There’s no going back to “how it was” for Japan’s music industry. After seeing release schedules thrown into chaos and live shows canceled en masse due to the COVID-19 pandemic, J-pop accelerated toward new realities that are now the norm for 2023. Subscription streaming and YouTube have become standard distribution channels for all but a rarified few artists, and even they are probably mulling the leap. Hits come from TikTok and anime, oftentimes without carefully planned promotional rollouts driving them.

Naturally, the general entertainment atmosphere in Japan feels more upbeat than in the previous pandemic years. Arena-size concerts have returned, and major J-pop acts are already plotting cross-country tours, something that still seemed dicey at the start of last year. Others are turning their eyes to international opportunities now that borders are open again.

One of the biggest changes is that the industry has wised up to the digital realities of global music consumption and J-pop has an opportunity to transform its image on the world stage.