At the Heart of Brock’s Jelly Donut

I was just on Purple Sky reading their interview with D’espairsRay, anticipating the release of their latest album MONSTERS, and preceding the onset of their world-tour which kicks off this month with dates across the US. Reading through the questions, I admit, although the band members were quite entertaining (e.g. when asked which Monster he would be, HIZUMI answers “Pokemon”. Vuvuzelamon? Or is that Reggae? Visual kei has too many random cross-references in it now, I don’t even know who I am anymore.), the more I read, the more I found myself getting riled up. Had I not known  that this interview was only sitting in my feed for a week, the questions posed to the Monsters would have led me to believe this was posted sometime in 2004.

I realize this sounds harsh, but taking that risk, I’ll say it. Are all Japanofiles neanderthals?

I’ve been following the Japanfandom thing for 5 years now, and seeing as Alzheimers hasn’t totally set in yet, I recall quite clearly the discussions and FAQs of the era. Unless of course journalists are simply given a sheet of preset questions that are never updated, I want to know why exactly they still insist on asking the droll, pointless, unenlightening questions of our generation’s troubled, AMV-watching youth? I was under the impression that we were advancing in the world. That the Japanese music scene in the West was beginning to liberate itself from the clinging, snotty tentacles of the emerging, adolescent internet and bloom into a better blogsphere. That we have actually been evolving over the past five to ten years. Apparently, as it was made clear to me this evening, this is far from the truth. At least in some respect, all Japanofiles are inherently neolithic, and while a few of us may have advanced to the Bronze Age, more or less we’re still wallowing in a dark, cave-like existence devoid of fire or arrowheads.

In response to this mind-blowing interview, I would like to pull those questions that particularly offended the intelligent Japanofile in me, and address them, hopefully, for the benefit of Ogg and Zug, my brethren:

1. Illegal downloads: The illegal download phenomenon exploded on the Internet many, many years ago. I remember Limewire from way back when Yoshiki was still a Japanese man (okay, well, that’s kind of a hard line to draw, but hey), and billions of websites and programs have since enabled such notorious activities. People download illegally off the internet– all it takes is one Google search and you have new albums for free. Entire websites and blogs have emerged devoted specifically to “promoting” their favorite bands by having one person acquire the album, and then upload it for the masses to leech off of.  This is not breaking news. We are no longer excited about this topic.

Musicians create music because it is their calling, passion, talent, or simply what they want to do as their job. Be that as it may, they do actually do this for their job– a job being, that is, a means of acquiring the papery stuffs we use in daily business in order to survive: in layman’s terms, money. When a band releases an album, DVD, or otherwise product, they do put it on the market for sale. That is to say, to be purchased using money. Obviously if they wanted people to download it for free, they would upload it onto the internet as free downloads. Asking bands what “they think about illegal downloads” is absolutely pointless. Unless one is fishing for that one band to say “Oh yeah, we just love it when everyone refuses to support our livelihood and just downloads for free everything we release.”, there is no longer any answer that can result from this question that can possibly shine a light. You have limited time to ask the band questions: for all our sakes, use it well.

2. People download illegally because Japanese CDs are “expensive”:

The Japanese music industry works slightly differently than the Western one. For example, in the West it’s not that common to release singles every other day. Most artists release albums frequently instead. In Japan, however, bands release full-length albums much less often, but tend to release singles several times throughout the year. A Japanese single typically costs around $10.00 – $12.00, and you get anywhere from 1 to 4 songs. Full-length albums typically cost around $30 – $35, with some as low as $25 and others as high as $40. Assuming it’s being shipped, that adds anywhere from $5 onwards in shipping fees, depending on who you buy from, method of shipment, and how much you order.

The misconception is that because it’s going to cost $45 to order an album from Japan, it’s okay to steal it by downloading online. Because a pair of denim from a chain store costs roughly $60, does that mean everybody shoplifts? No, I don’t think so. And yet does everyone wear denim?

“Expensive” is basically not an excuse. CDs, like everything, cost money, even if they come from Japan. If you have no money, get a job.

3. Japanese CDs are unavailable for Westerners to buy:

If you live in a rural part of the United States, let’s say like Wisconsin, where there are no strip-malls, no FYEs, no chain stores, no Hot Topic, and you have no access to the internet or a computer of any kind, then yes, Japanese CDs are totally unavailable for you to buy. Also, if you live in one of these places, you probably are out digging potatoes and not listening to Japanese rock music and Visual Kei on your 16G iPod with Skullcandy headphones.

Many popular Jrock bands are available on the most simplistic platforms such as iTunes and other online MP3 stores. Anything you can’t find there is readily available through a multitude of respectable English or multilingual websites dedicated to making Japanese music accessible and available to non-Japanese.

Get out from under your rock.

4.Westerners have no means of sampling/hearing the music:

MySpace, Facebook, iTunes, Amazon MP3, official websites, this amazing invention we all should have heard of by now: YouTube.

Get out from under your rock.

5.”Its either people don’t hear your music, or they download it illegally.”

I suggest moving from Wisconsin. That is all you can do.

