Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The "Please Come to the USA!" Dilemma

There tends to be a pretty consistent series of steps of being a music fan.

Step 1: you get into a band.
Step 2: you develop further appreciation for the band.
Step 3: you buy (or don't buy if you catch my drift) CDs by the band.
Step 4: you decide to go see the band in concert.

Depending on where you live, completing Step 4 tends to be harder than those first three.

Perfume performing many, many, many miles away from me.

In my life I have been to two concerts. One was Hillary Duff and I was seven, so I don't know if that counts. And for the record, she lip-synced. My second concert was more recent, and thankfully a lot closer than the Hilary Duff concert (that one was in Virginia, if I recall correctly). I don't know how it is in Europe, but in America, getting to a concert can be pilgrimage depending on where you live. If you live in a city, like Los Angeles or New York City, then it's a little bit easier. Bands are always performing in big cities, and at the smaller venues, you can get cheaper tickets. I paid $20 for the ticket to that second concert, and the venue was tiny (but pretty awesome since the band was right there). But I'm just talking about American (and sometimes Canadian and European) bands. Say you're a fan of an idol group. A Japanese idol group, since I have no idea how often South Korean idol groups perform internationally. Any international idol fan can tell you the struggles of being an international idol fan. Finding merch is difficult, accessing online content is difficult, and most difficult of all, seeing your idols in concert is... difficult!

What benefits are there to being an international fan? I mean, really, are there any? I guess you could say that an international fan has a different cultural perspective than a domestic fan, but how often does that come in handy? For a most people, being an international fan comes with more cons than it does pros. One of the most obvious being that it's incredibly difficult to see the groups you follow in concert. Your first option is flying to Japan and seeing them there, but that comes with it's own share of drawbacks. If I wanted to fly to Japan right now and see... say, Curumi Chronicle, it would cost me over $2,0000 for a round-trip flight. And that's just the flight. I'd have to find a place to stay, book a hotel, figure out means of transportation, and adjust to time zones. Did I mention the language barrier? Knowing even a little bit of Japanese can take a little bit stress off of navigating around a different country, but if you don't, that's only yet another setback. And Japanese is by no means an easy language to learn, especially if your first language is English. So when all that is said and done, is seeing your idols in Japan worth it? If you have the finances and cultural savvy, then maybe it is. But a lot of international fans don't have either one of those.

The alternate option for many international fans, myself included, is crossing our fingers and hoping an idol group flies somewhere near our vicinity. And typically, idols stick in Japan, especially more obscure idol groups like Bump.y and indie idol groups like Curumi Chronicle. It even took Perfume over a decade to perform somewhere internationally. I feel sorry for fans who live in really remote countries like New Zealand or Uruguay. I mean, have you ever heard an idol group perform in New Zealand? Or anywhere in South America/Australia/Africa for that matter? I've noticed that the three main areas that idols perform internationally are Europe, Asian countries outside of Japan like South Korea, and North America. It's Europe that gets many idol groups; for example, Babymetal and Berrikyuu are both set to perform in Europe this year. Of course, Europe is still a far away place for many international fans, but you know, baby steps. Obviously, the best bet for someone like me who doesn't even own a passport would for an idol group to come to the United States for a concert. But... there's still a problem with that. A big problem actually.

This is a map of the United States:


Now I don't know how many of you remember your geography facts, but the United States of America is the third largest country in the world. Having Alaska helps (thanks, Alaska!). I live in the southeast portion of that map. I won't say exactly where, just that I'm 100% certain General Sherman marched through my backyard at some point during the Civil War. Now New York is located in the northeastern part of the map near that tip at the top that is Maine, but not quite as close. It's the state that's kind of shaped like a Dorito. Unlike California which exists on the opposite coast (and it would take me 37 hours to drive to Los Angeles), New York is on the same side of the United States as I am. However, the drive from where I am to New York City would still be eight hours. I have road-tripped to Florida with my family, and let me tell you, I do not like it at all. Sitting in a car for hours on end is completely uncomfortable, and the only thing more uncomfortable than that is being the driver. The most I've driven without stopping is three hours, and that was exhausting. I can't even begin to imagine how tiring it would be to drive for eight hours. And then there are the tollbooths! Up north, there are so many tollbooths, especially if you want to get into New York City. When my aunt drove us into the city, I'm pretty sure she went through at least two or three to get to the Holland Tunnel.

