So… you have begun to stan a Johnnys group. Welcome! It’s going to be a very sparkly and emotional ride, but let me give you some tips to help you start out.
This is a new series on my blog called “Johnny’s 101”, where I answer as much in depth about the infamous Japanese boyband agency Johnny’s and associates as I possibly can. As a bit of background, I have been a Johnnys fan for over 10 years now, and have also written my graduate school thesis on the business of Johnny’s. I don’t know everything (as Johnny’s can be mysterious in a lot of ways) but I hope I can give an insight into Johnny’s that you might not know yet.
But first… What is Johnnys?
Johnnys is an all-male talent agency founded in the 1960s by Johnny Kitagawa. The agency is mostly known for training boys (called Johnny’s Juniors) in different parts of the entertainment industry (singing, dancing, acting, etc.) from a young age by having them back dance for the debuted groups, seeing which ones are popular, and then debuting a select few. They aren’t just simply boybands but are involved in many different activities in the entertainment industry in Japan, such as television, movies, fashion, and even novel writing and newscasting. Some of the most popular groups that have come out of Johnnys are SMAP and Arashi.
Now with that out of the way, let’s get to today’s topic which is basics of the agency and the fandom that you should know as a new fan (and maybe a reminder or refresher for those OG fans out there!)
1. Johnny’s is extremely strict (as are the fans) and behind the times
Johnny’s hasn’t digitalized yet (even worse than the rest of Japan… which is saying something) which means there are no YouTube videos or digital music downloads. Hard copies only, my friends! They are super strict with what is uploaded to social media and media sites as well. Around 2014 or so is when they actually put their artist’s pictures on their OWN website and their fan club was super analog until about 2 years ago (hard copy tickets, paying via bank transfer and all) Shocker isn’t it? In my opinion, this is a huge barrier to growth for them, especially internationally. BUT! With that being said recently they have made some huge changes, like Johnny’s official shop goods being sold online within Japan, revamp of the online fan club system, and especially so with the juniors YouTube channel, which is promising. My question though: is it too slow? Let me know what you think!
As for the fans, concert manners and sharing media online is policed pretty strictly. This varies from group to group though, as each fan base has a different “culture” so to speak. An example of this is with my favorite group NEWS, concert spoilers during the tour are kinda a big no-no, as NEWS themselves said a few years back they prefer all the fans to be surprised, so…. you won’t see the set list and hardly any detailed spoilers until after the final show is finished. It’s not to “end game” level, but we protect from spoilers as much as possible. MC is perfectly fine to spoil so bring all the weird things they say!
2. Johnnys is based in Japan and caters mostly to a Japanese audience
Johnny’s is based in Japan and caters to Japanese fans within Japan. I see a lot of fans getting upset that Johnny’s doesn’t do much for international fans and say “Johnny’s hate international fans” but at this point in time with the current stage of the agency, I think these thoughts are misguided. I could make an entirely separate blog post about this (comment below if you want it!), but to sum it up the Japanese music industry is #2 in the world only after the United States. Because of this, Johnny’s can make enough money just within Japan no problem only catering to Japanese fans. Why should they spend the money to expand overseas when they dominate the Japanese market and make enough money anyway? Even fans inside of Japan have a hard time getting concert tickets even when they are in the fan club and the artists only have enough hours in a day, so how can they expand and think of going overseas when they are at capacity inside of Japan? If you think about it that way, you can see why Johnny’s wouldn’t want to cater to foreign fans, as they have their hands full inside of Japan already. Does this mean they shouldn’t share media outside of Japan? No, I think YouTube and social media is essential, but in terms of an international fan club and translating things into many languages, it’s not going to work for a long time and not a good choice business wise. They first need to get the digital infrastructure up and running in Japan first.
3. The Twitter community is probably the strongest to find fan friends (Japanese and foreign)and get the latest information.
Back in the day, LiveJournal used to be the community of choice but in the past 5 years or so that community has pretty much died and everyone is on Twitter. If you want to make fandom friends, make a twitter account and get started by talking with other fans! Japanese fans are also heavy users of Twitter (as Twitter is the dominant social media platform in Japan besides Instagram) so you can get almost any piece of information you need on there. For the most part, us fans are extremely friendly and are more than happy to point you in the direction of what you see looking for. Just be sure to respect the other fans and don’t assume that the way things are done in your country are done that way in Japan and in Johnny’s.
4. No Johnny’s talents have individual Twitter or Instagram accounts or even social media
Okay okay, there is 1 exception that literally happened when I was writing this, which is Yamapi! He was on Weibo, but then on May 16th, he made an Instagram, a Johnny’s first. In general, though, Johnnys do not have social media (including youtube… except the Junior’s channel I mentioned above!) and their “blogs”, called Jwebs, are behind a paywall and are only in Japanese. This poses an interesting dynamic, as the world has moved rapidly towards an era of social media and digital music downloads and streaming, in which Johnnys is pretty archaic. So, if you want to find any information about the group or see their music videos you will have to go on a hunt around the internet.
Did I miss anything? What information would you like as a new Johnnys fan or as an OG fan what advice would you give to new fans?