Yep, this answer deserves more up votes. The Japanese music industry is pretty huge. Some teenage wannabe friends in the UK had a fairly ordinary four-piece and a crazy ambitious manager who took them on tour to Japan three times inside a year.
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Back home they struggled to get a crowd of at their gigs, but over there with a bit of clever PR and they were selling out venues of ten times that capacity, plus off-loading tons of merchandise. They didn't ultimately make any serious money, because of the high expenses and the deal he'd put them on - but they had a wild time! Because the entertainment industry in Japan is fucked. For a variety of reasons, ALL cds sold at retail stores are sold at a government-regulated price. It is illegal to sell them for less. This means that if foreign labels want Japanese retailers to carry their product, they have to give them something that merits the higher price.
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If the content was identical to the foreign import, there wouldn't be any reason for the consumer to buy the domestic version at the artificially inflated price point and thus no reason for retailers to bother carrying the product. The system, established in , allows owners of copyrighted material to set the minimum retail price of newly released or re-released products , thus eliminating any possiblilty of discounting. It's not the artists making it, it's the Japanese importer. Japanese consumers have historically preferred album booklets and ancillary materials to be in Japanese, and this necessitates a special run of albums, which is usually paid for by Japanese distributors.
The distributor occasionally commissions translations and new art or adjusted art , where appropriate. Those distributors always add the "Obi", that paper sleeve on the left-hand side of the disc's case unique to Japanese releases. All of these things drive up the price of the album, though, since distributors want to make a cut for the service they provide.
To help offset this, and to keep Japanese consumers paying higher prices for localized albums rather than just buying the import in its original language , distributors often negotiate the addition of "B-side" tracks to help add some value. Many artists today are happy to include them, since recording sessions almost always produce more material than is fit for an album, and since it has become a tradition to put B-sides on Japanese discs. Because of this system, and because the Japanese market is very unique, sales of physical media in Japan have not been affected by the internet to nearly the degree that they have been in the rest of the world.
It just occurred to me that Obi literally means "sash", so it may not actually be from the kimono Obi. I'm not sure if they use the word Obi for other things, or just kimono and cd's. It's been done for many years. As stated by others, it helps boost sales of the Japanese version as opposed to import to them versions. In addition, some of those copies are then imported back into the US, for sale at higher prices as import copies.
In the 90s, this was very common with singles. In order to push single sales and drive a song up the charts, labels would release a CD single with bonus tracks. That same single would be released to Japan and the UK with different bonus songs. Many of those singles would then be sold back to the US. Lots of extra sales for the same song and some outtake and live tracks which the label would view as basically throwaway tracks. Japanese CD players spin on the other direction, the same technology used for printing manga. Artists have to record their songs again otherwise it would play backward in Japanese sound systems.
It is that simple. Aside from the regulations the Japanese government has implemented, another reason a lot of bands do special japanese releases is for the simple fact that people in japan actually still buy music. And a lot of it, too. Theres still a culture of buying physical copies of the media you consume. The first time i was in Tokyo i was blown away that the convenience stores had newsstands, and they were huge and with a wide variety of stuff.
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Not to mention the number of record stores there are. Japan has laws set up so that you can only sell albums from Japanese record labels. Because of that, most artists that tour Japan will have a partner label that prints a Japanese version so that they can sell the album while touring in Japan. Understanding that record collector fans will buy alternate versions of records to complete their collections, artists will often have an unreleased track, remix, or alternate version of songs and artwork to make it worthwhile for the collector to spend money on the import. Wait so Chris Martin suddenly starts singing in Japanese or are we talking about collaborations?
Or maybe just Japanese language sleeve art? That would be hilarious. We're talking about same songs and additionally one or two more tracks on different albums just for Japan in this context. Some artists off the top of my head Bowie used to make the Japan only tracks available to the rest of the world a year or so later, normally as b-sides or if you like extra tracks on CD singles.
Japan has one of the largest music industries on the planet - there's big dollars to be made there. I've heard from record shop owners that Japanese vinyl is thicker and therefore better sound. So they can sell albums to the giant Japan market.
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Is this really something you needed explained in detail? You know this guy is getting downvoted maybe for tone and maybe due to lack of clarity, but from the documentaries I've watched, this is right. My understanding is that there is at least some level of feeling that outsiders need to adapt to Japan.
I believe the documentary mentioned that Psy was one of the first artists to have real success by not doing this maybe first SK artist actually because his song was so ridiculously popular. This may only apply to nearby Asian countries, however, who there could be a feeling of superiority towards. This isn't meant to be inflammatory to the Japanese; just what I've seen. Heck it takes pretty big acts like Rammstein or Shakira to really pull this off in the states and other English speaking countries, though we also have a ton of huge English speaking acts here to choose from making larger barriers to entry.
They wouldn't need a separate version with bonus tracks to do this as you can buy imported CDs from the US or more accurately from china through US companies.
Don't post to argue a point of view. Flair your question after you've submitted it. Why do the Japanese versions of albulms always seem to have bonus tracks not available in North America? June 16, 2: Also, why do the Japanese get this and we don't?
I find that extra tracks tend to be the case with most imports, not just japanese ones, and I'm pretty sure andrew cooke is right on the money. According to a friend who runs a small record label that occasionally does business in Japan: The extra tracks are there to provide an incentive for buying the domestic version.
Without the extra tracks, Japanese retailers are reluctant to sell the CDs knowing that a large portion of the potential purchasers will simply be importing the product. Here in the UK some record labels will put extra tracks on CD's to encourage people not to buy cheap imports from America or Asia. I doubt this is the case in Japan posted by dodgygeezer at 2: The information is really interesting. I reread this book every year or two and still have created my own, personal cliff note that we review regularly.
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