20 July 2008 @ 03:09 pm
After both groovy_walls and I made post on this issue, we decided it was time to combine forces and make a much longer, far more rambling post. XD

This is what we'll be posting to some of the comms:

The Dears Fanclub. Why are the overseas fans excluded?
-By [info][livejournal.com profile] shinimegami21 and [profile] groovy_walls

Recently, it seems one issue has begun to surface on a frequent basis. The matter of Gackt spreading his activities outside of Japan, namely his fan club opening to the international community. This has started to become a major issue, not only on the LiveJournal communities, but also on many of the smaller forums and websites.

Petition after petition have been made and sent, and the growing theme among fan-mail has become an outcry for Dears to go international. Still, Dears remains a Japanese address only fan club. This fact has started to generate hurt feelings from international fans AND a fair amount of bitterness and accusations of racism regarding Gackt.

But there are real viable reasons why Dears is not international, and why this is (if you must find fault) not the fault of the artist.

In regards to this matter, we, shinimegami21 and groovy_walls, have written an article on the matter. We do not direct this post at any one user, nor do we intend to bruise anyone's feelings over the matter. We simply hope to give explanation to the matter and perhaps eliminate some hurt feelings.

shinimegami21 is a Dears member who lives and teaches English in Japan. She will give us some insight not only into Dears itself, but also the logistic issues behind making ANY website or group available to a multilingual fan base.

groovy_walls is a business manager, and drawing on her experience in these matters, will outline why an international Dears is, in the end, not a matter of Gackt love for his fans, but one Dears Co.'s profit margin.

So please take a few minutes of your time to bear with us and read on.

Let's look at a few reasons why such petitions will do very little in the long run, besides make it more obvious to Gackt that the overseas fans care too.

Before we go into further detail, keep one thing in mind:

This is about Dears Co., and no amount of petitions will convince them to make changes until they are good and ready. Why?
"Dears Co." is something you see on the back of every CD, every book and each time your DVD player loads a video.

Dears Co is often thought of simply as Gackt's fan club, it is however far more than that and his control in it is limited.

Dears, as the "Co." implies is indeed a corporation, a multi million dollar corporation.

Is this group truly that profitable? Consider this:

12 mini and full length albums and 29 singles. (With roughly 10 Million copies sold)
25+ DVDs and Videos
19+ Books
Profits from roughly 6, highly successful tours
Other merchandise including calendars, tour goods and seasonal goods.

Profits from:
1 Software Release: Vocalic (developed by Yamaha Corporation)
3 Video games: Bujingai and 2 Final Fantasy games.
2 Movies: Moon Child and Bunraku
1 TV series: Fuurin Kazan (one of the most successful series in network's history)
2 Anime and Movie, voice acting jobs: Fists of the North Star and Arthur and the Minimoys

-and an untold number of magazine appearances, TV commercials and product endorsements. (MasterCard, Fuji film, Takano Yuri among them)

In one way or another, Dears Co. is making money from each of these ventures. Even after Nippon Crown and the other companies have taken their percentage, that's still a large sum of money. (There are of course costs that subtract from this amount, but we'll get to that in greater detail later on)

So, not perhaps the most romantic bit of imagery, but true nonetheless. This means that you need to start looking at it from a business perspective. This may not make much sense if you're not familiar with the business world, so we'll explain below after a few other points are made.

1. Time:
Yes, it may take a WHILE before the fan club becomes open to the international fan base. Probably because there needs to be connections made in order for people to handle payments, send out information and letters, set up a system for enrollment which will be online and hence there will be a need for translations for every country involved. This takes a long time to set up! Imagine setting up a community on LJ, and needing fans and organizing things. Now, take that situation and times it by 50.

2. Connections:
It is absolutely vital to establish connections for launching something of this magnitude, especially if it is going to be international. You have to choose the right ones or else you may end up having more problems than you originally thought, including embezzlement, fraud, etc. Plus, with all this going on, there will be a need for some sort of manager to handle things, because Gackt is going to get very busy, very fast. It has been said before that he may not always make all his business decisions, but I think he would want to be part of this expansion process. This can be linked to point 4.

3. Money: In principal Dears operates on the same standards that your local Sears, Marks & Spencer, or Wing On, does.

Everything Dears does, is going to be in the best interest of the Dears management and the members of GacktJob. This means that its first objective will always be doing what will bring the most profit. This is the objective of every business; more profit.

If cash doesn't flow as high as it should once this expanded fan club gets off the ground, it will then need to be shut down. Also, it takes money to set things up.

