Fusion For Peace Productions, a Tokyo based production company was founded in 2012. They produce both film and music releases, live events and create as well as market new musical platforms to establish new revenue streams in the music business. EARS talked with Rob Schwartz, Tokyo bureau chief of Billboard Magazine, about the rapid development of Asia’s music industry.

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Rob Schwartz, Tokyo bureau chief of Billboard Magazine. I’m also a music and film producer based in Tokyo producing content for the international market, which means mainly film in English language. Our production company is called Fusion For Peace Productions.

Please tell about your background, how did you end up in Japan?

I’ve always had an abiding interest in Japanese culture. I went to Japan straight out of university, studied the language and built a career there.

What is the presence of Billboard like in Japan?

Billboard Japan is a joint venture between Billboard Magazine and a Japanese company called Hanshin. They create content in Japanese language and own a couple of venues under the name Billboard Live in Tokyo and in Osaka.

However, I work for Billboard Magazine which is based in New York City and covers the world music business, world music industry in English. I’ve worked with Billboard Magazine for about six years now.

What current trends are you seeing in the music industry in Asia?

The music industry in Asia is certainly expanding by leaps and bounds. It’s very hard to talk about Asia in general after it’s so diverse and every territory is quite different. However, there are certain territories where the music industry is obviously expanding. Korea is the obvious one and K-pop has had huge success exporting its music to different territories around the world. Big Bang, one of the most popular bands out of Korea did a world tour last year including 60 concerts in 15 to 18 countries. It was unprecedented for a Korean band to have such an expansive world tour so there’s no doubt that music industry in Korea is expanding.

On the other hand, Japan didn’t have such a good year in 2013 and their revenue declined. Recorded music revenue has been declining all across the world, maybe less in Japan than in other territories but it declined still.

There are far more international bands touring in China than ever before.

Are you seeing growth in the touring of international bands in Asia?

There’s far more international bands, for example European, American, Australian touring in China than there ever has been. China with its gigantic population, its growing economy and its music industry is really interesting to a lot of bands and projects. It’s no longer this mysterious, forbidden land and many high-powered international acts are now going into China. Touring in Malaysia and in Southeast Asia is also popular. In that sense, the touring industry is really expanding in a lot of territories in Asia. The Rolling Stones just played in Shanghai last March, Bruno Mars played in Shanghai in April so major world stars are moving through China, it’s now on the circuit.

We just talked here at All That Matters with Robb Spritzer, the director of Live Nation that in China they’re now developing what we call the second-tier cities. These cities have populations like 15-20 million people and they call that a second-tier city in China! There is a huge opportunity to tour in those cities when you have so many people.

Do you think the current trend will continue to grow?

If  you follow the current trend, I think live touring altogether will continue to develop. Live Nation and AEG are the two biggest touring companies and they’re seriously concentrating on Asia. I think the growth in China, Southeast Asia and Korea, is going to continue for a long time.

What kind of challenges are there, culturally speaking, with the expanding touring industry?

Each country is an individual and certain countries are going to have a more of a hard time growing than others. Indonesia is a classic example. There are a lot of national sensitivities because it’s a Muslim country so certain kinds of artists are just not going to be able to tour there. Lady Gaga’s show in Indonesia was cancelled two years ago and other artists like that who have a very outward sexuality and are not willing to compromise that, will not be able to tour in Indonesia, probably not in Malaysia either. Those are both huge countries with lots of people so not to be able to tour in Indonesia is actually a significant thing.

The Asian customer wants to get their money's worth

What do the Asian consumers want from a live experience?

In one way I’m tempted to say much the same thing as what the European or American consumer wants; a great show, excitement, not only a great performance but great visuals and everything. I think that’s part of it. Perhaps the Asian consumer may want more value for their money meaning either a lower ticket price or if they pay a high ticket price, maybe get some recorded music or a t-shirt or something along with it. In the West, meaning Europe and the United States, we’re used to paying high ticket prices. For a big name band, you expect to pay 100-150 dollars, at least in the US. That’s not the case in Asian markets. So one, it’s hard for people to pay those kinds of prices and two, if they are paying high prices, they probably expect a lot.

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