My point is, if an artist "comes to the USA," that doesn't mean they're going to be any more accessible than they were thousands of miles away in Japan. It isn't like Europe where you can just hope from one country to another in a car. Seriously, if I drove a hundred miles north or south or west, I'd probably end up in a town that doesn't look much different from my own. The best bet any American fan has is living in one of the "hot spots" for performances. Those hot spots are pretty much just Los Angeles in California and New York City in New York. And maybe Chicago. So you either have to live ridiculously far out west or ridiculously far up north. If you live in the south or midwest? You're a sitting duck unless you know a kind soul who'd be willing to provide you with lodging out in one of those hot spots. And don't forget finding transportation! Conceptually, flying sounds like a great idea until you factor in the expensive prices, airport security, and overall sense of stress and misery comes with flying. Then if you do fly somewhere, you have to go through the whole process of renting a car, or finding some other miscellaneous method of getting to the concert venue. Traveling internationally is no walk in the park, but traveling within the United States isn't much easier. So sure, a J-pop artist may perform in the USA, but it may as well be in a different country.

However, the big question is... is it worth it?

For me, it's not. And maybe that's because I'm not in a position where I don't have the finances and independence to make my own decisions for myself. I'm not even in college yet! That doesn't mean there aren't concerts and idol-related events I don't want to go to. I'd gladly see BiS's final concert, but I'm not in the position to do so. Same goes for all the other idol groups that will very likely never perform in the United States. And even then, there are still idol events in the United States that I can't go to. For instance, I'd love to go to Idol Matsuri. An American convention dedicated to just idol stuff? I'm totally down for that! But it's in Washington, which is about as far away as I can get other than Hawaii or Alaska. Like I said, I'd love to go, but when I weigh out the pros and cons, rationally speaking, I just don't have the ability to make that happen. And that's why I won't be going to Morning Musume's concert in New York City. I've been to NYC before, but the time in which Momusu performs is just not convenient for me. Maybe someday in the future, when I'm out of school entirely and have a secure job (and who knows when that will be in this economy), I can make decisions about seeing idols in concert, if I still want to. I don't even know if the groups I like will still be around when I reach that point. So here I am, waiting and wondering.


Admittedly, it's not just Morning Musume's recent news that's gotten me musing about this topic. I've been thinking about it for a very long time regarding Perfume. I should say that if it was Perfume performing in New York City this October in lieu of Momusu, then I'd definitely go. Nothing against Momusu, but Perfume is a group that I've wanted to see live for a very long time. But even then, I'm not sure if I'd be able to. For Perfume to perform in New York at a reasonable time for me, the stars would practically have to align themselves. There would be so many variables that I'd have to take into question if I decided to go to New York and see Perfume, especially since I'd very likely be in college should they ever decide to grace the United States with their presence. And everything is out if they perform on the west coast. I love Perfume, but at the end of the day, I have to be responsible and practical when it comes to spending money and gas when I may need that someday for something else. I'm more than certain that there are Perfume fans all over the world in the same situation as me, who have even less of a chance of seeing Perfume live or any J-pop artists. It is the most frustrating thing to think of, but that's just how things are.

