Warp, Warp to the Future

Chances are if you’re an idol fan you’ve probably heard of the video streaming website Ustream. Many idol groups use this site as a means to provide their fans with live video content; which typically ranges from performances to handshake events and other things of that nature. All of these things are done on a regular basis and you need nothing more than an internet connection to experience all of them.

It is my firm belief that this form of content delivery is the future of the idol business model. As things stand right now the industry really isn’t taking advantage of the technology that is out there and I feel that this is a very large oversight on the part of a lot of production companies. When a live video stream can be created using nothing more than an iPhone or similar device, there really is no reason why every group shouldn’t be taking advantage of the opportunity.

Read on and we’ll look at how things stand right now and how I would like to see things progress forward in the coming years.

As I stated in the opening lines of this article, it is incredibly easy for anyone to stream something over the internet these days. That’s why I find it so surprising that so few idol groups are actively using this form of media as a means to promote themselves. Especially given the fact that all production companies should already be paying for their own internet connection. It’s essentially something that they could all be doing with very little outlay involved at all.

So, what are the positives of creating streaming content for an idol group? Well the biggest one is that it’s basically free promotion. Your fans watch your stream, they tweet about it on Twitter, share it with friends on Facebook, upvote it on Reddit, whatever their social media platform of choice is and before you know it more and more people are finding out about your group. Social media is a very powerful tool and thankfully I am seeing most groups make good use of that platform at least.

Another positive thing about live streaming content is that you dramatically increase fan interaction with a group. I know I go on and on about idols being products but if you’re streaming a group backstage preparing for a show, doing Q&A sessions or whatever it just makes everyone seem that bit more human. It allows the fans to connect with the girls on a more personal level and you really do need that to become fully invested in someone. It should never be underestimated just how important these behind the scenes segments are to idol fans. We all love seeing things that you wouldn’t normally see when idols aren’t on the job.

Something that I don’t think groups really consider enough is their international fanbase. I know that as a Japanese idol group their main activities will of course be in Japan but growing an international fanbase is important too. They’re the people that are going to show up and cheer you on when you perform at that overseas anime convention. Having a live stream on the internet allows groups to connect more with these fans too. The fact that the stream may be on at an odd hour for us isn’t such a big deal because in many cases there are always archives to go back and watch.

There are only really a few downsides to streaming live on the internet for all to see. The big one is that if it’s being done in an informal way, people obviously have to watch what they say and show in front of the camera. One slip up and a group has a nice amount of damage control on its hands for the foreseeable future. This is mitigated for the most part by just telling or showing people that the camera is recording so it’s not the be all and end all.

Apart from that, finding the time to do a live stream can be tough. If a group doesn’t really have much downtime or if they’re going for a high production affair then time is obviously going to be a concern. You also need someone to hold the camera, as trivial as that sounds. Most streams I’ve seen do keep it fairly basic though and a staff member is usually more than happy to take camera duty so again these are problems that are easily solved.

Now that I’ve set the stage, I want to get into where I hope things progress going forward. Some of these things are very much pipe dreams but I’d like to think that there’s nothing that I’m about to mention that couldn’t one day be accomplished if the desire and motivation was there.

First thing’s first; groups like AKB48 really need to improve their LOD service. The fact that they even have a LOD service is great but in this day and age having such low quality video really is inexcusable. I get that maybe most people in Japan use their phones to watch these videos and I’ll come to that shortly. The fact is that I’m sure most people would even be happy to pay slightly more for higher quality video so why not offer a few shows in higher quality as a starting point and see what level of demand is there.

Speaking of phones and people in Japan, why not open the service up to people in other countries? As it stands you need a Japanese credit card to access the LOD service and I understand why a highly Japanese product is being marketed solely to a Japanese audience but the demand from overseas can’t just be ignored. I’m not even just talking about America or Europe here, I’m talking about other Asian countries like Singapore et al. It’s not like it’s going to cost more money to send the data to another country via the internet.

Something that I’ve always been interested in is the concept of a pay-per-view live stream. I personally think it’d be pretty cool if you could pay a one off fee to watch a high quality live stream of whatever the big AKB arena concert that’s going on at the time is. Maybe there could be a subscription model and you could get live theater performances too. I’m sure there would be logistical nightmares and a million and one things that could go wrong but these are pipe dreams so some degree of suspension of disbelief has to be involved.

Just to be clear, I’m not singling out AKS or trying to imply that they’ve failed in some way. They’re just the top dog right now and if anyone was in the financial position to implement the things I’ve been talking about then it would be them. The fact that they’re also doing some of the things I want to see more of on at least some level currently makes them an easy example to use for the points I’m making. As a company, AKS do already offer a lot to us fans but I think it’s good to talk about ways in which things could be improved in the future.

Ultimately the internet is the future for idol groups in a lot of ways. There are potential fans out there that are just waiting to be tapped into. Production companies just have to make sure that they’re communicating with them effectively and that the quality of their product, while not having to be 1080p full HD for something like a Ustream show, at least meets some very basic standards like not stuttering and not being pixelated. It’s not being broadcast on TV so no one is expecting huge production quality but a live stream should be watchable at the very least.

This was a pretty long read so if you’ve stuck with it this far please leave a comment and share your thoughts. I think it’s good to talk about the future every now and then even if some things may still be a long way off.


About NSK

New School Kaidan is a community-focused website for the Japanese idol industry international fan base. Between podcasts, broadcasts, events, and analytic articles, New School Kaidan aims to bring an understanding of idol culture to the masses.

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  1. Awesome stuff, Mage77. I have to agree that with growing technology, people need to grow with it as well. I would pay some money to see live streamed performances. Not a lot of but some. They’d be making money from people who aren’t even at the venue. It’s like having extra seats with no extra space required. I think it’s a win-win.

    Although I can see the agencies being cautious of what the girls might do in front of the camera. They could delay the stream by 5-10 minutes if they have to for damage control. People outside of the theater won’t know that it isn’t completely live.

  2. I’m under the impression that AKB48 LODs are available in HD judging from 10 gig versions on sites like H!O. SKE and other groups though, probably not.

    International fan recognition and marketing is something to always hope for, but I realistically can’t see how it would appeal to companies considering all their overseas excursions over to the west have kinda been flops.

    There would be a be a lot of managing, moderating, and approving going on to make it work for a fanbase that’s roughly just a couple thousand people; and it’s not like every single one of them would utilize the service. It can be something to be looked into, but probably faaar from their list of priorities.

    Considering how many idols use u-stream these days, I think it’s crazy that AKB and other 48 groups aren’t utilizing it as often as they are.

  3. Interesting post Mage, in some ways, especially in social free luive media it is sometimes not the big thing which takes the first steps in this, MM, well H!P generally have been good on the uptake on this (after arguing thier way off alot of TV shows) we have seen a selection of shows from them on ustream and other such mediums where as in some ways AKB, as the money makers do not need to use these meduims and where as Buono concerts for example will go out on ustream AKB LOD’s need paying for…

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