Re: AX’s Flower Stands & Call Books

These thoughts are related to the ongoing production of some fan projects for this year’s Anime Expo. It is more akin to long-ass-subtweet level of snark but at the same time I try to offer at least a more honest look at what practically, on some level, introspection would at least bring you. These blurbs do refer to some ongoing things that some of you might not be aware of, and some of the things I say may not make a lot of sense if you don’t know what I’m referring to. But I guess that’s just par for the course right? Lastly, think of the below 2 entries as two parts in a long series of why we can’t have nice things.

This is part 23 in the series of “This is why we can’t have nice things.”

TL;DR: It’s okay to not do a flower stand. In fact, sometimes that is the right thing to do.

Maybe it’s just a cultural custom or something, but the whole flower stand thing has escalated for nerd concerts. I remember the minor drama that broke out during Million 4th when one particularly well-produced flower stand had to be taken “down” into its upper and lower components due to the way it was exceeding the size restriction of flower stands, a restriction that was loosely enforced, if ever, at the shows I’ve been to. And I get why you would be mad, if you spent $500-1000 (or more) on a flower stand to flaunt and only to be nerfed. Some flower stands are really expensive and I don’t know what you would do or feel if the plans didn’t work out.

To me, sometimes that is asking for trouble where there were none. I think there has to be a balance in these kind of things in that it’s cool to make a cool flower stand and show it to the world that you care. Some of my favorite performers (admittedly I have many favorites) even post pictures of them. I think it’s great. But there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes that people might not be aware of. Why put in all this effort and money only to set yourself up for failure? It’s just asking for hard feelings for no reason. My own approach is actually let it roll off my back if things don’t work out, but I can’t say this is a recommend way to go at it, and certainly in a crowdfunded project this likely won’t work for everyone.

For starters, fan flower stands are something that is entirely optional. Like, it’s okay to not contribute to a flower stand or whatever. Of the thousands of people who attend a live I wonder if even 5% of the attendees participate in a flower stand. That’s a lot of people; a 10,000-capacity show means 500 people who works on flowers. If the average stand involves 20 unique individuals, that’s like 25 flower stands. Which seems about right, give and take? For the IM@S events I attended, the rate has to be higher, but I’m not sure how to calculate these multi-day events where maybe half or more of the attendees overlap both or all three days. I think the Taiwan live had about 25 stands, but the capacity was well less than 10000, with actual attendance at about 7000 or so. A lot of us peak eventers had a hand in a flower project or two, but we are also the kind of people who would go to Taiwan just to see a show, so that puts us in a very small percentile of nerds to begin with.

The second thing is, because there is a culture aspect to it, it’s important to be aware of it. The customary thing for flower stands (for Asians, but also kind of universal) is to send them to weddings, funerals, shop openings, and other big events that’s worth congratulating. I don’t think people generally send them to release events, mini lives, or anime conventions, but I guess there’s nothing wrong per se with it. It’s just not customary. It makes a lot of sense to do a stand for AX’s Anisong World Matsuri shows, that I’ll say. I don’t know if it makes sense to send flowers to BGF, but I guess it can’t hurt…much. But it goes back to the first point–you’re kind of just putting yourself out there for disappointment, but now for dubious reasons.

Which is to say, the third thing is, it is some effort for the fans and the management to deal with flower stands. The venues in Japan know what fans do so they are equipped to deal with it, and the concert promoters know how things go, as fans also know what to expect. There are some venues where the space isn’t available to host stands, so they just out right tell people not to send any. Fans understand this.

Of course, when the venue is in the USA and the ask is to do a flower stand, the venue has to have contractors or labor employees who has to be educated about this, that the promoter has to deal with it and figure out how much space to set aside, how to coordinate the reception and disposal of flowers, and all that. Nor do they know how many stands are coming. If it’s Anime Expo, you have to add that extra layer of bureaucracy. In other words, it’s not so simple. Thankfully, it’s a lot simpler to coordinate and manage than boxes where you can drop gifts off, LOL, so it’s still possible.

