Japan Music Marketing Promotion and Distribution Resources

Selling and Promoting Your Music in Japan

Japan Music Marketing Resources for Indie Artists, Bands, Managers, Record Labels

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Music Promotion in Japan

If you have a Japanese website and your music available on popular music platforms in Japan then you are ready to actively promote your music in Japan.

Create a free Japanese website Music Distribution in Japan

Your marketing budget goes further in Japan because you can concentrate on one compact and homogeneous market unlike the USA or Europe where there are many fragmented markets mainly due to geographic region and demographics.

Most of the buzz starts in Tokyo and spreads across the country. This makes it easier to perform live shows/tour in Japan to introduce and promote your music.

Playing Live Shows in Japan

However, due to time and budget constraints, not every artist/band can go to Japan to perform live. A more time and cost-effective method to promote your music in Japan is through online advertising and publicity.

For most foreign indie artists/labels, the most affordable and cost-effective form of promotion is online advertising and publicity.

Naturally, you should start off by setting up a Japanese website. This is often where consumers will be directed to from your online advertising and publicity (i.e. press sheet, posts, news, articles, tweets, social media, and so on). A Japanese web page (i.e. landing page) is required to set up any advertising/promotion in Japan.

A main goal of online advertising and publicity is to increase awareness and drive people to your Japanese website (or directly to your content on YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, etc.) where they can learn more about you, follow you, listen to your music, watch your videos, and purchase your merchandise.

Create a free Japanese website

Social Media in Japan

Internet use and social media is very popular in Japan like it is in many countries. If you are conducting an advertising campaign in Japan, your ads should be designed for and targeted to mobile users.

In 2023, the top social media used in Japan were LINE, YouTube, X, Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook. As an indie artist/band you should be active in these social media.

LINE (95 Million Japanese Users)

LINE is a the 2nd most downloaded social networking app in Japan and has the most users. However, it is more considered a messenger app (like WhatsApp) than a social media platform. Most Japanese use it for simply sending/receiving messages (i.e. chatting, communications) and it is not really used as an advertising tool.

YouTube (78.4 Million Japanese Users)

YouTube is the most used social media in Japan with 78.4 million users in Japan of which 37% are female and 63% male. 96.4% of users are age 13-29.

You can use software or online tools such as ROTORANIMOTO, Filmora, Animaker, and Videobolt to easily and affordably create music videos and lyric videos which you can upload to your YouTube channel.

Using your YouTube music videos in a YouTube Video Ad Campaign is the most cost-effective way to introduce/promote your music in Japan. It is cheaper and faster to get Japanese people to watch your YouTube music videos than it is for your whole band to travel all the way to Japan and perform live.

How do I get more views from Japan to my YouTube music video?

Run a YouTube Music Video Ad Campaign

X (67.45 Million Japanese Users)

X has 67.45 million users in Japan of which 47.4% are female and 52.6% male. Almost 79% of users are 20-29 years old. You should be active on X. You can use Google Translate, Chat GPT, Deep L or other AI machine translators, or a professional translator/copywriter to create tweets for Japanese users and to interact with Japanese followers/fans. You can search for Japanese artist/bands that are similar to you and follow/interact with them too.

X also offers advertising. Ads (i.e. "promoted tweets") can be created in Japanese and can target certain Japanese audiences. It should contain links to your X profile, Japanese website or other online content (i.e. Spotify song, YouTube video, etc.) .

Get a Quote for Translation/Writing Services

Instagram (45.7 Million Japanese Users)

Instagram has 45.7 million users in Japan of which 59.3% are female and 40.7% male. The biggest user demographic 14.5% is women age 18-24. The average user age is 20. The most popular content is related to fashion, food, entertainment, and automotive. Since Instragram is visual (i.e. videos and photos), the language barrier is not so much of a hurdle. However, you can use Google Translate, Chat GPT, Deep L or other AI machine translators, or a professional translator/copywriter to to create Japanese captions or even images/video with Japanese text. You can search for Japanese artist/bands that are similar to you and follow/interact with them too. See below about advertising on Instagram.

Tik Tok (20.7 Million Japanese Users)

Tik Tok has 20.7 million users in Japan of which 59.3% are female and 40.7% male. The biggest user demographic 66.4% are youth age 13-19. A trend-orientated, video-first platform based around videos of 15-second intervals, maxing out at a total of 60 seconds. In addition to being active on Tik Tok, you should make your music available for use by the millions of Tik Tok users since you can receive royalties for its use. Contact your distirbutor rearding this.

