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“Major Debut”: the Rite of Passage that Decides an Idol’s Destiny

アイドルたちの運命付けられた「通過儀礼」としてのメジャー・デビュー
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“Major Debut”: the Rite of Passage that Decides an Idol’s Destiny

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For many idols these days, a major debut strongly implies a way to gain prestige. But what exactly is this “major debut”, which is talked about as a turning point for most idols?

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Last month, Hello! Project’s new unit Kobushi Factory announced to make major debut in this fall.

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On July 9th, Stardust’s girls band “Le Lien” has just announced their major debut in this September.

To start off, I would like to briefly explain to the idol fans abroad about Japan’s major music labels and indie labels.

Major labels are, in the strict sense of the word, companies that belong to the general incorporated association that is the Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ). There are only 18 companies that are regular members of RIAJ. (Reference : http://www.riaj.or.jp/about/member.html)

RIAJ has 20 companies that are associate members and 23 companies that are supporting members. Among these numbers, there are both indie label and major label recording companies mixed in together, making the judgment regarding non-regular members even more difficult.

Furthermore, some people recognize recording products that have the RIAJ-issued distribution code, known as ISRC (International Standard Recording Code), as major distributers, but the number of companies that are registered for this are over 1132. It seems to go against the “major” part of “major labels”.

Even among RIAJ’s regular members, some recording companies had 2014 releases that mainly consisted of remakes and alterations of older songs, like For Life Music Entertainment. For a “major label”, this is kind of a sad state to be in.

Furthermore, there’s a big ladder for indie labels leading up to becoming a major label, so there’s also that to consider.

However, in Japan starting in the 90’s and following a time when CDs sold the most, starting in the 2000s musicians and major labels were forsaken in the wake of increasing CD releases by indie labels. There are also cases where the master license is in the hands of the musician, who uses major labels just for the sales network.

Space Shower Networks, a supporting member of RIAJ, is currently doing distribution for big names such as ORIGINAL LOVE and Kouji Tamaki. Indie labels’ place as background players is becoming a thing of that past.

There is also the reality that, in the first place, today’s listeners of Japanese music listen to music without caring much about which ones are from major labels and which ones are from indie labels. If you buy the CDs at a large-scale CD store or on Amazon, there is no real difference. With the iTunes Store, it’s even easier to forget about the difference. The subscription-type music site LINE MUSIC also offers music from indie artists such as Yurumerumo! (You’ll Melt More!).

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Author
munekata
munekata

Born in 1972, Akimasa Munekata is a music critic who has written for MUSIC MAGAZINE and Record Collectors for rock in Japan after HAPPY END, pop, the flow of western rock and pop after Beach Boys, world music, and folk music. Recently, he has hopped on the bandwagon and begun writing about idols as well.

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