INTERVIEW: KiYO (Alias) about i2 Creative Japan

Recently, VKH Press had the pleasure of interviewing KiYO of Alias about his company (and our affiliate) i2 Creative Japan! He goes into depth about how he became interested in marketing, what his company does, and his thoughts on the industry. Read what KiYO has to say below:

(Photo: KiYO, CEO)

VKH: First, would you please introduce yourself and i2 Creative Japan?

KiYO: Such a hard question right off the bat (laughs). To put it briefly, i2C is a production company that offers creative services. We deal with artist production and label affairs as well as things like music production, TV show production, event planning, and web development.

VKH: What got you started in marketing and promotion? How did you become interested?

KiYO: Some years ago, I got to briefly experience working in A&R, promotion, management, and production at a record company established by a Japanese TV station. This was right during the period when decreasing CD sales and the decline of major labels in Japan was becoming obvious. . . . I started wondering about how someone could live as a musician without being influenced by the financial situation of agents and labels, and from there I became interested in marketing and promotion.

VKH: What made you want to start i2C?

KiYO: A little bit before I started Alias, an acquaintance asked me to do support and production work for Korean and Chinese artists and talent. By talking through an interpreter or struggling through using limited English, I was able to communicate with people from other countries and learned that no matter the country, there was a definite demand for content from Japan.

VKH: The tagline for i2 Creative Japan is “Intention to Innovation.” What does this mean?

KiYO: This is a concept I hold dear to me. Focusing only on what’s enjoyable is no good, but then you can’t just take a completely stoic approach, either. I believe in making content that moves people on an emotional level. Regardless of the country or generation or our individual biorhythms, it’s this phenomenon of being moved emotionally, of being touched or inspired, that most easily resonates with all of us. Sometimes, it’s more universal than language.

And to be able to move or inspire others in such a way stems from an “initial intention” to do so—it’s that attitude of constantly pursuing this intention that we’ve incorporated into the tagline.

VKH: What does i2 Creative Japan primarily do?

KiYO: Well, we mainly do. . . everything, really (laughs). We’re involved in all kinds of services focused on creative pursuits. However, there are a lot of personal projects as well. . . . We haven’t got around to segregating those from the work that i2C does, so the situation right now is that we can’t actually reveal much of that online just yet. That said, from producing prominent Japanese talent, to radio personalities, to costume production and exports, the work we do is really diverse.

This past summer, we took the popular Japanese dance idol group ILoVU to perform at a major music festival in Taiwan, and for 2015, we’ve been in contact with film production companies in several countries and will be taking some very concrete steps forward into the world of film music production, something I’ve always wanted to do. We enjoy all of our projects without bias as they all involve us in the creative process. And as for Alias. . .we need to get to work on formulating our next plan! (laughs)

VKH: As a representative, what do you mainly do? What are your responsibilities?

KiYO: It’s about finding a way to survive. i2C’s work isn’t done until we’ve offered a long-term solution. Rather than simply creating something or providing an opportunity and leaving it there, we want to help beyond that to where they are able to keep pushing forward along their own newfound road. I believe that this mission is common to all the domains of business within i2C.

(Photo: i2 Creative Japan Office, located on the 12th floor.) 

VKH: You’re also a musician! How do you manage to balance your work with i2C and your music?

KiYO: Mass media tie-ups, collaborating with other industries, the internet... Getting cozy with other industries is what keeps the music industry thriving in the first place. You can’t form a business on music alone, nor can artists survive solely by making music. Yet in Japan, there aren’t many artists who understand the entire structure of how the industry works. In the States, big names have been going the independent route for some time, and looking at Asia too, the same overall trend has taken root there in a huge way. It’s like Japan is the only one late to the party, so to speak.

The idea that all we need to do is “make good music and wait to get discovered” is an illusion. There are so many other things that artists have to do on their own. Music artists hoping to make it going forward are expected to have a decent balance of requisites that at the very least include a passion to create, performance skills, and the ability to self-produce.

