Opinion: Thoughts on B’z Promotion Strategy

Posted on August 21, 2012

To fill the absence of news with something interesting (aside from our weekly project, of course), I thought I would share some thoughts concerning B’z current promotion strategy and why I think it doesn’t pay off.

Last year, B’z announced their first North American tour in 8 years, creating major hype among international B’z fans. Tickets for the 3 stop tour were sold out in a couple of days. But this time, it’s different. The band is playing on the East coast for the very first time with additional gigs in Toronto, Silver Spring and New York City. If you look at the ticket availability on ticketmaster, you’ll see that none of the shows haven’t been sold out yet — not by a long shot. Even the popular gig in Los Angeles isn’t sold out yet, although a whole lot of Japanese fans will be in attendance.

So, why do you think is that?

Well, B’z management has certainly miscalculated what kind of reception the band would receive in North America. The band has released a top notch EP with 5 songs in English on iTunes and yet they’re not promoting it well enough. Niche sites are picking up the press release but does that gain any exposure for B’z? Nope, not at all. They should try to get B’z into the main rock market. Go public. Where’s an article about the almighty Japanese rock group in the New York Times? Where’s an interview with Tak and Koshi on “Talk Asia” on CNN?

I personally think that they’re underestimating their fame. Even Ayumi Hamasaki and Anna Tsuchiya have made it on CNN. So why shouldn’t B’z? They’re huge in Japan and yet they promote themselves like some niche band in North America. I wouldn’t mind if they played Love Bomb on the radio – would you?

They should finally promote themselves for what they really are: The best selling Japanese rock band in Japanese history. They’re the first and so far only asian band to be inducted into the Hollywood Rockwalk of fame. Tak Matsumoto’s the first asian artist to receive his own signature Gibson. They mean big business, and they are big business. While I appreciate the fact that Slash and Mike Shinoda are promoting the release of the B’z EP, I don’t think it’ll get those fanbases to listen to B’z.

And of course… there’s another thing… why is B’z promoting themselves mostly in the Japanese community in North America? I do get that Japanese living in North America should get a chance to see the band, but really… if you’re doing promotion… do it the right way!

What do you guys think? What should B’z do? Fire away in the comments!

6 responses to “Opinion: Thoughts on B’z Promotion Strategy”

  1. Odon says:

    Hi Tobias,

    You are totally right. The situation is so frustrating. They are so afraid of being unsuccessful that they stay paralysed!

    As the biggest band in Japan’s history, they deserve a bigger attention, but they don’t believe it themselves. They don’t want to make any mistake by being arrogant but they do a big mistake being too humble.

    This humility is maybe very appreciated in Japan, but it’s not the way to success in North-America, I guess.

    I don’t say they should try to top the American world, but they don’t try enough.

    Even the release in iTunes: a 5-song EP. Okay… But why not directly all the B’z discography? It would be huge. Because this EP didn’t cost anything in promotion and marketing, so what really was the goal of this? People who bought it knew B’z already. I don’t think many people who didn’t know B’z before bought this EP in iTunes…

    So, we can be disappointed but we can still have hopes (though I’m not sure I have…): let’s hope it was just a first step.
    But next year… well… it will be the 25th anniversary and we surely won’t have anything else, and in Japan only.

    I personally don’t care if the band is 25 or 56. If they keep doing good music, it is the only thing that matters. Now, the biggest Japanese band should make a brave start worldwide and stop being so prude.

  2. Christian says:

    I must admit, there are some points I don’t really understand. For example, B’z has a brilliant website, whose nature is, although the relaunch is a few years ago, still contemporary.

    Other than that, however, the management is quite old-fashioned. I don’t consider it necessary to make use of Facebook or Twitter, but I don’t figure completely ignoring it would be recommendable.

    As I often get to hear, especially the Japanese music market is fast moving, so it wouldn’t be wrong to not always back out between releases. I know that Tak and Koshi work very professionally, and perhaps they prefer working in isolation.

    On the other hand, what the official Facebook account posted during their 「C’mon」 tour and shortly afterwards was very decent: photos of the tour or the studio as a sort of appetiser. Nothing special, but—in contrast to many other bands—nothing really irrelevant.

    For some reason, this spring, they abandoned their social media activities entirely, despite the release of 「GO FOR IT, BABY -キオクの山脈-」.

    Maybe Tak and Koshi just don’t feel like being omnipresent after almost 24 years and over 80 million sold copies. That’s reasonable, since they could easily retire and do whatever they want—I don’t believe that there will be any Japanese artist or band in the next decades who more successful than B’z.

    What I’m afraid of—probably more than Tak and Koshi themselves—is the death of the myth 「B’z」. If they continue being so passive, the point of time at which their new single won’t debute on #1 will come sooner than later, and I think we have learnt from the special campaign of 「Don’t Wanna Lie」, where a few girlies—I’m sorry, but I’m never going to listen to something like that kind of trash—were a serious competitor, that this extraordinary run isn’t so unimportant even to B’z.

    So far, so good. Even if I certainly would have done some things differently, their appearance in Japan is partly comprehensible to me.

    What is not comprehensible to me is their appearance in the United States. The current marketing conveys the impression that they want to play in America—but in front of the same Japanese fans who attend their concerts in Japan. As if they said, “If we’re able to gather so many thousands of people in Japan, these small venues in the United States will fill up by themselves. In the worst case, out of all our Japanese fans, there will somehow be 2,000 or 3,000 who will come.”

