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!