Tough going for songwriters in Japan
The Asian market is getting more and more important for international songwriters. The Asian share of the worldwide music market is growing, both in size and importance.
There are a lot of “songwriting camps” where professional songwriters meet, collaborate and write songs that are aimed for “pitching” to artists in Japan and Korea. They are usually held for a few days but the tempo and expectations are high.
So what does “pitch” means? When you “pitch” your music, you send your song to an A&R (the gatekeepers at the record label). These are in the front line to find the next new big “hit.” A&R stands for Artist and Repertoire (repertoire is a fancy word for songs). They don’t take unsolicited material, whitch means that labels do not take material from people they don’t know about, producers/songwriters with no “name.” That’s why song camps are so popular; here you meet a lot of people who’ve been in the music industry for a long time and got the right contacts.
So how do you get in contact with A&Rs if you’re not in a song camp and you’re a rookie with no track record? It’s not that easy and what I know is that they don’t want a lot of people sending them a lot of CDs they’re not going to listen to anyway. You can pay to find contact info at HitQuarters or you can also co-write with someone who works as a songwriter for a publishing company with a track record and is likely to have a lot of A&Rs in their music library.
So what about co-writing? You write music with another songwriter and split the music rights and percentage between you. When I co-write, I bring my laptop (I use the music sequencer Logic) and I’ll meet the other songwriter at the studio, a cafe or at home. You sing and you record your music and make a demo. When I did co-write from Sweden with a Korean songwriter from the label SM Town, we worked online. He sent the track, I wrote the lyrics and recorded it as a demo, and sent it back to him. He showed it to the A&R at SM Town and said that we wanted it for BoA’s upcoming album, but they said the song just wasn’t right for the time (you’re going to hear that a lot).
In Japan, it’s important to have good relationships and you don’t want to break someone’s trust, because then you’re out of business. If someone sends you a track, it’s better to start working on it rightaway to show them that you care. You can ask if there’s a deadline because you don’t want to waste someone’s time.