In the beginning of time, these were once relevant, interesting topics, the answers to which many young Padawans were eagerly seeking. They were, yes, interesting topics back in a time when we all thought onigiri were donuts because Brock and Misty thought we couldn’t handle the truth. Now, however, we know what lies at the heart of the rice-ball, just as we now know that there are a lot of people out there who download music illegally. However, unlike being asked and consulted about the existence of illegal downloads, we are no longer constantly told “those are not jelly donuts. They are sweet rice packed around a shriveled plum with a little seaweed slapped on them.” And over and over again we do not go “oooh…is that what that is.”

The reason for this, is that a cultural awareness has developed in the West for things Japanese. We have learned about the existence of rice on earth, and even that it is shaped into triangular luncheon friends. As a media-driven, entertainment-industry society, we have evolved since the days when we were watching Pokemon on VHS. Although I never had problems inputting search queries into Google and clicking through results, I do recall that time when it seemed as though everything was truly on the other side of the world.

As of the year 2010, though, I really believed that our cultural consciousness around Japanese rock and Visual Kei had, like our awareness of onigiri, evolved and developed. CDs, merchandise, product, and even live shows are at least moderately available.

In response to the above mentioned questions, all I can say is, are all Japanofiles still completely paleolithic? Am I the only fan of Japanese rock music who has whole CD racks full of Japanese CDs that were neither unavailable, extortionately priced, or downloaded illegally? No. I am not. So why are we still asking these questions.

No disrespect to the folks at Purple Sky.

5 responses to “At the Heart of Brock’s Jelly Donut

  1. I definitely laughed quite a bit at this post. I never noticed the connection between 4Kids Entertainment’s (needless) Americanization of Pokemon and file sharing.

    By the way, the main reason I got a job recently was because I live in a Wisconsin-esque corner of the U.S. and my leftover financial aid money was sucked dry by CDJapan. Needless to say, I needed a new source of cash to buy more GACKT things. Yes, I did spend money for school on j-rock merch. That’s either devotion, or really stupid.

    Nice post!

    • I thought you would appreciate the donut conundrum making an appearance in this post. If I recall, it was you who actually brought it back on my radar with a post against the ridiculous dilemma. Heh…and there isn’t really a connection, I guess, I just materialized one out of thin air….

      Yes, CDJapan the Leech loves us, and we love pouring our life’s work right into its coffers. Of course I consider it ‘devotion’…but then, I suppose I am guilty as charged as well.

  2. Deep down my heart I totally agreed with what you guys are mentioned here. Devotion really plays an paramount role in this. Support the original really means a lot to the industry as a whole and as well as to the artists, especially those who are green. It’s a way we show them we love them, their creation, talents, effort for enriching us & tell to them keep on going on what they are doing.

    To be honest on my side (Malaysia), however, I’m really facing the above problems especially on point no. 2 & 3. It is almost impossible for me to get an original Japanese release of CD or DVD in my country. Even if you are lucky to find one it’s like 2-3 months after the actual released in Japan. Moreover there are only selected artists that you can find here (eg. ayumi, boa, utada, arashi….no Jrock!!!! Not even B’z!!).

    The only conduit that I could get them is through online. Now here come the problem of expensive price because in my country I need to pay custom fees + tax for goods buying online. All these factors price up the goods and weight down the interest for me to go online as it is very taxing in long term particularly taking consideration of the volume of new release in a year.

    I putting on these not as an excuse and also not to mean that I support illegal download or piracy. It’s just that sometime we need to consider other issues that cultivate such phenomenon. Of course human is the bigger part of it but not to forget the living surrounding and condition are also playing a heavy part for this (illegal download).

    To sum above all I would like to say is if you like or love the artists, please buy the original as it’s really mean a lot to them. Coming down to illegal download, this is not a new issue anymore as it has been with us for decade. You can consider it as the current culture and norms of most societies and we all know that we can’t change culture in days. At the moment there is nothing we can do, to be honest.

  3. I have to admit, I’m as big of a pirate as the next person, but in addition to my giant collection of digital pirated music, I also have a giant $1000+ collection of physical jrock CDs that I’ve bought over the years.
    I do have to admit that since I’ve been living on my own and going to college, I havent bought nearly as many CDs as I did in HS, but interestingly, I dont think I’ve had as much time to pirate things. xD

    • Ah…well, admittedly, the post wasn’t really meant to point any fingers or try and get people to fess-up. The point I was trying to make was more just about the pointlessness of discussing pirating music, especially with the bands themselves. I do agree that it is a valid issue that should be uncovered and dealt with, but it’s like vegetarian activism. It’s great to go around saying “It’s bad to eat cows,” to all the carnivores, but unless you yourself actually do something to make a change, all you do is continue repeating words until they lose their meaning and people cease to even register them in their mentalscapes.
      Of course I can’t approve of anyone pirating music, but basically I believe that this, as well as in every other aspect of life, is an individual choice. I make the choice to purchase every last song I own– if other people choose to pirate music, despite knowing it leeches off the bands they love rather than supporting them, it’s not my place to shame, judge, or try and change them. I hope that by sticking to my guns and doing what I think is right, I can encourage and inspire others to do the same.

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