Part 2 is from the organizer end.
JAM Lab launched sometime earlier this year, as a portal so pros can research and contact Japanese management and artists. Given the way Japan does business, it is hard to cold call them. Anime’s cultural cache is recognizant and I think it’s always good to be available if an opportunity rises. JAM Lab fills that need somewhat. It also tries to fill the informational gap, by posting interviews, translated reports and ranking news, what have you.
JAM Lab provided a couple interviews, namely the head SOZO guy who is responsible for the AFA brand, and Inoue who is the head of Lantis and is heading up the Anisong World Matsuri shows. Inoue’s interviews are still being posted this week, as of this writing, but it already has shed some light on the AWM shows and how they’re approaching it. What’s kind of missing is the eventual Lantis 20th anniversary tour, assuming that’s what will happen again. [At AnimeJapan this year, there was a public talk stage between the organizers of Anisama, Animax Musix, and Lisani. It’s also worth checking out if you are interested in that stuff, if you can find it on youtube or nico…]
Please do read Inoue’s interview besides what I’ve quoted, because it’s interesting unless you already know the general story about him. I’m just going to quote what stands out in relevance to the topic of AWM and what to expect…
So I’m going to move on to talking about your company Lantis. Now that I know how Lantis all started, can you tell me the type of business Lantis is doing once again?
-So Lantis was established in 1999, and this is our 19th year. In prior to move onto our 20th year, as you know Lantis is a record company that makes anime and game music. Of course we do concerts as well. We are going to join forces with Bandai Visual, which works on motion pictures as well as some of Takeshi Kitano’s movies. Our company is going to be called Bandai Namco Arts starting April of this year. So for people reading this article, the company’s name will change within a few days. The name Lantis will stay as a label and logo.
Quoted only because now it’s BNA. It’s still not quite the same as the BN Live Creative sub brand? Not sure TBH, Bandai Namco reorgs makes no sense to me (rip BE USA).
With next year marking the 20th year, are there any projects or events that left a big impression on you for the last 2 decades?
-We do a lot of concerts and events with our partner group Bandai Namco Live Creative. We do about 800 shows a year.
-Yes(laughs). Not every day but there are concerts taking places in different prefectures as well. We’ve been able to do a lot of these events and on our 10th year, we did an event called Lantis Matsuri at Fujikyu Highland Conifer Forest. After that, on our 15th anniversary, we did Lantis Matsuri at 4 different prefectures, Aichi, Sendai, Osaka and Tokyo. After that, we were able to do Lantis Festival overseas in Las Vegas, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Shanghai, Singapore, and Korea. Being able to do that with artists that grew up with you as well as well as staffs and making an event from scratch is probably the most memorable thing we ever did. Next year, 2019 will mark our 20th year so we are thinking of doing an event celebrating our anniversary.
Different countries too?
-Speaking of different countries, we were able to do Anisong World Matsuri after Lantis Festival. It was a concert consisting of artists not just from Lantis but with Japanese artists and musicians from other labels and companies as well.
Seems like the event is going to keep getting bigger.
What’s the advantage and what’s interesting about doing business with specializing in anime songs?
-Well, it’s going to change a little starting next month but, there were no labels that only specialized in anime and game songs. I think the biggest advantage is being able to team up with companies such as Pony Canyon, Kadokawa and other companies and makers to make music as well as motion pictures. The company is going to change but we are still going to be making music and motion pictures with other companies. So that part will not change.
Basically, this is the thinking for Lantis 20th. AWMs are both learning experience and test grounds for future endeavors. The truth is as Inoue tells it–there are fans here. Question is more like, will it be worth their while to overcome? As we all know, it costs a lot of money to throw the AX AWMs. However since there is a business interest, they can adopt and scale, so it’s possible for the Japan side to hold the risk and streamline future live events oversea. Quoting from the 2nd interview–
I heard about Lantis expanding overseas so I would like to talk about the past, present and future goals. Lantis is getting bigger by year, what triggered you to start thinking about expanding overseas?
-We have a project called JAM Project. It stands for Japanese Animation Song Makers. A project to make Japanese Anime Songs. We started this project around 2000 and in 2008, on their 8th year they were able to hold a concert at the Budokan which was their goal. After that, we had a discussion about what their next goal is going to be. That’s when we decided that we should expand overseas and bring anime songs to the rest of the world.
