April signals the start of Japan’s long music festival season. Rainbow Disco Club usually offers one of the first destination gatherings in the country, putting on a multi-day dance party in Higashiizu, Shizuoka Prefecture.

“It’s gorgeous. You go past the water … the ocean. You have mountains and greenery and house music. It’s the perfect size, and I find it a really beautiful festival,” says Lauren Rose Kocher, COO and cofounder of Zaiko, a Tokyo-based e-ticketing platform founded a year and a half ago.

Like nearly all live music events in Japan, however, Rainbow Disco Club canceled its 2020 edition as the COVID-19 pandemic took off, joining a long list of other live venues and music organizers that are already feeling the economic pinch. Dozens of spaces across the archipelago have turned to crowdfunding to weather this period, but the financial toll from the outbreak means some won’t make it to 2021.

“The organizers of Rainbow Disco Club were looking for a way to support all the people who come together to make this festival, and also keep the spirit alive,” Kocher says. “And make sure the festival can survive.”

Like this, but online only. | COURTESY OF RAINBOW DISCO CLUB
Like this, but online only. | COURTESY OF RAINBOW DISCO CLUB

Zaiko and Rainbow Disco Club have teamed up to keep the event’s good vibes going — and offer some digital escape to those cooped up at home. On April 18, they’ll host a 12-hour paid-streaming party featuring artists performing sets from Izu. Kocher says the gathering will be filmed by Realrockdesign, a Japanese production company that usually puts together the festival’s after-movie, while the company has also hooked up with vendors to sell special merchandise. All those missing live music have to do is buy a streaming ticket, log in on the day of the show and enjoy.

It’s the latest move from Zaiko to try to help artists make the most out of this difficult time.

“I’d say the beginning of February, we started noticing quite a few events getting canceled. By mid February, new events were not coming into our system,” Kocher says. She says that, on Feb. 28, the company floated the idea of making a streaming ticket to help their clients, inspired by data coming out of livestream platforms in China while that country went through its own battle with the coronavirus.

“We came up with the idea and put out a press release to see if there would be interest,” Kocher says. “We knew our clients were hurting. … They were canceling shows, but they still had to pay the venue. We wanted to ease some of the pain, if they could stream the show in an empty venue.”

The first band to take the streaming plunge was trio Cero, which hosted “Contemporary http Cruise” on March 13 live from a recording studio. It all came together quickly — two weeks, according to Kocher — but proved successful. Now, live-streaming events — including paid ones — have become a new normal as the rest of the industry adjusts to this new reality.

The online stream of Rainbow Disco Club will feature, at the time of writing, at least 11 artists performing from Izu (a final lineup and timetable will be announced several days before the fest). Performers will include veterans such as DJ Nobu, Soichi Terada and Wata Igarashi alongside rising names in the country’s club community such as CYK and Machina.

Fans will also have a chance to buy special merchandise to further support all those involved. Kocher says some of the offerings include collaborative T-shirts, wine bundles and candle sets. She also says that they will run a “virtual dance floor” on the conferencing app Zoom during the event, allowing streaming ticket holders the chance to interact with others.

With Rainbow Disco Club, Zaiko is taking one step to preserve a festival that has become a yearly highlight for many. For one day at least, it can also help fans at home feel like a slight return to normal.

For more information, visit rainbowdiscoclub.zaiko.io.

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.

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