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Has music become nothing more than extra content for idol handshake events?

Media consumers in Japan may be more set in their ways than their counterparts in the West, but even still, there have been some big changes in the Japanese music industry over the last 10 years. By far the most significant has been the return of idol groups to the top of the sales charts, as the multi-vocalist units enjoy more success than they ever have before in Japan.

Critics have long grumbled that idol fans are more enthralled by the performers’ looks and personas than their actual singing skill, and that complaint feels even more valid these days. Many idol CDs owe their position at the top of the charts to a clever marketing ploy in which each disc comes with a raffle ticket for a chance at prizes, the most coveted of which is being able to shake hands with the idols at a fan appreciation event. Obviously, the more CDs you buy, the greater your chance to win that coveted right to press palms, and so idol group superfans regularly shell out for multiple copies of new releases.

But while that’s great for idol groups and their production companies, Disc Union, a Japanese retail chain that sells both new and used CDs, seems to think this phenomena is going too far, as evidenced by one of its recent ads.

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The Japanese text translates as:

Is music just the extra content you get with a handshake?

Music doesn’t exist so that you can squeeze someone’s hand. It exists to shake your heart.

On one hand, you could call this a powerful plea for music to get back to its original purpose of stirring the emotions through sound alone. But on the other hand, calling out handshake events as running counter to what music is supposed to be about is sort of biting the hand that feeds the Japanese music industry, at least as far as physical media sales are concerned.

Meanwhile, rival chain Tower Records has a much more accepting view of modern idol culture, which it unabashedly trumpets in an ad of its own that features a variant of Tower’s “No music, no life” slogan in Japan.

Music is the extra content you get with a handshake.

What’s wrong with music being the extra content you get with a handshake? After all, handshakes shake people’s hearts too.

It’s worth noting that while both chains are in the business of selling CDs, Tower Records stands to benefit a bit more from idol fans’ love of seeing their, well, idols, in person. Compared to Disc Union locations, Tower Records shops tend to be more spacious, often with areas set aside for mini concerts or meet-and-greet sessions. You may not see A-list musicians there, but Tower Records regularly hosts up-and-coming musicians, budding idol singers included, so if it can help promote new acts, put a smile on their fans’ faces, and sell a few CDs in the process, the company doesn’t seem to be all that concerned whether people are coming in to hear a song or to shake a hand.

Source: Jin
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