When DJs meet startups: TDME aims to build bridges across the Asian dance music community

by

Contributing Writer

Despite having a huge music scene, Japan isn’t known for conferences such as North America’s South by Southwest or Europe’s Amsterdam Dance Event. That’s where the Tokyo Dance Music Event (TDME) comes in.

Noticing the lack of networking events for electronic music artists in particular, Chicago native Lauren Rose Kocher and her colleagues from Sony Music Japan did what many in the scene have dreamed of doing and forged ahead with the event.

“It sounds a little crazy, but it’s not that crazy,” Kocher says, though “daunting” may have been the word she was looking for considering the amount of work that goes into an event like this. But the reasons to attempt the conference were just too many: “Japan has the second-largest music market in the world,” she adds. “Japan has a lot of clubs, Japan has a lot of music media, Japan has a lot of DJs.”

From Nov. 30 through Dec. 2, TDME will take over Shibuya’s Hikarie Hall for a series of bilingual panels, workshops and some good old-fashioned hobnobbing for a second year.

“Dance music is global,” she says, pointing out that, due to a lesser reliance on lyrics, fans don’t need an interpreter while listening to songs from other countries. Besides, a good beat is pretty universal. “When you look at certain genres, it’s just so obvious that they’re dominated by the U.K. or the U.S., but there have always been well-respected Japanese DJs and electronic artists and producers worldwide.”

This year, TDME is putting more focus on the relationship between music and tech, which means start-ups should be well-represented. Scheduled panels focus on blockchain technology and its future part in the industry, virtual reality and the role of streaming platforms.

The more creative side of the event will feature artists such as Dutch DJ Mike Williams and Japan’s own LLLL, who will present live production demonstrations.

“That’s not something you would see at a normal business conference,” Kocher says. “These are really skilled and creative artists performing and doing workshops about how they make tracks and what their creative and functional processes are. They’re not just talking, they’re showing.”

The conference will also feature “Planets,” a sound installation by famed techno DJ Jeff Mills, which Kocher says, thanks to the setup, is “like walking through an orchestra.”

TDME also offers a discounted price for students (¥5,000 as opposed to the standard ¥20,000 for two days) in an attempt to foster the creative elements of the conference.

“There’s the business side of music, the technology side, and then the actual creation and creative outlets,” Kocher says. “They’re all under the same roof. You see a lot of people getting introduced to each other, lots of new connections. And the Japanese music industry in particular is pretty closed off, so it’s cool to see people mixing in a way that they usually don’t.”

Having worked in the Japanese music industry for 10 years, Kocher says she has met a number of non-Japanese acts who would like to collaborate and make connections with artists here, but don’t know how. Similarly, she says many Japanese artists have not felt it necessary to leave their domestic markets until recently.

But as the music industry shifts toward streaming, and electronic music becomes even more global, she says it’s important for the Japanese market to shift its own focus.

“To me, the goal is having a big international platform to showcase Japanese artists and also create places where we can make international connections,” she says.

Because music markets are shifting and growing in other Asian countries, such as China and India, Kocher believes the music landscape across the continent is likely to look completely different 10 years from now.

“(TDME is) in Tokyo, it’s in the middle of Shibuya, and it’s in Asia,” Kocher says. “And Asia is changing very quickly in terms of being a music market. … We’re still obviously very Japan-focused, but (Asia as a whole) is worth paying attention to.”

Tokyo Dance Music Event takes place from Nov. 30 to Dec. 2 at Hikarie Hall on the ninth floor of the Hikarie Building in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo. Two-day passes cost ¥20,000 (¥5,000 for students). For more information on events and schedules, visit www.tdme.com.