-the cost of handling and converting the funds that would need to exchange hands. New channels must be established for every country that memberships would be available for and new regional mangers and staff must be hired. This means making changes to financial and operating contracts. Making changes in these sectors of even the smallest business takes an act of god, a mountain of paperwork and often months to make something happen.

-There are costs in running a fan club and there simply are not enough fans outside of Japan to make a profit that would offset the costs. For instance up until a few weeks ago, the fanclub sent out a monthly newsletter to all its members. It costs money and man-hours to design and print the newsletter, then it must be shipped, and in the current world economy that's not cheap. Have you ever paid to have a magazine or DVD sent to or from Japan? How much did it cost? Chances are it was on the expensive side.

Now take that cost, and multiply it 12 times. Imagine or do the math on how much you would have to pay every year to make that profitable for Dears. Keeping in mind that business will try to make at the very minimum a 35% profit margin. Would you REALLY be willing to pay that total amount every year? Would it be worth it for the privilege of being able to surf the Dears only portions of the website? Or the privilege of buying Dears only additions of media that are only different in packaging, but are higher priced simply because it's a Dears only item?

We may think that there are a lot of fans outside of Japan but in all reality the number is unlikely above a million or so. The current listing on the independent fan groups stands at 2856. This number is of course much smaller than the true number of fans, but still if that's only 25% of the actual number, that's still not that many people.

In addition, only a smaller percentage of that number, are fans that are die-hard enough to bother joining a fan club. It's an unfortunate but true fact that a high number of fans' music collections originates solely from file sharing, because they are either unwilling or unable to spend the money to purchase the artist's CDs. So how many fans would truly budget the expense of a fanclub membership?

To make it profitable to have memberships (entailing identical benefits) available to the small percentage that would join, Dears would have to greatly cut the cost of doing business. It could do this a number of ways:

(a) It could cut out all mailed material. Dears has already started to do this by eliminating the news letter, (which is a hopeful sign) but that's only a small dent in the overall cost.

(b) It could charge overseas fan far more than domestic fans for a membership. This however would cause an almighty stink and have most overseas fans screaming "prosecution for being foreign!"

(c) They could raise costs across the board, raising fees for domestic fans slightly and charging overseas fans the same amount as domestic. This would compensate, offsetting the cost.THEY WILL NOT TAKE THIS OPTION. Such a move would greatly anger Japanese fans. Japanese fans account for 90% of their profits. I can guarantee you this option will not be exercised.

If none if these options are viable we are left with an alternative and far more likely scenario. Overseas fans would be charged the same or slightly more than domestic fans but the benefits of the membership would be greatly downscaled. Taking into consideration the current climate among overseas fans, this option would prove too disastrous.
As in option (b) this would cause uproar among fans further fanning rumors of racism and bias.

4. Effort:

As stated a bit in the first point, there will be a need for recruitment, and interviewing, and after all that there is still a need to organize which person does what and if things need to be tweaked or completely changed, and let's not forget about pay and work schedules and different types of contracts depending on your abilities. Believe it or not, a lot of people don't have the same contract and/or don't get paid the same.

-Special staff would have to be hired. Web pages, order pages and sign up pages would all have to be translated into the mother languages of every country they intended to do business with and retranslated every time a change is made. Do to this properly and in a timely manner would require Dears to hire a separate translation team for each language. (see part 7)

This adds up to an astronomical amount of man hours and funds. If they also intended to make the newsletter available in each language, we're talking about a huge addition to those man hours. This basic issue of profit can be applied to any of the other issues that are so often brought up concerning overseas activity. This includes overseas merchandise and overseas tours.

5. Being a member of Dears:
When you come down to it, the only things truly special about the membership is that it will be easier to purchase concert tickets and you'll have access to Gackt's blog. A blog that most of you will still be unable to read, since Dears is not going to go to the trouble of translating it into (Just to same a few) English, Mandarin, Korean, French, German and Spanish. (see part 7)

shinimegami21 on: Being a DEAR isn't all glitter and sparkles.

People think that being a fanclub member is having it made. Well, I can honestly say that I don't feel any different. I already live in Japan for my job, and entered the fanclub within 3 months of living in Japan. So far, the only perks I've noticed are the fanclub magazines, advanced ticket purchasing (I have yet to go to a concert) and having the ability to read blogs. Yet, as of recently, the magazines shall cease to be printed and will only be available online. Drawback #1.

I can read Japanese, but these kanji on the net are too small, and I don't have time to read it later. And most times, there are kanji that I simply don't know, and don't have the time to use my dictionary to look them up. And I hate being behind in anything...Drawback #2.

There are also fanclub trips, but they are EXPENSIVE! I can't afford to see my family for a week, let alone seeing Gackt, who doesn't even know me, for like 3 days? Drawback #3.

