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776: Yoko Ono
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309: Coldfeet

By Dan Grunebaum


Finally, a decent English-language J-pop website

Google “J-pop” and you’ll get a dozen or so websites devoted to Japanese popular music. There’s certainly no lack of interest in the subject among English speakers, but too many of these websites seem to be hastily cobbled together fan sites, or devoted exclusively to hawking merchandise. Jpop.com, for instance, is currently “undergoing a major redesign” with its most recent Top 30 chart dating to Nov 30.

Frustrated by the lack of information about Japanese music on the otherwise authoritative All Music Guide (allmusic.com) and on the web in general, three foreign veterans of the Japanese entertainment industry recently got together to launch Nippop (nippop.com), which went online this January 1.

American Keith Cahoon spent two decades as the CEO of Tower Records Japan before starting music publisher Hotwire; fellow countryman Bill Haw is the General Manager at the Tokyo office of online Asian entertainment retailer YesAsia.com; while Canadian Steve McClure is known as the author of the book Nippon Pop as well as the Billboard Asia bureau chief. For help with some of the hardcore programming the three are assisted by a college student in Romania of all places.
“Although the site is new, the idea behind it is not,” says their introduction page.
“Unbeknownst to each other, over the last few years we had each been kicking around the idea of creating a channel to provide comprehensive information in English on the Japanese music scene...a worldwide groundswell of Japanese pop culture awareness made now the obvious time to turn the ideas into reality.”

While still in its infancy, Nippop is off to a running start. The clean, uncluttered homepage offers three of its most recent profiles, a search function and a weekly feature. Already numbering well over one hundred artists, the profiles are authoritatively written and culturally informative, if lacking in the kind of detailed discographies to be found on All Music Guide.

Features provide up-to-date reports on the Japanese music industry as well as insights into the history of Japanese pop music. A story dated January 29, for instance, looks at the booming chaku mero cell phone ring tone market and its transition to full song chaku uta downloads, while another article examines the background behind the little understood form of enka.

Without revealing figures, Cahoon says the site is already outstripping their expectations, and has received feedback from as far away as Chile. Respondents have asked for more entries on the kind of independent music and J-pop artists that have been popular overseas in the past. But the biggest surprise, he says, is the effect the anime boom is having in drawing people into Japanese music.

With its ambition to be “the world’s best English-language resource on Japanese music,” Nippop has set its sights high. But aside from personal satisfaction, what’s in it for the three? “We want it to make money, but we are not doing it to make money,” says Cahoon. “There are quite a number of possible applications, and we have already received some offers.” Revenue models include a mix of banner advertising, subscriptions and referral commissions. “We think Nippop will do okay financially,” Cahoon concludes. “But we will continue with the site irregardless.”

Would you like to comment on this article? Send a letter to the editor at letters@metropolis.co.jp.