Welcome to the Real World hr672

Hidemi Woods
4 min readNov 18, 2023

In the mid-80’s, flashy, rhythmic songs were dominant throughout the Japanese pop music scene. It may have had to do with the Japanese bubble economy which sent the nation frivolous and on a spree. The kind of songs that influenced me by touching and reaching my heart had been no longer the mainstream.

My partner and I moved to Tokyo to be professional singer-songwriters just in those days. While we continued to search for the band members, we were aggressively sending out our demo tapes to the major record companies. In addition, my partner was visiting the companies in person to hand out the demos. Since we didn’t have any connections or acquaintances there, my partner would sneak through the reception, get into the elevator to the production department floor by mingling with other employees, circle around the desks of the staff with saying, “Please listen to my demo tape.” Most office workers made a face and refused, but there was rarely someone among them who showed him a person he had better turn to, or actually listened to the tape. My partner had routinely visited the production department in all the major record companies in Tokyo in that way and consequently acquired some connections with producers.

One day, a producer introduced to him the in-house competition for a debut song of the company’s contracted idol singer. He allowed my partner to join other contracted songwriters and enter the competition with a song written for the singer. We would get a contract if the song was selected. Until then, we had written songs exclusively for ourselves and had never even imagined writing for other singers. While I had no interest in it at all, my partner gave it a try to use this opportunity as a footing for our possible record deal. He wrote quite a few songs for the idol singer and submitted the best one to the competition. Several weeks later, the producer called him for a meeting where he was told that his song wasn’t selected. The producer let him listen to the selected one. He couldn’t accept the result because the selected song was a disaster. When he asked the producer to point out at least one thing that was superior to his own song, he couldn’t answer.

That was a too familiar instance of what we had experienced about our songs. Whenever we got some advice or opinions from music producers, they sounded irrelevant and off-base. They made us fail the audition or told us our songs were not good, and gave us unconvincing reasons that were out of the point. To sum up, so-called ‘music producers’ of the major Japanese record companies were simply office workers who graduated from the renowned university and happened to like music as a hobby. We, on the other hand, had bet our life on music, had thought about nothing other than music all day and had striven to create better music every day for almost a decade. It was natural we didn’t click with each other as the depth of passion for music was too far different. The more I got involved with the Japanese music business, the more I learned how important aspects of looks, impact, and trends were, much more than quality and creativity.

In fact, it happened so many times that when we got a call from a producer who listened to our songs and liked them, he instantly lost interest the moment he saw our looks at the first meeting. We often brought our own marketing ideas about how we should be produced and promoted, which also made them turn us away. It seemed that they wanted musicians to be beautiful puppets with no brains.

I was naive enough to believe that making better songs would open the door to a contract with a record company. However, that wasn’t true to reality. In reality, the Japanese music industry had become trashy and petty. The question was, if I would give up being a professional singer-songwriter then. Since singing and writing songs was the only thing that I was good at, I couldn’t afford to quit trying. Besides, I still believed that there must have been people who wanted to listen to the songs that could save them by touching their hearts and changing their life, just as those songs did to me once. Now that the Japanese music scene had deteriorated in the real world, sending out that kind of songs was necessary all the more. Although I knew there must have been a way to do so, I couldn’t figure out how to find it. And so it went, the struggle stuck, clutched, and pursued my partner and me all along in those early days of my career.

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