For dedicated London-based VAMPS fans, last weekend brought an unexpected bonus in the shape of a live screening of their Tokyo concert at Zepp DiverCity. This particular treat was also being enjoyed at select cinemas globally, including Hong Kong, Barcelona, Los Angeles and Singapore.
The concept of cinema viewings for concerts has become an increasingly large part of the Japanese music scene. It’s an idea that specialised content company Live Viewing Japan has capitalised on (they were also responsible for screening the UK debut of Perfume in both Japanese and global locations).
Live Viewing Japan is part of entertainment agency Amuse, who count the likes of BABYMETAL, Perfume and Porno Graffitti on their roster. In a recent interview, Amuse CEO Yokichi Osato outlined the reasons behind the push for screenings, which he attributed to the changes in the music industry: “The music business is shrinking and we cannot sell a lot of CD packages like we did before, so I had to do something”. The appeal of the screenings also appears to be growing with the company having more than 180 domestic cinemas available for screenings and an increasing number of cinemas worldwide.
This dovetails neatly into Universal Music’s plans to expand their own reach globally as they’re not only keen to promote J-Pop outfits, such as Perfume, but also rock outfits in the form of VAMPS. With a UK concert already slotted in for October, the London screening served as a taster for things to come.
The idea of a simultaneous screening of a live concert seems to be an obvious idea. But the execution presents its own technical and artistic challenges. At the Rich Mix Cinema where the VAMPS screening was being held, the cinema’s technician explained that they had to adjust their digital projector to allow for the higher frame rate being output from the Japanese side.
The quality of the screening was superb. There’s probably an expectation of a fuzzy picture, bad sound and plenty of dropout at these screenings, but the image was sharp and the sound excellent. Adding to this was the editing of the concert which, remember, is being done on-the-fly without the benefit of choosing the best shots and setups post-concert. This meant that you were viewing close-up shots of HYDE; switching to sweeping shots of the crowd, cutting to over-the-shoulder shots of drummer Arimatsu – in a seamless sequence.
Risa is part of the team who helped stage the VAMPS screening and, as a die-hard L’Arc~en~Ciel and VAMPS fan herself, she provides some interesting commentary on the current push of Japanese artists performing in the UK. “I think the UK’s always been lagging behind the rest of Europe, but now I think it’s completely booming. I think that’s because a lot of Japanese artists think London is amazing. A lot of artists have always dreamt about playing in London, especially with VAMPS and HYDE and K.A.Z. Their musical roots come from England or the US and that’s why I think they want to tackle the market properly. They don’t just want to play one gig and leave it at that. They want to keep coming back and do festivals and do what they do in Japan”.
Part of Universal’s strategy was to assign VAMPS to the Universal subsidiary label Spinefarm Records, home of acts such as Rammstein, Stone Temple Pilots and Alice Cooper. A Best Of album titled SEX BLOOD ROCK N’ ROLL is scheduled for Autumn release and their eye is on encouraging an English fanbase by focusing on re-recording some of their songs with an emphasis on English vocals. It’s all part of the strategy that also included the release of their last single. “So they’re now with Spinefarm Records” comments Risa, “and I guess they are looking at whatever next release comes along, maybe they’re going to release it here as well. So for this new single Ahead/Replay, they’ve released it digitally worldwide. That’s why they moved to this major label so they can actually start selling worldwide. They are actually developing it so all the videos can be seen worldwide, they’ve set up a Vevo channel. They’re really trying very hard to broadcast out into the world”.
Of course the other question is that with forthcoming domestic UK releases, does this mean that UK VAMPS fans will switch to buying these releases rather than from Japan. Risa is optimistic: “I think as long as they make the releases simultaneous with Japan and they make exactly the same thing that they sell physically in Japan”. Risa also points out that not only would domestic releases be cheaper, but fans would also not be obliged to pay steep postage fees. “Compared to buying it off Amazon Japan or any of these other companies, it’s much, much cheaper”.
But appealing to the hardcore VAMPS fans is of course only part of the battle. “At the same time they want to tackle fans who don’t really know who they are” suggests Risa, “so as long as they start selling things domestically and then they get radio airplay and stuff like that, that’s the first step really”.
The UK market is part of a European strategy and it’s in Europe where the numbers change significantly. “In continental Europe – France, Germany, Spain, they have a massive following and VAMPS have already played in France and Spain already. Continental Europe has been very accepting of Japanese culture. I don’t think the UK is any different, but it’s just taking time for them to reach over here”.
Outside of all this is the question on how the plans of HYDE and VAMPS affects the future of the other band that HYDE is famous for. “L’Arc~en~Ciel are always taking breaks anyway.” Comments Risa, “But then obviously hardcore L’Arc~en~Ciel fans are like ‘Well why is HYDE doing VAMPS?’ but all the other members are doing solo stuff as well. HYDE I think said in the next one, two, three years, he really wants to focus on the overseas market, which might mean that L’Arc~en~Ciel might have to be put on hold again for a while. But a lot of fans are much more understanding and as long as the members are happy, they’re happy I guess”.
J-Pop Go extends its warmest thanks to Risa.
VAMPS will be performing at O2 Academy Islington on 7th October 2013. Tickets: http://www.o2academyislington.co.uk/event/56726/vamps-tickets
Official Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/VAMPS.UniversalInternational.DeliciousDeliRecords
Official homepage: http://www.universal-music.co.jp/vamps-english
VAMPS Street Team Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/VampsUkStreetTeam