Music Promotion in Japan
If you do not have a deal with a Japanese record label, you can still get distribution in Japan and promote your music in Japan regardless of where you live.
You can get your music distributed to the main Japanese digital music services (i.e. Spotify, Apple Music/iTunes, Amazon, AWA, LINE Music, kkbox, YouTube Music, etc.) using a foreign digital distributor such as CDBaby, TuneCore, or a Japanese digital distributor (see Distribution).
With distribution in Japan and a professional Japanese web/mobile site, you are ready to start promoting your music in Japan.Promotion comes in the following forms:
- Live Shows/Tours
- Online Advertising & Publicity (Blogs, Press Releases, Social Media)
- Print Advertising
A good thing about Japan is that the population of Metro Tokyo alone is 38 millionmore than many countries. All the buzz starts in Tokyo and spreads across the whole country which is only about the size of California state but has a total population of about 127 million. Your promotion budget goes further in Japan because you only have to concentrate on one placeTokyounlike in the USA where there are many fragmented markets (mainly due to geographic region and demographics).
There are a variety of music-related magazines covering many genres such as jazz, hip hop/r&b, dance/club, Latin, rock and pop (a few are shown below). Most have circulations of 100,000 to over 300,000. There are also some popular free music-related papers/magazines which have over 100,000 printed and distributed in places such as music shops (HMV, Tower Records, etc.), live houses (venues), fashion shops, clubs, bars, restaurants, convenience stores, music festivals, etc.
The cost of a single ad in a popular magazine ranges. When you add translation, ad production and taxes, the costs can be several thousands of dollars for a single ad. Unless you have deep pockets and are dedicated to heavy promotion and live shows/tours in Japan, then print advertising is likely out of the reach of most indie artists/labels.
Below are some popular music magazines targeted to Japanese music listeners/consumers. There is a publication for all the main genres of music.
Online Advertising & 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 web/mobile site. 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 often required to set up advertising/promotion in Japan.
A main goal of online advertising and publicity is to drive people to your Japanese web/mobile site (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.
Social Media and Online Advertising in Japan
The total population of Japan is about 127 million people, of which 93% use the internet. 83% of all internet users in Japan access the internet via mobile phones. There are an estimated 97.6 million mobile internet users in Japan.
Social media is very popular in Japan like it is in many countries. 98% of all social media users in Japan access it via mobile phones. If you are conducting an advertising campaign in Japan, your ads should be designed for and targeted to mobile phone users.
In 2021, the top social media used in Japan were YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. As an indie artist/band you should already have an account and be active in these social media.
YouTube (65 Million Japanese Users)
YouTube is the most used social media in Japan with over 65 million monthly users.
As an indie artist/band, it is essential to create and maintain a professional YouTube channel. Content such as official music videos, lyric videos, official remix videos, live performance videos, acoustic version/performance videos, behind-the-scenes videos, cover song performance videos, collab videos, shorts, etc. should be uploaded regularly (i.e. at least 2-4 times a month). Graphics (banners, logos, thumbnails) should be well-designed. Titles/descriptions/tags should be optimized for search engines (SEO). Links to your official website, your social media and shops/streaming platforms where your products (music and merch) are available should also be included. To learn more about this, search the web for how to create and maintain a YouTube channel for musicians.
After setting up a professional YouTube channel, your time will be spent creating videos. You can use software or online tools and apps to create music videos, lyric videos, etc. Check out ROTOR, ANIMOTO, Filmora, Animaker, Videobolt, or search the web for music video creation apps and software. Ideally, you should have videos for each song you release since videos are widely used in music advertising and promotion.
YouTube also provides statistics for your YouTube videos/channel. You should be monitoring/analyzing this data to make improvements and to use it effectively in marketing. Many indie artists/bands earn a royalty when their music is played in a YouTube video. Ask your label or distributor about the revenue from YouTube.
The regular YouTube video service pays only about $0.00164 per video stream on an official artist’s channel, and videos monetized through Content ID pay even less at around $0.00087. However, YouTube Music is different. You may be surprised to find that YouTube Music is paying out $0.008 per stream. Although small, it is still more than what Spotify ($0.003 to $0.005), Amazon Music ($0.004), and even Apple Music ($0.0078) pay. That is why you should be using YouTube and creating videos for all your songs.
Click here for more info about YouTube and to create a YouTube account.
How do I get more views from Japan to my YouTube video?
- Post, embed and share your YouTube video (or link) in other social media, blogs, websites, and other communication/marketing materials.
- Run a YouTube (Google) Ad Campaign. Using YouTube video ads, you can get your YouTube music video viewed by Japanese users of YouTube and the websites and apps that are part of the Google ad network. YouTube is owned by Google. We recommend using an ad agency specializing in creating ad campaigns for the Japanese market. Click here for YouTube (Google) Ads targeting the Japanese music market.
- Use Facebook and Instagram ads (i.e. "boosted posts") that link directly to your YouTube video. See below about Facebook and Instagram ads.
* In YouTube (Google) Ads, there are various ad formats that you can create. If you are advertising music and especially if you are targeting a new market such as Japan, we recommend video ads (i.e. your music video) since it will allow people to immediately hear (and see) your music (at least a teaser) as opposed to text-only and image-only ads that cannot really explain/convey your music well nor compel people to click your ad.
Twitter (50 Million Japanese Users)
Japan represents Twitter’s second largest market in the world after the USA. It has 50 million users in Japan and is the second most dominant social media in Japan after YouTube. You should be active on Twitter. You can use Google Translate 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.
Twitter also offers advertising. Ads (i.e. "promoted tweets") can be created that target Japan and that contain links to your Twitter profile, Japanese website or other online content (i.e. Spotify song, YouTube video, etc.) . It is a good way to reach Japanese Twitter users according to your target audience. You can announce your Japanese website, video or album release, tour, or other news using a "promoted tweet". We recommend using an ad agency specializing in the Japanese market. They can prepare an effective Japanese ad (tweet) and target the Japanese audiences relevant to your genre/style of music.
To promote your music to Japanese Twitter users, click here.
Instagram (38 Million Japanese Users)
Instagram has 38 million users in Japan of which 60% are female and 40% male. 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 to create Japanese captions or even images 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.
Facebook (19 Million Japanese Users)
Facebook is primarily a business networking tool in Japan. It is not as popular among younger generations (below age 35). There are roughly 19 million Facebook users in Japan. If you already have a Facebook page and depending on your demographic, you should not ignore Japanese Facebook users. You can use Google Translate to create posts/content 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. We recommend using an ad agency specializing in the Japanese market. They can prepare an effective Japanese ad (post) and target the Japanese audiences relevant to your genre/style of music.
To promote your music to Japanese Instagram and/or Facebook users, click here.
How do I get more Spotify streams from Japan?
- Post, embed and share your Spotify artist/album/song/playlist (widget or link) in other social media, blogs, websites, 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.
YouTube (Google), Twitter, and Instagram/Facebook (Meta) offer effective and affordable marketing tools for indie artists/bands. If you or your label are not already using these 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. There are now services available to make it easier for you 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 artists/bands and their music.
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 a 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 or movie music or creative director may be looking for a particular sound (like a 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, may see a sudden rise in popularity and sales in Japan. These music and creative directors search for music online. So having a Japanese web/mobile site is beneficial.
"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 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 bandthen 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 3 to 4 months lead time (and valid passports with no criminal records) then contact the companies that specialize in the planning and management of live tours and concerts 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 for contact information for companies that can help you arrange and manage your live tours and concerts in Japan.