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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A True Story

Me: Did you buy a copy of Twinkle Star?

Friend: Yes.

Me: Why don't you buy another?


I've put off mentioning this for a while. After checking the Oricon daily ranking, then weekly ranking and still not seeing any trace of it, I resigned myself to believing that the single had just narrowly missed entering the top 30. Truthfully, record sales don't really grab me all that much, and I'd think we'd all rather discuss the merits and pitfalls of pop songs than plot their rise and fall in statistics.
I got a shock yesterday though. I found out the actual figure.

Highest chart placement: 104

Which, as also pointed out yesterday, equals about 2000 singles sold. Incredulous doesn't really cover it. Let's remind ourselves again: Halcali are a manufactured pop band on a major label putting out pop songs into the pop charts for a pop song buying public. We all are aware that part of the reason Halcali exists is to sell records and make money. Isn't this the reason they were signed to Sony, because someone somewhere sensed that they could push this band further up the ladder than For Life could? Yet they shifted the same amount of records you would imagine a niche Idol group would. I don't have any real allusions of grandeur where this band is concerned, but you expect respectable record sales. Tip Taps Tip was a decent, mid-placement showing. Coming in at 102 then vanishing is a disaster.

Assuming Sony didn't intentionally sign this band just to sabotage them, I expect that they, like us, thought that these kids would shift more than a figure so low that DJ Fumiya could send a personal thank you e-mail from whatever hospital bed he's in to everyone that bought it.
So, what on earth happened?

1. The 'missing year' killed them.

Halcali don't have an audience. The majority of their original fanbase (15-18 year old girls) who were taken in by these cute songs about eating shoe creams and going to the beach presumably lost interest after the steady flow of singles dried up. When they finally returned a year later with Tip Taps Tip, Halcali had mutated into a different beast altogether and effectively had to start again as a new band and capture new fans in terms of promotion. While every interview and press release shouted "It's their first release in over 12 months!" it's hard to imagine anyone but whatever hardcore fanbase existed caring too much or even being able to make the connection between the new and old incarnations. It's also hard to imagine the average pop fan knowing that this band had even returned from the wilderness, so uneven was the promotion behind them.
Worse, after Tip Taps Tip introduced the new Halcali direction and sound to a teenage market most of whom had either never heard of the band before or had lost interest, the next single (recorded last summer, which is exactly when it should have been released) suddenly jerked the band back in the opposite direction towards the more pop driven, pre-major Halcali. They were all over the place, perhaps leading to even those newcomers who liked TTT to lose interest in the band again from this lack of continuity. So who cares now? Halcali are stuck in limbo, singing about more adult oriented themes (which we can roughly label growing pains I suppose- not only did a lot of Ongaku reference it, but it was brought up again for but TTT and TS) while still having an edge too goofy and unhip for the Koda Kumi crowd, but being too grown up for the original Halcali kids who got behind their summer songs about nothing.
Which reminds me of a comment Jordi left- "It's funny how these girls probably will relate more to teenage girls but they're too busy aspiring to be Koda Kumi or Ayumi". Is there a kind of reality in these songs that aren't about sex or crying but about "the themes of teenage life" (paraphrasing Twinkle Star) that's, how can I put it...boring to Halcali's audience? Would a teenage girl really be interested in thinking about being a teenager?

2. Sony's promotion of the band was hopelessly inadequate.

Here's what I really don't understand. Why sign a band, then promote them so unevenly? Why give them the magazine interviews, the gigs sharing the bill with high profile acts, the radio slots and Music Station (which we'll come to again in a minute), then make it so that there is zero (and I mean no) promotion for the single in any of the major record stores, in any of the major magazines and in fact no hint that there is a new single coming out at all? As with TTT, I walked into a major branch of Tower records on the day Twinkle Star was released and had to look for a good 5 minutes to find it. There were no signs on the upcoming releases board, no clues that it existed. No ads in the press, nothing on TV, nothing to suggest that promotional posters were even made.
So why fall down on the seemingly obvious? Did Sony just want Halcali for Eureka 7?! I suppose my main question to Sony would be, why sign them at all? While I was originally skeptical about the move, at the very least I thought it would mean healthier record sales. Can anyone think of one good thing that's come from the change? One strange un-Halcali Halcali single sold off the back of an anime, and one massively delayed, massive flop that should have been released on For Life exactly when O.T.F had obviously originally planned on releasing it.
If anything, Halcali seem to have gone backwards. Let's not forget that it was For Life that got Strawberry Chips (easily a less marketable song that TS) in at number 22 on Oricon and gave it the Gold Disc for that year. Now we have shocking record sales and no audience.
Music Station though, didn't that count for something? While it's true that it falls behind both Hey!Hey!Hey! and Utaban in the ratings, it still attracts a sizable audience. Over 10% of households in Japan tune in, which equals roughly 12.8 million people and an awful lot of exposure.