There are some days where it really drives me crazy. Why is it that some people have the luck of just driving a few miles to see their idols perform while the rest of us don't? But there is literally nothing I can do about it other than complain. And everyone gets tired of hearing other people complain, even if the complaints are rightly justified. Still, I get into these moods somedays where I can't shake this frustration of being stuck in one place and having no means of getting anywhere else. Obviously, it isn't just concerts that are on my mind when these stagnate days come around, but they most definitely don't help. I think what gets to me the most is that despite all my rationalizations, I still can't help but hold on to the hope of seeing Perfume or some other idol act in concert. When Perfume's management pulls stunts like holding a big announcement only to reveal another domestic tour, I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel a tad bit frustrated and miffed. I really don't know what Perfume's management is doing; it feels like they've been hinting at doing a concert in America, but nothing has really come of that. They've to Europe, but again, that's Europe. Still too far away. I wish they'd either make a decision or just forget about it, because it's not fair to international fans to hold out for a 3rd World Tour that may never even happen.

Moral of the story is that science needs to get cracking on instant teleportation (and while we're at it, same goes for establishing Starfleet). If you are one of the fans with the opportunity to see Morning Musume this October, don't let me rain on your parade. I am completely happy for you, and you should be happy too. But I if I could ask one thing of you, please appreciate the concert. Don't just appreciate the performances from the girls themselves, but appreciate the fact that you got to do something that many other fans will very likely never be able to do. And write about it! I do very much enjoy reading blog posts about concerts!

10 comments:

  1. Speaking as someone who has done a lot of travel both domestically and overseas to see idol stuff, it being in the US is a HUGE advantage over doing anything overseas. You kinda mentioned some of the biggest differences between them in this very post, but you downplayed them as if they weren't really that big of deal, like passport issues, language barriers, travel times, and more than anything, PRICES. Every idol event in the US I've been to (all of which were on opposite sides of the country for me) cost me a total of somewhere between $300-600 in travel and lodging costs. For the same travel and lodging in Japan, it costs between $2500-3500 for the same amount of time. Not to mention a flight time of 3 hours as opposed to 23 hours. Just because your current situation doesn't allow you to personally go to these events you're interested in and the timing doesn't work out doesn't mean it isn't infinitely easier to get to the domestic ones here. I'm sure things will work out for you eventually, and being in college or past that will help with ability to freely do things, it just hasn't been time yet.

    Honestly, the thing I'd probably be concerned about more than anything is like you mentioned, who knows how long a lot of these acts will really be around, especially with as disposable as most Asian pop acts are treated in their industries. But who knows what'll happen even tomorrow, so even though we'll all complain about it from time to time, something will probably eventually work out for us. Otherwise, you just have to go out of your way to MAKE the time and MAKE these kinds of trips work for yourself. They aren't something you can just randomly spring for overnight, they require lots of logistics planning and investment to make them work.

    I do notice a lot of people out there like yourself though, where these groups announce they're coming to the US, but they really aren't in much of a financial or life situation to be able to go to the events, even though the artists are coming to our own turf. I think it's because so many overseas idol fans are so young and really not in a position to be doing things entirely for themselves yet.

    Just a few thoughts from my end~

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    1. I kind of figured that an international concert would be easier to attend than one in Japan. It's just a little hard to wrap my head around all the many things you have to do to leave the country. I guess because I've never traveled outside the United States before and haven't experienced international travel firsthand like you have. Seeing the prices you listed, I think I'll just stick to trying to find an domestic performance to attend. Ideally, the best places would be on the east coast like New York City or Atlanta. But it depends on who's going; I'm not gonna bust my butt to see a group like Super Girls or Passpo perform in the US. At some point though, I'd like to think things will work out, maybe at some point in the future when I'm in or out of college!

      Like you said, the travel issues will always be something any fan has to deal with. I'm a lot more worried about how long these idol acts will stick around, especially the indie groups. Right now we're in an idol wave, and there are a lot of different groups. But who knows when this wave will fizzle out? While it's still going on though, I think I'll just keep waiting out for any acts to come near where I live then weigh the pros and cons of seeing them live. Thanks for the advice, I really appreciate it!

