Article 4: How Much Does It Cost?
Old Business Model: The music business in Japan, like other parts of the world, is a very difficult business in which to be profitable. CD's are becoming harder if not impossible to sell profitably.
New Business Model: The majority of music sales in Japan is digital rather than physical CD's. Japan leads the world in digital song sales. Now streaming services have taken over representing 75% of all digital music sales. Foreign artists, bands and record labels can enter the Japanese music market easier since worldwide digital distribution to download and streaming services is quicker and cheaper than CD distribution. Nevertheless, the costs of marketing and promotion have not decreased. While larger record companies with bigger budgets may rely more on traditional marketing (videos/TV, print advertising, in-store promotion, radio promotion, tie-ups, cross-marketing), smaller independents must rely on touring and online methods (i.e. social media marketing, internet ads) to get the most out of their tiny budgets.
The good thing for indies is that there are now resources and services available to help sell and promote music in Japan using an affordable DIY (do-it-yourself) approach. With lower overall costs for indies it means that there are minimal risks in targeting Japan, and even a modest revenue makes it possible to be profitable.
Regardless of approach, if you are in the business of making and selling musicbe it streams, CD's, vinyl records, downloads, or licensingJapan should not be overlooked since it represents a large source of potential revenue.
The cost of (or investment in) sales promotion in Japan is probably cheaper than in the USA where there are many fragmented markets. You have to do separate promotion per region or city (i.e. west coast, east coast, major cities, etc.) whereas in Japan, everything is centered around one area, Metro Tokyo (population 38 million). Remember that Japan is only as large as the state of California. The major media are based in Tokyo and reach across the whole country. Also, there are many specialized publications in Japan so it is easier to reach your target audience. If you create a "buzz" in Tokyo it will spread across the country fairly quickly since many eyes and ears are focused here where trends and tastes are set for the rest of the country (and sometimes the world).
"Radio promotion" does not exist in Japan!
Unlike in the West, in Japan you do not have to pay thousands of dollars for "radio promotion". There are only 3 major FM radio network companies in Japan: JFN, JFL and Mega Net (and a few independents). Each of the 47 prefectures (i.e. states) in Japan has at least one FM station under the big 3 and maybe a few independents. FM in Japan is from 76 to 90 MHz, resulting in a very limited number of possible stations (Japan's geography is very mountainous and it is only the size of California State). There are now plenty of internet and broadband radio stations, as well as podcasting. The number of internet and mobile users is far greater than the number of listeners of FM/AM radio. In Japan, FM/AM radio does not play as big a role in the promotion of artists as it does in the West. Charts that are reported and that people actually follow and pay attention to are charts based on unit sales NOT radio plays. Most radio stations do not even have Top 10 or Top 40 charts. Instead they just show playlists. Unlike in the West where most of the content played by radio is controlled and "programmed" by a few companies, DJ's and radio program hosts in Japan are more free to play whatever they want.
Getting a Japanese website, press sheet and basic promotion is very affordable using Top Music Japan. That is a good start. If you are really serious about the Japanese market and generating significant revenues then you will have to reach thousands to several million Japanese music consumers using some form of sales promotion. If you're on a shoestring budget, online promotion/publicity in Japanese indie music websites is good. Then there is Google Japan Ad Campaigns which allow you to set an affordable and reasonable budget. There is no magic number, but if you can spend several thousands on equipment, recording music and manufacturing CD's then you should be prepared to put at least the same (often much more) into promotion. Sales is directly related to your marketing expenditure. So the more you can spend on advertising and promotion, the more sales you will likely have.
If you focus on the new business model with sales from digital content rather than CD's, then you will have a larger budget for promotion. It is easier to be profitable when you don't have significant CD manufacturing, storage and distribution costs. Great for indies!