Personally, I find it convenient wearing different hats and getting involved in various types of work at the same time, but then I also think that music is at the root of everything I do. For instance, the things I gain with Alias, I believe I can use with i2C later on. Similarly, whatever I create or cultivate at i2C I can use to give back to Alias as well as apply to projects with other artists down the track.

In that sense, I think I tend to look at it all with the same eyes, regardless of whether I’m working on a project as a musician or as a representative of i2C.

VKH: You promote for KISAKI in Taiwan and mainland China and offer global management.... As such, how do you feel about the global popularity of Japanese music in general?

KiYO: Oh, yes—Well, I was responsible for his Taiwan performance, but not the one on the mainland. All I did was try and get Japanese music out to a place where people who love Japanese music could get together and enjoy it...which of course is nothing special in itself, but then people like KISAKI who have been supporting the scene for so long are a huge deal to the fans, too. The number of people who wanted to see him there was amazing.

Seeing as he’s already so well-known, I only served as a go-between this time turns out that he really liked Taiwan after his experience there, too, which for me is wonderful to hear.

With his band Lin having also since resumed activities, I’m sure he’s hoping that fans from countries all over the world will want to see them play in the future, too.

VKH: How do you feel about the visual-kei scene? What do you think of its status and the artists today in comparison to ten, twenty years ago?

KiYO: Although, strictly speaking, I’m not a visual-kei artist...if I could frame my answer to the context of Japanese culture, I think that any genre that defines a generation is always going to be a challenge to those looking in from the outside.

This isn’t limited to music, either. It can apply to animators and manga artists, game developers, fashionistas.... The same applies to people working in all kinds of different disciplines.

For these people, it may be that they’ve discovered a place where they feel they belong or feel comfortable in, all while from the outside looking in, what they do might be seen as popular or outdated by others at certain times, or perhaps undergo a revival only to fade away again. I believe that it’s thanks to the people who have been keeping Japanese culture alive and inspired like that, and those who are out there taking on the world as we speak, that contemporary Japanese culture has become the popular phenomenon it is today.

Because talent tends to accumulate towards whatever genre is in at the time, even though each one will definitely have its ups and downs in terms of popularity, there will always be something equally fascinating about any scene in any era.

I think that it’s best to be thankful for all of that, to just take it all in and appreciate Japan’s unique culture, both in terms of the current generation alive today and those who have shaped the past.

VKH: Along with global management, you publish CDs and DVDs and even develop website HTML. Most companies would focus on one aspect of the music industry, but you have completely involved yourself in the market, almost like a recording label. Is that something you would like for the company in the future?

KiYO: I feel like I want to be involved in everything I know about, everything I’m capable of doing. It’s like I mentioned before—you can’t form a business on music alone. One more extreme way of saying it is that, based on how the basic flow of money works, if you don’t know the various players involved in production and marketing, then you’re not up for the job of making people happy through music.

That said, I’m still learning about it all myself (laughs). Of course, down the line I hope to be full of breakthrough new ideas from being able see this from a more multifaceted angle....

VKH: To be honest, we’re sort of taken aback by how much your company offers. How is i2C’s team organized? How do you manage to keep up with it all?

KiYO: Our local staff really gives it their all. Being able to collaborate with friends we’ve met online—that’s how this all started—and now we’ve had a lot of opportunities to get to know people from so many different industries.... It’s intense.

So rather than just doing everything by email and Skype, I’m hoping to create more opportunities for me to actually go out there locally and do things in person, otherwise things will soon get too difficult to manage. But then that’s something I’ve wanted to happen all along, so if that does end up being the case, I know I’ll be very happy to do so!

I also meet up with Takaya, editor of the Japanese visual-kei web portal ViSULOG, for drinks each month and we exchange information. It seems likely that we might be teaming up to do something huge in 2015.... I’m really excited about that.

I’d also really love to work with you guys from VKH Press sometime soon!

VKH: Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions! Do you have any message for our readers?

KiYO: We talked about a lot of serious stuff. I hope you enjoyed it though...! (laughs) Thank you very much for reading to the end!

Special thanks to KiYO for taking the time to answer our questions!

Check out i2 Creative Japan now:
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