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Criticism is also within my calculation, and that's why I promote growth of band musicians through "host club".
Q: Besides the app, you're also managing a host club.
Kouki: It's called REALIVE. The casts are band musicians and they also perform at the shop.
Q: Usually there is a prejudice when there is a former artist managing a host club. Did you consider that before you start this business?
Kouki: Even though it's also a host club, the thing I'm doing is actually giving "skill" to these musicians. And this strength is "knowledge" and "investment". My aspiration is YOSHIKI-san. He made his own label, went major, and did a lot of negotiations by himself. And I think he's able to do that kind of negotiation because he has accumulated the skills for it.
However, apart from a few exceptions, usually band musicians don't have the knowledge or the investment. They form a band and want to sell. But they don't know how to do it. If they work recklessly, they might be able to get a contract with a production company. But (for most) it ends like that. Whether they sell or not would mostly depend on the power of the company or the manager, and most of the musicians just leave their fate to these people. I think, instead of that, the musicians should have stronger determination and be more strategic.
Q: In other countries the artists employ their managers, and even though the risk is bigger the return is also bigger. But it's usually the opposite in Japan.
Kouki: That's why as someone who had experience in being a musician, I want to share the knowledge I earned in the scene, and also make a platform where they can earn money. That's the kind of club I'm aiming for. A place where they can get knowledge, investment, and skills. Rather than a host club, the image is closer to AKB48 theatre. I hope it can be an entry point for band debuts.
Q: So that's your motive for doing it.
Kouki: And moreover, the one of the reasons why I chose host club was because no one else was doing it. Or rather, I calculated that it might be better to do something which people criticise. If there are no pros and cons, it won't create a buzz. If everyone agrees with it, someone else would've done it already. It would be boring if I only make a music bar. I'm no longer an artist so no matter how much criticism I get, in the end the assessment will be whether it succeeds or not. Right now I'm 25, and I'm confident that by the time I turn 30 it would turn into something that everyone would approve. Right now I don't mind whatever people say to me.
Q: I think in V-kei it's particularly harsh, but do you have good resistance towards net bashing and all?
Kouki: Despite that, I'm not that strong mentally so it hurts when people bash me (laughs). May be on the net people had written "Go die" thousands of times (laughs bitterly)
Q: But you've factored the prejudice and criticism as well.
Kouki: Even I had some kind of prejudice towards host clubs in the beginning, but the company I'm partnering with has this idea of changing the image of host clubs. And since host club is a business which really relies on the strategy of its contents, I felt sympathy and wanted to start one.
I'm aiming for public listing before I reach 30
Q: Kouki-san, you have connections which artists usually don't have. How did you build that connection?
Kouki: My footwork is good, and I like drinking too. As I said earlier, until the band disbanded I went drinking almost everyday. But rather than drinking with my inside circle, I went to a lot of places, met a lot of people, and made connections. And also I met people abroad. When establishing this company, I learned a lot from the entrepreneurs I met in Singapore.
Q: Did you meet them there during a business conference or something like that?
Kouki: No. That time I went to casino alone. I spent all my money in a day (laughs). And when I was at lost, coincidentally one Japanese acquaintance was also there, and when I contacted him, he introduced me to a lot of people.
Q: When talking to you, I get the impression that you are more like a start up entrepreneur than an artist.
Kouki: Even so, I don't want to just earn money, so for now I'm just working with the things I want to do. Bands have a lifespan so I did things hurriedly, but now there is no need to rush that much anymore, so I feel a bit relieved. Of course I'm more excited if I have a goal, so I'm aiming for public listing before I reach 30, and I definitely want to reach it. On the other hand, unlike bands, business doesn't have a lifespan, so to some extent I can have a bit of leeway with time.
Q: I think there are a lot of people in V-kei who are good in business.
Kouki: It's a genre where the most important thing is to capture the fans' heart, so as expected people brush that kind of skill. On top of songs and performances, the ambience, statements, characters, photographs.. it's a genre in which, unless one do all of these strategically, they won't get famous.
Regarding business, since the beginning I've liked working. If I had become a businessman normally, I would have desire for success in life more than anyone else. I don't want to lose no matter what the work is. I really hate to lose.
There are too many middlemen in Japanese music industry
Q: This is what I'm feeling during our talk, but do you feel something is wrong with the system of current music industry?
Kouki: I felt it when I was an artist, but there are too many middlemen in Japanese music industry. There are too many people whose roles are unclear.
Q: But this year as many streaming services started, I think there are signs that it's changing.
Kouki: But as expected, Japan is slow in these things. "The time is changing", they say it all the time. There is already a market centred in CD selling, so it wouldn't be strange if there are people with vested interest in it. But, personally I don't really care about whether my CD sells or not. Actually, nowadays musicians don't really get money from their music selling, so I think it's just as good as giving them for free. It's good if the artist sell their music as a product, and actively promote their songs by airing them online, and have people come to their live performances. The so-called music industry slump is the circumstances of the music supplying industry. If you see it from the point of view of musicians or fans, I'm sure the point of question would be different.
Q: So is Jace providing a framework different from what we have until now?
Kouki: In the end, there are musicians and fans, and I want to connect them directly. And for that aim also I'm planning to keep expanding my business. I'm confident that I will achieve it, and surprise people who say "It's impossible for a former musician to get a public listing", and I will strive for it with all my power.
Translated by Val.
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