I can't say I'm ungrateful to be in the club, so please don't assume so. But I read about how people say how lucky I am but there is no really big difference, besides having a little less money by the time I need to renew. Sometimes I think everyone else is lucky! You get to read about his blogs (when people post them against his wishes) and get chances to order Gackt goods through other people and services.

And this does not mean that I am against the petition. I actually would like an international fanclub to take flight, but I am being realistic in the sense that I know it will take a while, so I'm just gonna relax and enjoy the music. So while I may not sign your petition, I do support your idea and your determination, but I don't necessarily support the means of expressing it, because it has been done over and over again, and we all got the message the first 5 times it was done.

6. Availability of outside media, both inside and outside Japan
-by, shinimegami21

Many Western band's fan clubs are open to Japan and not vice versa. Why?

First theres the language barrier. English is the most dominant of languages, its also considered the language of science. Most Japanese people can speak at least a word or two of English.
How many westerners can say so much as good morning in Japanese?

The Japanese people are also far more influenced and exposed to outside media than people from western countries are to the influences of Asia.

CDs are expensive in Japan, and sometimes, foreign artists CDs cost LESS than Japanese artists CDs. I bought two CDs in my first few months here, both American artists, and they were considerably cheaper than Japanese artists in the same genre.

Perhaps this is because of different agreements between labeling companies, or it is because of the lack of need for hard copies of music. Nowadays, downloading music can cost quite less than buying a physical copy. Needing to produce less material for CD cases, CD art, booklets (sometimes in different languages!), and the like can drive down the cost of buying a CD online.

Don't even start on DVDs, which are just as bad or worse than CDs. Most DVDs come with some sort of extra feature, like stylish box decoration or a phone strap. Let's not forget about limited editions and first print releases. In Japan, it's common to release limited editions and first print versions before selling regular versions. This can drive up the price and hype over something you may or may not need. The same can be said for any Dears merchandise.

7. Translations
-by, shinimegami21

As a person who aspires to become fluent in this language, I can personally vouch for the difficulty in translating, and can understand the headache acquired from translating the first paragraph alone! There would need to be translations in at least ten languages, and more than likely there won't be enough people in each language to make timely translations.

It is difficult to translate one thing to another in a language, especially concerning colloquial phrases. For example, the old saying 'To Each His Own' in Japanese can literally be translated as 'Ten People, Ten Colors'. It can be easy to understand this meaning, but it is an example of how differently each language interprets a saying.

Although my skills aren't the best at the moment, I can safely say that for those with a lot of experience they will have a tough time with more casual phrases, extremely polite phrases, as well as one to three word phrases, which in the Japanese language can mean an entire sentence. So gathering those willing to spend their time, energy, and sanity with translating will be a task and a half. Because that will be a necessity.

8. But don't most other Japanese bands have foreign fan clubs?

We're sure this could be delved into further, but comparing Gackt to other musicians/bands is fairly pointless, because their situations are very different if they have an international fanclub and he doesn't.

Still, here are a few other bands that lack an international fan club:

L'arc en Ciel
Buck Tick
Dir en Grey

Dir en Grey and L'Arc en Ciel are two of the best know Japanese bands, overseas. Both have toured in the Americas and Europe. But like Gackt(who has still yet to even do a solo tour overseas), even they do not have not have overseas fan clubs.

In closing:
Gackt knows what he needs to do, so we shouldn't worry too much. He may not have said anything about making an international fanclub probably because he doesn't want to get our hopes up.

THAT HAVING BEEN SAID, we think that there will be a scaled down version of Dears for overseas fans in the near future. As mentioned before, Dears has started making a visible move to transition. The snail mail version of the newsletter has been cut. Scaled down foreign language versions of the public Dears pages now exist and their content is slowly expanding. There are also multiple Myspace pages, which is a sign that something shall happen, as when things move to myspace, it's considered a huge step, at least in this case.

Start looking out for an international fanclub once Bunraku has seen an international release. When this happens and if the movie turns out to be successful, the fanbase will be greatly expanded and Dears will likely find it worth their while to expand.

Gackt has such a large influence on people in so many countries, and it is understandable about wanting to be one of the Dears. Patience is a virtue, and at this time, a necessity also. Of course, we are not always patient, but we must also realize that good things come in time. So why don't we enjoy what we have now: the music, vids, dvds of movies and concerts, photoshoots, internet messages, and inerviews. Not to mention the zany and amazing fan-made creations we see daily on LJ.

Rockoon, March 2008
Remember that its the calmest, best thought-out responses that garner the most validity.
Current Mood: busy
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