If you can’t beat them, join them and get royalties.

Our writer Seiji Nakazawa has long pursued a career in music, but being one of the toughest fields to earn a stable living in, he has had to supplement his meagre musical income by eating cheeseburgers and posing nude for us on the side.

He hasn’t given up on the dream though, and has had his share of small successes, even releasing five albums with a few different bands. He had even written some of the tracks himself and as such as eligible for royalty payments.

▼ One of Seiji’s projects, Fesubt

However, as a part of the agreement with his publishers, enough copies of the album would have to be sold to generate 5,000 yen (US$46) in royalties in a certain period. Otherwise, the amount would carry over into the next term until that bar is reached.

For many somewhat successful artists that’s not an unreasonable hurdle to overcome, but in Seiji’s case he has yet to receive a single yen even after years. Still, every once in a while he gets a statement from his publishers in the mail reminding him of his failure.

▼ “Time for your quarterly goose egg for you to suck on.”

Not being able to sell records is one thing, but being periodically reminded of it in writing can be downright demoralizing. This June, however, an unlikely hero came to Seiji’s aid: JASRAC.

Regular readers of our site may recall various stories about Japan’s musical copyright enforces, in which they are often criticized by the public as “a hive of evil” and “killing the industry” for their heavy-handed tactics.

In fact, Seiji first came into contact with JASRAC at about the end of last year. He went to their offices as a part of a exposé on their inner workings. He was assigned to pose as a successful musician interested in protecting his vast body of lucrative written works, while really digging up whatever dirt he could find on the copyright agency.

▼ Seiji’s JASRAC application form

However, while on the inside, a smooth-talking rep had convinced him to become a member.

▼ That is Seiji’s JASRAC membership card, in case you’re as distracted by his hyper-extended thumb as I am.

Seiji’s songs were already tied up with the various publishers and therefore not could not be included in his JASRAC agreement, but there was one song that belonged to Seiji outright: “RocketMan.”

This is the theme song of our Japanese language site which was written and composed by Seiji and performed by him along with the rest of the staff. Since it wasn’t on any of his previous albums, it was the only song he could submit to JASRAC.

▼ Now, about half a year later, Seiji received his first royalty statement from them…

After a half a year under the wing of Japan’s controversial copyright enforcers, Seiji had raked in 20 yen ($0.19) in royalties. He actually got 23 yen ($0.21), but after the fat cats at JASRAC took their cut of 1 yen ($0.0093) and 2 yen ($0.0186) went to taxes, he had about two-thirds of the price of a Black Thunder mini-chocolate bar.

According to his statement, “RocketMan” earned money through “Interactive Transmission” and “Interactive Reproduction” which basically means online usage. Seiji had learnt at the JASRAC offices that they have a “comprehensive contract” with major sites such as YouTube, which means that a site like YouTube basically pays them a certain agreed upon amount and JASRAC then distributes a share of that to each of its members based on their share of the overall clicks.

▼ A JASRAC rep explaining to Seiji how YouTube revenue is collected and distributed.

This means that you are free to use or perform “RocketMan” and other JASRAC songs as long as the song’s creator and publisher also allow it. In this case Seiji is both the creator and publisher and he says, “It’s cool.” This also only goes for video sharing sites that JASRAC has such a contract with, such as YouTube.

So, was all this worth the 54,000 yen ($500) registration fee and subsequent 4,000 yen ($37) yearly membership fees? Well, in terms of money, hell no, but after years of having zeroes mailed to him, this 20 yen gave Seiji the much needed sense that his music had value and gave him hope that he could build on this in the future.

So be sure to use or cover “RocketMan” in your own video works as much as you can, and between our kind readers and confused Elton John fans, Seiji may just see upwards of 35 yen ($0.32) in royalties by next Christmas.

Photos © SoraNews24
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