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  2. When I went to college in Boston my school had a football game at Notre Dame, which was a big deal. People seriously drove on RVs from Boston to South Bend to attend the game. Most of them were in senior yolo mode, though.

    I may go to Morning Musume's concert depending on my level of interest and whether I want to drive two hours from the middle of nowhere to NYC. I guess I'll have to buy a glowstick and pretend to be middle-aged to make the experience really authentic.

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    1. ...I can see sports fan driving all the way to Notre Dame. I guess idol fans aren't far from being parallel though! And I guess if you're into sports, the road trip would be fun?

      Well, a two-hour drive isn't terrible. The real challenge of NYC is parking. Parking is so hard there, you either have to pay to use a parking garage or park somewhere illegal and deal with the parking ticket later. But if you do go, be sure to tell me about it! I'm interested to see the ratio of middle-aged men to young people there!

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  3. It seems like Kyary can give a concert in my apartment tomorrow and Perfume is still like "Um we like fried potato"

    #PerfumeplscometoNYC

    At least, Perfume fans can get singes, albums etc. cheaper because of international ver. with subtitles (tried to feel better)

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    1. Yeah, I still can't believe Kyary's toured in the US twice now. And she's even been to Canada too! I honestly don't know what Perfume's management is thinking.

      I do like that they're releasing their material internationally though... well, kind of. They release it in Europe... which is still an ocean away... oh well. Baby steps, right?

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    2. Well, I am ordering online anyway, I bought Level3 with subtitled Dvd for just 16$ from Amazon.eu. I hate buying from Yesasia because shipping is extremely slow, and CDJapan is... expensive. I am going to college this year, I don't have got luxury for spending 50 bucks for a CD. Still baby steps, but means a lot for me.

      I understand you, though, I live close to EU, but I couldn't go to WT2, yeah because costs so much, not only flight, also hotel, food and stuff like that, At least i have a place to stay in NYC. I swear people who follows Japan groups should be rich

      I even don't understand what Amuse thinks, people in Japan considers Perfume as worldwide act, if they are not going to worldwide, then which girl group will? I am happy for Momosu though

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  4. I guess I'm coming in to this pretty late in the game, but I actually live in a large metro area on the west coast. I've seen precisely two major J-pop concerts: Shonen Knife (admittedly, not idols) several years ago; and Tomomi Itano just a few months back (Tokyo Girls Style was also at this one, but I had to leave early; it has to do with being a parent...). Puffy AmiYumi has also played here in the past few years, but I didn't get to see them. Incidentally, Shonen Knife is on another US tour right now as I type.

    I buy international CDs on ebay, which can be quite inexpensive. Even my local Japanese bookstores and anime outlets have pretty poor selection and pretty high prices.

    So, yes it can be difficult to see some of these artists perform live. I guess I'm fortunate to live on this side of the country, but you might be able to see someone in Washington, DC (they do have an annual cherry blossom fest there, and I think AKB was at it a couple years back). So poke around and see what you can find; there may be more options than you think.

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    1. Better late than never! Although I did write this at the time not knowing Perfume would be coming to the US very soon... I would have loved to see Tokyo Girls' Style in concert; I heard it was a fun concert! I'm not a fan of Itano Tomomi, but it's still cool you got to see her in concert, along with Shonen Knife! I remember Puffy AmiYumi from them performing the Teen Titans theme song... I didn't know they were still around and performing though! That's awesome!

      I go on Amazon to buy my CDs! I'm kind of a cheapskate, so the CDs I find are fairly reasonably priced. I don't even have a store that sells Japanese CDs so... I just stick to stuff online.

      Perfume's pretty much the only artist I really want to see live; everything else can be a happy coincidence! I've considered a few DC concerts; it's a little more reasonable than New York City. The best would be if someone came to Atlanta, Georgia or anywhere in the mid-South. I'm excited to see Perfume in a couple months now!

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    2. I wasn't really a fan of Itano until I saw her live in concert. So stay open to possibilities. :)

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