To that end, I hope AX can just focus their energies on the core things that will make the AWM at AX this year a sound success. Flowers are not part of those core things, but I think it’s the kind of cultural exchanges that once AX is not drowning in its own mediocrity, can look towards to having. Fans have to at least take the high road–we need to help AX to suck less, not to cause them more headaches and generate more distractions for them.

This is part 19 in the series of “This is why we can’t have nice things.”

TL;DR: It’s okay to not do a call book. In fact, sometimes that is the right thing to do.

What are calls? They are collective chants and things people do in a group to cheer on and enjoy a live musician during his or her performance. This isn’t limited to Japanese idol and anisong acts, but they sure made it into something very elaborate. Wotagei is born from it, but it’s not the same thing really.

Let’s suppose an anisong artist has a show at a venue that holds 3000 people. The artist is fairly new so there are a lot of people who are seeing that artist for the first time. The artist’s more ardent fans may make some call guides to hand out at the live, so people can be coordinated in cheering for said artist. This is the point of the call book, at least historically.

Nowadays, it’s better taught via online methods. The info on calls can be distributed via SNS. The call guide themselves are better as videos on Niconico or Youtube, so you can see how to do the calls directly with the music. So if your purpose is to teach calls, the latter methods are more ideal. In actual practice, the call guide in print is just a way to inform people who are already sort of aware of what the calls are so they can sync up. This is actually how you do fancy penlight tricks, more so than how calls evolve–which tend to happen organically and in-the-moment. For people who have no clue what calls are to begin with, getting a call book at the venue and seeing the calls in abstract at first is not really enough. This is also why a limited distribution of call books is both very effective and desirable due to diminishing costs: you want to seed the people who already know the framework with the key info, and distributing it widely takes a lot more manpower (in handing them out) and cost in shipping, and it’s not going to impact the show-time sync rate much. People are just going to monkey-see-monkey-do.

Taking all that into account, you still want to hand things out at the day of the event, since it remains a reliable way to give info out to people who may have no clue on calls or even where to look online for call prep for that artist. I think this is particularly true for USA, since by and large calls are still a very foreign thing. The call book is almost a part of the experience, in that after the show they would have something to follow up on, in case they are interested in learning more about calls. I think in AX’s AWM case, there will be livers who know how calls work but won’t know WUG or IM@S calls, and vice versa. But at the same time I think doing call guides online alleviates all these issues.

So, if you want to teach calls, you make a site with links to videos. If you want to get people to be aware, you tell people to read said site and watch those videos, by posting on social networks. You reach out to people in the meatspace by using call books, but more as a supplement.

Why are we making call books again? Because it’s a cultural artifact. I guess it’s the same reason why people want to make flower stands. There are some somewhat legitimate ends to these things. One is by having a big ass flowery sign about your fandom,  you are literally repping the fandom to the show management. I guess in the case of a call book you have to give it to the staff somehow, and the staff have to actually see the product (and in the call book case, at least a decent product) to leave an impact. So what makes a decent call book? Like dealing with the JASRAC? How many pictures? Not sure if these is even necessary for USA, but it scores brownie points. Second, it’s a cultural exchange, although it is questionable if it is a distraction (maybe not so much for call books). I think it’s kind of cool because call books are really a form of doujinshi, but made for a specific purpose and given away for free. Free doujinshi! Who can say no to that?

The weird thing is, that might be a more valid reason to make call books–as a way to showcase an artist, to create a connection among fans, and to make a keepsake for future reference, than to actually teach calls. That’s almost a side effect. Let me leave this entry with the following: the “NO RI KO” calls during the NJPWMillion Live 3rd Makuhari day 1 performance of Motomu VS My Future was coordinately only on Twitter. The call came from the lyricist, and that was all there was to making a call happen on the very first live performance of the song.

Or you know, just post about the book you are going to make on twitter, and get noticed by the anime’s character designer. A call book is hard work that only pays off in the tangent, but it’s also no worse than any doujinshi, so it’s largely harmless of an endeavor, at least on the surface.

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