Facebook (15 Million Japanese Users)

Facebook has 15 million users in Japan of which 57.4% are female and 42.6% male. The biggest user demographic 13% are women age 18-35. Facebook is primarily a business networking tool in Japan. It is not as popular among younger generations (below age 35). If you already have a Facebook page and depending on your demographic, you should not ignore Japanese Facebook users. You can use Google Translate, Chat GPT, Deep L or other AI machine translators, or a professional translator/copywriter to create posts for Japanese users and to interact with Japanese followers/fans. You can search for Japanese artist/bands on Facebook that are similar to you and like/follow/interact with them too.

Instagram and Facebook are owned by Meta.

How do I use Facebook and Instagram ads to promote my music in Japan?

Ads (i.e. "boosted posts") can be placed in various places on Facebook and/or Instagram. Users in Japan can be targeted according to gender, age, interest, and other factors. The Instagram or Facebook ad can direct users to your Japanese website, Spotify, You Tube, or other link.

How do I get more Spotify streams from Japan?

- Post, embed and share your Spotify artist/album/song/playlist (widget or link) in your Japanese website, social media, blogs, and other communication/marketing materials. Click here to see how to embed your Spotify music.
- Take advantage of the tools and stats offered on Spotify for Artists.
- Another way is to use Facebook and Instagram ads or Google Ads that link to your Spotify.

The above methods can also be applied to markets other than Japan.

These are the main online marketing tools available for indie artists/bands. If you or your label are not already using these online tools to promote your music then you should start now or hire a specialist to do it for you—especially if you are targeting Japan. Fortunately, there are now services available to easily and affordably reach the Japanese music market.

Online Publicity - Japan Indie Music Websites

Publicity means to spread or deliver information through various media to increase public awareness of someone or something. The following online media are used for promoting public awareness in Japan of indie and new artists/bands and their music. You can register in all of the media below at once by registering at Top Music Japan.

Register in the above Japanese Platforms

In Japan, "tie-ups" are how many larger record companies promote artists. A tie-up can come in the form of a song being used for a commercial or advertising campaign for another product or service (such as a new mobile phone, clothing, car, cosmetics, etc.), or a song used in an anime, TV show, movie, or a bonus when someone buys a product. Usually record companies with close relations with advertising agencies and producers can make this happen. The "tie-up" marketing strategy can probably be viewed as a mix of advertising and publicity (although some may say that the song is used for "free", the money that actually changes hands between record company and ad agency/client is usually not talked about nor disclosed). Unless you are under a major Japanese record label, tie-ups are likely out of the reach of indie artists/labels.

On some occasions however, a TV, anime or movie music or creative director may be looking for a particular sound (like a rock, hip hop, punk, hard rock, Hawaiian, reggae, folk, gospel, soul, or Latin jazz/bossanova song) and will seek out and discover music from a foreign artist. Oftentimes, the music will come from foreign artists who are not at all popular in their own countries but due to the tie-up (licensing), may see a sudden rise in popularity and sales in Japan. These music and creative directors search for music online using the Japanese music websites mentioned above. Having a Japanese website is important in being discovered by Japanese music fans and industry people.

Create a Free Japanese website

"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.

Live Shows/Tours

Live shows/tours are the best way to establish a loyal fan base in Japan and to promote your music. It also helps in getting publicity and motivates your distributor to push your product at stores. Do not rely on booking agents because there are none (unless you are a DJ or want to work as an entertainer in a cabaret/night club/theme park). Like Japanese indie artists/bands, you have to audition, organize and pay for your shows.

Performing live in Japan is NOT a revenue-generating activity, it is a promotional expense!

The costs of touring in Japan will vary depending on the number of members and amount of tour support services required. In addition to everyone's transportation, accommodation, food, and other personal costs, the tour planning/management company must also be paid for its services.

If you are wondering how much doing a Japan tour costs simply go to your local travel agency and ask them how much a standard tourist package would be for Japan (staying 7 days and visiting Tokyo and maybe Osaka) for the number of people in your band—then add some extra (the tour organizer/manager also takes a fee) to come up with a conservative budget for your tour! If you have that budget ready and at least 4-6 months lead time (and valid passports with no criminal records) then contact the companies that specialize in arranging and managing live tours/shows in Japan for foreign indie artists/bands and labels.

Click here to learn more about doing a live tour in Japan and about Japanese "live houses" (venues).

If you know Japanese or know someone who does you might be able to set up your own gigs. Click here for info on 5,800 Live Houses, Concert Halls, Clubs, Cafes/Bars, Rental Spaces, and other Music Venues in Japan. With discount airlines and AirBnB you can set up your own Japan tour!

Click here to contact companies that arrange and manage live tours/shows in Japan for foreign indie bands/artists and labels.