs and the Warped Tour, Oreskaband starred in “Lock and Roll Forever,” by the “High School Musical” team. The movie was charming but the girls’ English was terrible; it never came out.