Just a few days ago, something blew up in the fandom. Apparently, Avex Pictures have banned exports of Blu-rays, DVDs and CDs to countries outside of Japan. While this does not affect the music division, it does bring negative implications for people who imports Anime Blu-rays, DVDs and CDs. I will share my thoughts about the Avex export ban along with background information behind it.
While this is not new news, Avex decided to restrict sales of CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays recently. Amazon Japan started it by canceling all orders of Avex media including music from idol groups. Just recently, Japanese retailer CDJapan (Neowing) has sent a notice to customers that the sale of Blu-rays, DVD and CDs from Avex Pictures can’t be sent overseas. The notable titles that are affected, but not limited to are Yuri on Ice, Mr. Osomatsu and Wake Up Girls.
So, what are the reasons behind this ban? Perhaps Avex wants to control exports of their products. Maybe they don’t want people to buy these titles outside of Japan. It makes sense since there is a chance that the show might not cater to an international audience.
Still, there is a more plausible reason behind this ban that several bloggers suggest. They say that Avex want to control international rights for the anime. This is apparent since they set up international branches that they plan to use to distribute anime and perhaps music. They can generate more revenue from localized releases due to the favorable exchange rate. However, they will lose money if a person imports a Japanese release instead.
While the localized versions are typically cheaper, as stated in an earlier editorial, Japanese releases tend to be more expensive. It’s because they are treated more like collector’s items. These releases tend to have better packaging, fewer episodes with some containing subtitles. Aside from the hardcore collectors, not many people buy these releases since they are expensive.
While sales from exports of Blu-rays and DVDs are drop in a bucket, it sends a message to the fans. It shows that they don’t care about the international fanbase who is willing to support their works by importing their products. Sure, people can bypass the ban by using a proxy service like Tenso. However, it’s not convenient and it adds to the costs.
Unless companies like Avex lift the ban or make all their products available internationally, it will push people to pirate. This is not a good thing as Japan is facing a declining birth rate. Unless it rebounds, the entertainment industry in Japan will have a smaller audience that can buy their products. Therefore, their revenue will drop significantly.
While the Japanese music industry ignored the international market, they are shooting themselves in the foot. If more entertainment companies in Japan do the same thing as Avex did, people will just turn to alternatives like Korean music or Korean drama. This won’t be a good thing for anime lovers or fans of Japanese music as it will result in fewer anime productions and music releases. Without an international audience to replace the dwindling audience in Japan, the whole entertainment industry will eventually collapse. This is providing that the industry doesn’t make all the music and anime series accessible to the international market.
So, what should the industry do instead of outright banning exports? If you want to discourage exporting of Japanese releases, simply make all the music and anime release available to an international audience. Sure, localized anime releases take more effort with licensing and such, music is a different story. Since you don’t need to localize music, they can simply make it available on CDs or digital distribution. This way, people wouldn’t have to buy from Japanese retailers and pay expensive shipping to get the music he or she wants. This should provide similar results like legal streaming sites like Crunchyroll did, which reduced piracy.
At the end of the day, the company that owns a certain series has the right to ban exports. Even so, it’s probably not a good business practice to do it without any localized releases for international markets. If more entertainment companies in Japan start banning exports of their releases, they are only hurting themselves. It will cause more people to pirate or look for alternatives. To me, I think they should put more focus on the international market. The industry has already made strides by making Anime more accessible legally. With that, they shouldn’t let it go to waste with this senseless export ban.
What do you think? Is it right for companies to ban exports and ignore the international market? Do you think the Japanese entertainment industry should do more to tap into the international fan base? Feel free to discuss in the comments.