It seem like a business that isn’t really market-researched, but at the same time, they are building the market.
You’re probably aware that there are many anisong fans oversea, do you feel that there is a difference in what’s popular depending on the country?
-Not so much anymore. They seem to like similar things but in South America, such as Brazil, Tokusatsu songs seems to be popular. Songs for Kamen Rider was actually broadcasted with the episode. So the attendees would be people who used to watch Tokusatsu when they were younger. In Europe, I noticed Dynamic Production work and anime like Gurren Lagann and Mecha were popular.
This is actually a bit of news to me, but I guess what I really want to know is, how is South America doing taste-wise? I already know about toku down there, which is why JAM Project loves Brazil and the like, but it doesn’t say anything about other genres. By the way, they’re totally going to South America for Lantis 20th, if you read between the lines.
I’ve noticed that Lantis has been attending oversea events for a long time now and now Lantis is holding their own events oversea. Can you tell me a little bit of how it is working with Amuse and holding your own event?
-We do Lantis Festival which is a festival only for Lantis. But I also thought that depending on the place, there is more demand on something that Lantis alone cannot provide. There may be demand for Avex pictures, Sony Music Entertainment, Horipro, and Amuse which helps us book artists internationally because they have branches out in different countries. We are now shifting to work with oversea companies and hold the risk in doing oversea events.
Amuse is important because they are the people cons deal with in order to get these things set up, at least for AFA and AWM. I don’t really know how they could do this for other countries or countries that don’t have big presences. In a more practical sense, Amuse is only really needed because of AWM and other large events that’s being set up. What makes American events good are proximity and access, neither really a big aspect for AWM-type shows. Well, except by proximity meaning you don’t have to fly to Japan, I guess. So that is kind of a different narrative for eventers looking for that sort of a thing.
If you look at Otakon’s guest list over the years and its progression closely, you would know that is closer to the ideal back end setup–strong GR and a history of solid venue for JP acts to access a sizable US crowd. The promo is there albeit limited in a non-profit sort of way. There is merch support, and fans can even see shows without paying an extra ticket on top of the con admission. It’s a good arrangement until we realize this severely limits the access of acts. Ultimately you are on a tight budget, you can only fly folks over who are not asking for a serious appearance fee, and frankly there’s no way to leverage scale because you are capped from soliciting more money. It might take 150 people to do AWM at AX, but that’s 2 or 3 shows and each with many acts. If we go with a country club way of thinking, it’s time for Otakon to change gears and buy that golf course, and at least Japan is doing it for them.
Let me wrap up this business talk with one semi-hypothetical anecdote. Last year we had an anikura thing at AX. It was not an AX program, as I am entirely unaffiliated. It’s billed as an after party to AWM day 0, but we had a showing of about 180 people. It was enough to cover all the costs (including some food even). We advertised purely by word of mouth. I want to do this again this year by the way…
Anyways, the point is, a lot of the flat costs or sunk costs are the venue, the human resource costs of processing payment, getting people registered, signing people in, etc. It didn’t matter if the event had 100 or 200 people, or if the DJ were my friends or JP guests as, those don’t affect the core costs of the event. If my budget is, say, $5000 or $25 for each person with a 200 cap, because I can’t budge what I charge people, I would be capped there. Let’s say I was able to get all the back end costs to $2500, that leaves $2500 to fly a DJ and his manager over, and put them into a hotel room (and a volunteer handler to drive them around). That’s very bare bones.
Using the same numbers, if I was able to change what I charge people (for example, if I use crowdfunding and set stretch goals for autographs and what not) I can probably get 2 guests if I just raise the average payment per attendee to $38, just $13 more. I can even leverage the same volunteer handler LOL. To translate, for example, if Otakon sold concert tickets, they can then increase the guest list because they’ve paid a lot of the sunk costs regardless, and it’s fairly efficient to pass some of the added cost to attendees, assuming they are really scaling it here and providing what the audience wants.
I think for cons, AWM just makes this proposition a lot easier to deal with, if not the concept possible to start.