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Major artist turned entrepreneur, his aim is to get his company on listing early!
ViViD gave a live performance at Nippon Budonkan only 2 years after its formation, and while getting a lot of expectations, they disbanded in April 2015. Without taking a rest, the drummer, Ko-ki moved into the business world and started his own company. A few days ago he released "ViX", an app focusing on Visual Kei, and he's also managing a new type of host club to support fellow band members. A young ambitious man who has shown his business sense ever since he was in high school, he is aiming for public listing, and says "I will definitely achieve it"ardently.
From Kanagawa Prefecture. Formed ViViD in 2009. Major debut in 2011. Gave a live performance at Nippon Budokan in 2012. Disbanded in May 2015. Since then, he established his own company 'Jace', managing Visual Kei app 'Vix' and new type of host club, 'Realive'.
Since high school, I had been promoting myself, and got into contract with a production company.
Q: ViViD disbanded not too long ago. Have you been planning of establishing your own company even before that?
Kouki: By nature, I'm a person who likes to stand out (laughs). I've decided to establish my own company long before. I'm the type who set goals like "I have to do this before I reach this age", for example when I was in high school, "I have to look for a management company and get a contract with them before I graduate" was the goal. Actually, since I was in 3rd year of high school I had been making documents and marketing myself, and I got a contract with PS Company as planned.
Q: There aren't a lot of high schoolers who promote themselves and manage to get a contract with a production company (laughs).
Kouki: And so, the band I formed after high school was ViViD. I had been in a band since high school, and I was in dilemma whether to continue to university or to become a musician. I thought, if I become a musician I must become a pro, otherwise there's no meaning to it. In the end, when the vocalist joined ViViD I thought this would go well, so I chose music.
Q: Why did you choose drums?
Kouki: There aren't that many drummers, so I thought there was an opportunity there.
Q: You had already been thinking strategically since that time.
Kouki: I also chose V-kei from marketing point of view. Originally I played metal and other loud music, and had some prejudice towards V-kei. But in V-kei, I realized that more than musical direction, you can get more fans by marketing yourselves well. And that's why, during high school I had some trial and error in matching market needs. When I gathered the members, I made members portfolio while considering their personality and age, so that there was no weakness.
The lingering 'anxiety' - a band has a lifespan.
Q: It didn't take you a long time since formation to performance at Budokan.
Kouki: We had a major debut when I was 20, and one of my goals was to give a live performance at Budokan within 2 years from the debut, and as planned, we achieved it in our 2nd year of debut. The first 2 years we were really doing well. Our manager was also a strategist, and together we planned our activities and branding strategies.
However, after the performance at Budokan we underwent staff changes and other things, and the band started losing its vigour, and the speed of our activities was different from what I had envisioned. We also reached a point where I had to make a yearly plan and present it to concerning parties myself. I thought, "Why an artist like me has to do all these by myself, something is wrong" (laughs).
Q: Things didn't go as planned, and you couldn't sit still.
Kouki: When I think seriously about being in a band as a job, it's either doing everything by myself, or aiming for a big hit. Of course, music isn't all about whether you sell or not, but in reality you still have many years a head of you, and you also have to think about your daily life. I think bands have a lifespan, so I want to be able to have yearly income as much as normal (working) people in short time. But that didn't seem to be possible, so I was really worried whether to continue this.
Q: Is there also lifespan in musicians?
Kouki: It's particularly so in V-kei. And that' why, I thought this was the time to make a decision, and when I talked about it with the other members, they all had different visions. I thought, "it's no longer possible", and around April 2014 we made a decision to disband. Since then I had been making preparations to start my own company, and this year I established Jace.
Q: So you're going for business next.
Kouki: I reached that thought because I'm always worried about my future. Both now and then. Being raised in a not so affluent family might have had a major part, and although my life was upgraded when we went major, I had no work experience, and I was only a high school graduate, and therefore somewhere in my mind I've always thought, "What would I do if this band is over?".
Of course, as an artist, I think "I will live with my music!" is the coolest thing, but I never really thought of playing drums for my whole life.
Q: I heard that you invested in stocks while still being in the band.
Kouki: I don't do it anymore, but when I was in the band, I mostly got by with the money I earned from stock trading. I like reading, so I read books and learnt about stock trading. I invested all the income I got from the production company in stocks, and used the profit I earned for instruments and stuffs. Stock market only opens from 9 to 3 doesn't it? That's why I used to wake up at 8:30 everyday (laughs). Around that time I used to drink until around 5 in the morning, so it was difficult (laughs).
"I will only gamble where I can win", towards creating a vertical media ecosystem for (V-kei) scene
Q: Usually when a musician became a entrepreneur, they make their own production company. Establishing a music service company, like in your case, is quite rare.
Kouki: I didn't make a production company. It's too cliche to make a production company after quitting a band. I don't want to do things that everyone else does (laughs). But I like to promote the growth of other people, so by using media service like Vix, which I released a few days ago, I want to help them grow. I want to make something which only Jace is strong at. And since I start this business by suddenly releasing an app, the initial cost was really big (laughs). By managing it, I came to realise that it's not that easy to make profit from media or app business.
Q: So, is ViX the first concrete service from your company?
Kouki: That's right. ViX is a domain specific vertical media service with focus on V-kei. Actually, there weren't really any app which specialises in V-kei until now. And that's why, I made it for young fans who use smartphones, matching the current times.
Q: Tell us more about the app.
Kouki: ViX is an app where news and information of V-kei artists are currated, and users can read their favourite artists' tweets, blog entries, news, live schedules and other things in one place. A lot of V-kei fans follow several bands at the same time, and it seems troublesome to check info scattered here and there, so I thought it definitely would be convenient if they can just see all of them in one place. It's an app which gets a lot of active users once they start, so I want everyone who likes V-kei to use this app. While aiming to increase MAU as a service, I also want to promote V-kei scene more.
Q: Will you add more features in the future?
Kouki: In the next phase, we will increase artists' interviews and release news, and after that we're planning to add multilingual service and video streaming, ViX video programs, and E-commerce for merchandise. Further, since V-kei and crowdfunding seems to have good affinity, I'm also thinking of including crowdfunding feature. We're also planning to include live performances with OtoO, and with this everything in V-kei ecosystem will be available in ViX. Bands can reach their fans using ViX, and fans can get everything from the bands also from ViX, and thus I think it will become a really good community platform for both parties.
Moreover, market for V-kei abroad is bigger than is usually thought, and the bands themselves are also catching up by going on tour abroad, so I certainly want to include other countries, and that's what the multilingual feature is for. As a genre, V-kei is quite niche, but it's a global service.
Q: As expected, you focus on V-kei because you were in the scene.
Kouki: My rule is not to gamble unless I can win. That's why I start from the field where I was at, and where I have an advantage in. If this works, I think I can apply this format to other genres as well.
In the future, if the users increase I can monetise using ads revenue, and large financing is already in process. I want to develop this service speedily.
Translated by Val. Original interview here.
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