So lets add it up.

Magazine interviews (albeit mostly with the Sony owned What's In) + radio (interviews, regular slot on Tokyo FM) + gigs (with the likes of Shakka Labbits) + Music Station (again, 12 million-odd viewers) = 2000 singles sold.

Wait, there's something I left out of the equation. I forgot to add
- a total absence of a regular promotional campaign for the single in the media.

The trouble with the positives above is that only two of them were concerned with the actual single itself, Music Station and the magazine interviews, and even then Music Station gave no indication of when the single would actually be released. Posters, ads in magazines, the internet and TV would have done that. Basically, a band on a major label should be promoted well enough to ensure that a potential buyer does not have to take it upon themselves to search for that information.

Aside from a small advert on the community website mixi, I saw nothing.

Who knows where they go from here?

Whoever's to blame, the fact is that a supurb, well crafted pop song with all the potential to give Halcali a moderate hit and push them at least slightly back into the public conscious has just gone sadly and quietly to waste.

18 Comments:

Blogger Jordi said...

I like the thought of Fumiya sending a personal thankyou e-mail very much. If that were the case, I'd assume that the record sales would definitely leap. But then again the guy has fangirls - they're a powerful bunch. Fangirls pay for "exclusive" things. Halcali needs a larger population of this stuff before they decide to disappear and come back a year later.

I'm one that doesn't care for CD sales. But with a group that stands on shaky ground right now, it somewhat has a big role. I mean cd sales are actually possible to manipulate. There has been intense discussion on how the hell someone like Koda Kumi got millions when she only sold "ok" before. And in the end it's the genius of marketing. Though not very good marketing, they were able to expose her on billboards, radio shows and everywhere until people felt they had to buy it so it'd stop haunting them.

I thought TS was a great quality song so I'll just blame Sony. Here's my theory. Sony didn't want OTF to write the songs anymore since after all they're releasing the music on *their* label. So they thought "let's lazily promote them - make them sell beans. And the next song made by our own guys will sell lots more because we made an effort in it. Then the fans will realise 'Wow OTF creations must really suck' and Sony always wins!" It's not a sound theory but it'll do for now.

12:13 AM

 
Anonymous jamie in nyc said...

It's a real drag that TS tanked. It had such a cool video; I thought that would have helped it somewhat.

At least I had a good Halcali day today. While at Kinokuniya picking up the new Cocco single, I saw a copy of Ongaku with the original artwork (I only had the "white" version), so I snapped that up, even though I'll probably never play it!

12:32 AM

 
Blogger Jordi said...

Oh and the exact figure of the sales was 1,905 - against TTT's 17,579 and Baby Blue's 5,589 :\

12:38 AM

 
Blogger jariten said...

Well first thanks for reading all of that. I didn't originally intend it to be son long...

And thanks again for the figures, Jordi.

Where I stand on the issue is that i'm convinced that the song was good enough to have sold a respectable amount if only Sony had released the song backed with a decent press campaign.
Good song or not, no ones going to go out and buy it if they dont even know when its out.
I'm just confused mostly. Why bother signing them at all?

2:05 AM

 
Anonymous sora-kara said...

While I agree with you on the lack-of-adequate-promotion front, I can't help but think that maybe people just aren't interested in HALCALI's style.

When I think 'pop music' I certainly don't think of HALCALI. They seem to be more of a quirky, acquired taste.
And Twinkle Star, while fantastic, is a rather odd, and somewhat intimidating song. While both the track and the video are both tons of fun, there is something about the song that just doesn't seem accessible to the pop music-buying masses.

Or maybe, everyone is just broke because of Kuu. :P

What HALCALI needs is a huuuuge publicity stunt that really showcases their music, and their lovable quirkiness.
Maybe they should directly parody Kuu's 12 singles. That would probably really work. People who do (and people who don't) like Kuu would take notice (negative or positive - controversy is a girl's best friend) and actually listen to HALCALI for a minute.

Not to mention it would be friggin' hilarious.

3:06 AM

 
Anonymous sora-kara said...

oh...and jordi, where did you get the sales figures?

3:07 AM

 
Anonymous Yaten said...

In regards to Halcali's dissapearance for a year... Maybe they were overworked and very tired, and they needed a break? I'd rather they be happy and well-rested than selling a million records.

3:59 AM

 
Blogger Jordi said...

Stole it off 2ch. Sure it's not entirely accurate that stuff but since no one's rebutted the person and that they got TTT's figures around right I was able to take it as a right figure.

Though what's interesting is that these Halcali girls love music but not hugely enough in a way. They're at a stage in life where they're still doing their thing. They're working as hard as they can but it almost seems like their music career as artists are still warming up.