    I wonder how an average American citizen (or anyone else overseas), who is very likely to have never heard of B’z, is supposed to discover the band if they release their EP without any announcement.

    Speaking of social media again—it’s good that they have created a separate Twitter account in English, but what they’re tweeting won’t really help. At any rate, referring to articles that are merely a summary of the EP press release and the tour dates is not what social media means to me.

    Maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea if Tak or Koshi did some social media themselves, even though they don’t seem to be very acquainted to it.

    I believe their trip to America is going wrong in two respects. First, because of how they approach it.

    Second, because it’s much too late. I really dislike saying that, but the 「C’mon」 tour has shown that Koshi is past his best. That’s not surprising to me—I think it’s more surprising that he was able to cling to his (very high) standard for such a long time. B’z should have continued their international involvement nine, ten years ago.

    I hope they’ll still manage to fill the venues somehow, but as things appear to me at the moment, I’m afraid that they will return to Japan quite disappointedly. Too bad, especially since they seem to have pretty good connections.

    Bz no bise asked Mike Shinoda on Twitter if he were to be featured in an upcoming B’z song (or vise versa). That would be magnificent.

  3. Tobias says:

    I think it is the right way to approach American listeners with English songs. If you’re not used to hearing Japanese, you might find it quite irritating once you hear it. B’z is able to produce great songs in English and I think they deserve to show it. Once those listeners became fans, they’ll be interested in their Japanese songs. That’s a given.

    I’m still hoping for a world tour next year as Koshi said in a recent interview that he’d like to play all over the world.

    @Christian: That’s quite right. B’z doesn’t need to be on the social media. And, by the way, their social media activity started with the NA tour last year. They didn’t have a B’z page back then. Just a “LIVE-GYM” one.

    I seriously doubt that the phenomenon “B’z” will die out. Unless they retire, of course. Tak and Koshi are perfectionists and their fans are what kept them going. They keep producing good music because the fans expect them to. And that’s what they’re doing.

    I also fear that 90% of the people in attendance will be Japanese.(Just like last year) But I hope I can make a difference… I’ll be at the New York show which will be the first ever LIVE-GYM since I became a fan 7 years ago. And I won’t be the only non-Japanese person there. Meeting up with a couple of friends.

  4. Kowei says:

    I am from Taiwan, and live in America now. I started to listen to B’z since 2006 and I was very fortunate to go to B’z concert for the first time in San Francisco last year. You are right about the people going to their concert in America. I saw mostly Japanese fans, only a few non-asians. This year, I bought tickets to their concert in Maryland. I am sure it’ll be an awesome concert and my sister and I will enjoy it very much.
    About marketing their albums….My sister lived in Japan in 2004-2009. She said when she live in Japan, she didn’t see B’z on TV a lot to market their albums/singles. I think that’s probably because they are too famous and have a very good fan base. All the fans are loyal throughout the years and buy their albums/singles even if they don’t market their music a lot. I take it as a good thing in a way that they can concentrate in producing music, and they do, they keep producing music with good quality.

  5. Odon says:

    It’s interesting, because the most French people I know don’t think B’z (or any Japanese band) needs English songs, but our point of view is a little different.
    I regret that B’z doesn’t see the passionate fans here in Europe. Maybe they don’t see the success of L’Arc-en-ciel in France and Europe? I don’t know, but just focus on North America is also a mistake to me.

    Personally, I wouldn’t have become a B’z fan if I had discovered them only in English… (but once again I’m not an American)

    If they really come to Europe, to Paris or anywhere else, we will have to show them that it’s a good decision!

    Tobias, do you plan something special for the concert in New York?

    Like you, I don’t think B’z will die out in Japan. Maybe they sell less and less singles and albums, maybe they lose someday their 1st rank at the Oricon (what I don’t really believe), but they’ll continue having full stadiums for their concerts. B’z is a Japanese institution. Like many big bands, people don’t buy their albums anymore but keep going to the concerts, because it’s big, because it’s in, because it’s fun, because it’s B’z.
    Nobody will remember how many Prime Ministers Japan has had in 30 years, but everybody will always remember B’z. Almost everyone in Japan knows at least one B’z song (if just Itsuka no Merry Christmas).

    In the end, it doesn’t really matters if they become famous outside Japan. It matters really only to us international fans who live in a global world with a global mind. Because we believe B’z deserves to be as famous as Aerosmith or any other English speaking band that gets automatically the right to be famous worldwide just because it is English or American.

    Like Christian, I think it’s too late (but I’d love to be wrong). They should have started an international career after the show with Aerosmith, then not before, after the collaboration with Steve Vai in 1999 on his album The Ultra Zone and Matsumoto’s Gibson signature.

    I still dream of an album titled “B’z and friends” with all these incredible people who now are B’z friends: Larry Carlton, Mike Shinoda, Steve Vai, Stevie Salas, Juan Alderete and co… Just a sweet dream.

    There is maybe still a last little dream or hope: I think the new Matsumoto’s album Strings Of My Soul was made to be nominated at the Grammy Awards 2013 (and to win in some instrumental category). This nomination (and win) would be a support for a hypothetical next step of B’z international career.

  6. Marcin says:

    One word: recession. Greece have recession, Poland have recession and yes B’z have small recession too.

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