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Anime Key Player Interview #10
Ray Chiang, CEO of SPJA, organizers of an anime convention in USA, Anime Expo Part.3

2019.06.18


Please tell us about this year’s Anime Expo. Any announcements you’ve made?

There are some interactive events that we’ve put announcements out already, such as butler café and maid café, a dance component, the beer garden and other interactive stuff at our event for the fans to enjoy.


Have you already finalized the anisong concert this year?

No, we have not. It’s still in the works right now. It’s one of the main reasons why we’re now in Japan, to finalize details.


Please tell us about the anisong concerts held in Anime Expo in the past.

Yes, for the past several years, we’ve been working with Bandai Namco Arts (formerly known as Lantis) on anisong concerts at our show and it has been successful. It’s been a great experience and great for our fans. It’s been received very well by our fans in Southern California, US. I’m very happy and I think the company’s very happy with our organization, to see how the anisong concert, Anisong World Matsuri, has grown in the United States as well. They’ve brought the anisong concert concept throughout the United States, in the West Coast and the East Coast. It started in Anime Expo several years ago and to see how it’s grown, we love it. Our fans love it, too.
 

Photo: Anisong World Matsuri


When you plan concerts, how do you choose the artists and how do you approach them?

I rely on my team to see what’s popular, what our fans are into in that particular year, or have a foresight on what’s coming up on the following year and approach the management. I can’t speak much to it because I have talented people who work in this company to give us that kind of information.

Our marketing team surveys what attendees are looking for and share that kind of information with different partners and through what used to be JMCE, so that people understand what the needs are for the US. We would ask their availability, if they’re interested to come to AX (Anime Expo). Many times, the schedules don’t really work, and our partners would suggest people and we go from there. We’re happy to have a conversation to know who would be appropriate this year and who’s available this year, and what kind of concert: is it a six-hour concert, or a two-hour concert. There’s a lot that goes into the process.


Do you have any memories of anisong concerts that left a strong impression?

They’re all good. Lantis, now known as Bandai Namco Arts was a great partner to work with. Last year, we had LDH and it was a good experience working with them. They were all very professional and impressive. Other than that, the use of glowsticks was introduced through Anisong World Matsuri. The culture of using it wasn’t really popular before we had these music concerts. With Love Live! and all the musicians, the fans were very connected to the music aspect. It was wonderful to see our attendees take up that part of the culture and now everyone is doing it in the US. It was very interesting to see that.


For last year’s Anisong World Matsuri, you had a lot of anisong artists. Was it difficult to handle?

This should be a question for Inoue-san from Bandai Namco Arts (laughs). He’s the one in charge of organizing the performers and we’re hosting the concert. We really appreciate their support in helping us make the concert work.


In general, did you encounter any difficulties in the organizing the concerts?

Difficulties? Not that I’m aware of. There will always be challenges, real bumps that come along the way. Budget is one of the main factors of the challenges and it’s two partners coming together to work out those details. Other than that, I didn’t see nor experienced any difficulties. Maybe I’m really just a very optimistic person. There are difficulties but as long as there is conversation and a continuous dialogue, those challenges could be worked out because at the end of the day, both parties want the same results: a great show, making sure our fans get the best. It always goes back to our fans, we want to put in front of them the best product possible.


What are your visions for the anisong concert in the future?

Bringing to our fans what they want to see and also to make sure we support the Japanese industry, to approach Japan with the content or the title or concert that the fans want to see in the United States. In addition, we’ve seen how Kpop has transcended into mainstream music, we would like to do the same for anisong through AX. Right now, anisong is being consumed by anime fans or Jpop culture fans, but we want to support this genre of music to push it out into the mainstream as well. So, AX is not just a fan event anymore. There are light users who come to AX to discover things that they didn’t know about before and we hope anisong would be one of those new discoveries to increase fans in the United States.
 

©SPJA


Do you think there is a need to localize anisongs in the same way Kpop songs are sung in English?

There are also a lot of Kpop songs that have not been localized and they do six-hour concerts. The fans don’t even know Korean but they know the lyrics, so I’m not sure localization is the key but what I know is that they have YouTube channels and fans enjoy getting to know their personal side. There are a lot of videos of them just fooling around, and they take music videos with their phones and post them on YouTube. Their main focus is having that exposure and that makes all the difference, because it’s all about sharing now. At the concert, I understand that you can’t take a photo or record a video or whatever but that makes the buzz. I think it’s all about marketing.


So you think more exposure is better for Japanese artists?

Right, like globally, not just their website, but also having a YouTube channel or Instagram. It’s not just music but people want to know what kind of person they are. It’s all about the engagement. Even though they‘re not physically touching they can engage at a personal level. We’re at that age where the artists can interact with their fans through social media.


What important points should Japanese artists keep in mind when performing in the United States or at Anime Expo?

Engagement. If they engage with the American fans on a different level via social media, not just on stage, it would definitely help their popularity grow with the American audience.
 

©SPJA


What is your impression of Japan Anime Music Lab.?

I think it’s a great concept, a great platform for us organizers to connect with the Japanese music companies. This is one of the very few platforms I’ve seen so far. It’s a good gateway for Americans like us to engage and to know what’s out there.


How would you summarize “anisong” for you in one word?

Joy. Anime and manga have brought me joy so that’s the first word that came to my mind.


Absolutely. Thank you so much for the interview!
 

Written by Gladys Angala

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