4:27 AM

 
Blogger jariten said...

While I agree with you on the lack-of-adequate-promotion front, I can't help but think that maybe people just aren't interested in HALCALI's style.

I think you're right in saying that Halcali are an acquired taste, and while that would explain why Halcali will never be major players, i'm not sure that would account for the absymal record sales here.
Its interesting that you raise the point about TS being "intimidating" though. I was so caught up in the song I suppose thid never occured to me, but seeing them on Music Station shows just how startingly different they are to whatever else exists in the Oricon charts these days.
(If I couldn't say that about them though, perhaps I wouldn't be here writing this blog)
Both Baby Blue and (by quite some margin) Strawberry Chips outsold it though, and I would argue that both of those songs are less suited to mass consumption than Twinkle Star.

In regards to Halcali's dissapearance for a year... Maybe they were overworked and very tired, and they needed a break?

You could be right. I like to come up with major label related conspiracy theories but its easy to forget that these are two kids trying to get through school.

4:35 AM

 
Blogger jariten said...

Stole it off 2ch

good old 2ch! Do you still have the link?

4:36 AM

 
Blogger Jordi said...

It's actually the latest thread on them (http://music4.2ch.net/test/read.cgi/hiphop/1141033456/) Unfortunately those were the only three figures mentioned. You could ask for the other figured and someone may readily produce em.

6:45 AM

 
Blogger jariten said...

HALCALI

BABY BLUE!  最高47位 累積5,589
Tip Taps Tip  最高27位 累積17,579
Twinkle Star  最高104位 累積1,905


It adds up.

6:56 AM

 
Blogger Pupponvesh said...

Here's the chart positions that I'm aware of, does anyone know the missing ones.

Tandem #19
Electric Sensei #16
Giri Giri Surfrider #10
BACON (ALBUM) #5
Strawberry Chips #22
Marching March -
Baby Blue #47
ONGAKU (ALBUM) -
Tips Taps Tips #27
Twinkle Star #104

I don't really understand the way that Japanese record labels can operate like this. I'm a big fan of Polysics, who are also signed to Sony, and I've read reports that they're recent singles and albums were dificult to find too. The one positive thing to take from it is that, despite Polysics not having any major chart success, they've still managed to put out 10 albums and are still going strong today. I'm sure if the same thing happened to a UK pop act, they'd be dropped as soon as possible.

4:01 AM

 
Blogger Jordi said...

you can usually find it out through oricon.co.jp but here's the ranking anyway: Ongaku no Susume got up to #24 - I'm surprised a bit that Bacon did better overall considering some people treated it more as a "warm up" album that usually disappears quickly. Marching March got #34 - beating Baby Blue. And oricon ranks the singles by overall sales and not highest ranking - making Tandem their #1 single. See - their old stuff is still gold!

11:19 AM

 
Anonymous sora-kara said...

Marching March - 34, 5 weeks charting
Ongaku no Susume - 24, 7 weeks
I have all the ranking figures up on the Halcali wiki I update - http://wiki.theppn.org/HALCALI

7:43 PM

 
Blogger jariten said...

Thanks for the figures.

I suppose i'm still just at a total loss as to how it could have done so poorly. Even with poor promotion (Halcali are obviously stuck with being pretty low on Sony's list of priorities) you'd expect it to hit the #50's at least.

Sony didn't want OTF to write the songs anymore since after all they're releasing the music on *their* label.

I wonder if this is true. What with Fumiya being out of the picture anyway and now this, what kind of future exists for a rosy Halcali/O.T.F partnership?

My hopes of a Halcali headlining tour tour have been dashed anyway.

6:00 AM

 
Anonymous Yaten said...

I wonder how this single's performance compares with all of the rest of Sony Japan's artists' singles?

4:15 AM

 
Blogger Jordi said...

Sony artists that are around Halcali popularity or just Sony artists? Because I'm pretty sure someone like Crystal Kay could beat the girls easily (plus she has had a lot more appearances).

Though you know who we should feel sorry for? Fumiya. I mean he climbed out of the hospitals to get the recording done and Sony goes "hold it mate" for the year and by the time he finally gets it out - no one wants it anymore except for a bunch of sad kids like us. I bet he's thinking "oh blow this" and going back home.

I think what would be great is to see Halcali perform more. It'd be nice to see them do free lives or something like that. But that's amateur stuff. They don't have the popularity to get onto prestigious stuff and they're too expensive for the cheaper stuff. Plus they've got their own life to run so you can't really force these girls to do too much.

Eventually when Halcali becomes huge and everyone's going "omg why didn't I hear of them before?" at least we can go "I told you but you just wouldn't listen." Positive thoughts people!

4:34 AM

 

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