March 21st, 2011
Never thought I'd have to open a letter like this, however: "Please excuse the mass-mailing"...
As you will all be fully aware, a devastating tragedy has struck the North-East of Japan as a direct result of earthquake on Friday 11th March. You will all probably have seen some of the horrifying images of the havoc and destruction left behind in the Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima prefectures, and like us here you will probably feel an urge to try and help in some way to ensure the highly complex relief effort can save further structural or social damage, and possibly even save some further loss of life.
Outside of those areas across the Kanto region of Japan, people have suffered from the relentless aftermath of seismic activity following the huge initial earthquake (see japanquakemap.com). The image of suffering portrayed in the media overseas is perhaps in this instance a bit misleading; yes, supplies of certain things are being rationed or are temporarily not getting through as the distribution networks try to quickly rebuild. Yes, the repetitive aftershocks and indeed additional new earthquakes around the Kanto region are threatening to fray people's already tested resolve and are making "normal living" difficult at times -- and yes, there is a final unwanted element in the form of the Fukushima plant and the wildly varying degrees of armageddon reported across the media that could occur should the situation deteriorate further.
The reason for this communication is to briefly acknowledge the above and to make an appeal, in 2 simple parts...
The relief effort can benefit most from funding and support for the North-East of Japan, in as simple and direct a form as is possible. I and Hostess are therefore asking anyone who feels they want to help to join us please by making a direct donation to the Red Cross, for the Japan relief effort. We are asking that whoever you are, music fan, artist, manager, agent, record label etc, if you want to help then please do so. No bells, no whistles, no gimmicks -- just make a donation, in private, to the Japan relief effort through the Red Cross website in your country. Hostess has a link for the Red Cross Japan payment page on our site for Japanese readers. There has been little problem right now of needing to raise awareness of the situation, like what prompted Bob Geldof to act in the absence of government or significant enough media interest in the African famines of years ago -- you have all been able to see 24/7 images of some of what's happening, real time. Awareness and/or pity therefore have not so far been such critical priorities for those people worst affected. Direct and real time support to the frontline relief effort is however both valid and valuable.
The other appeal is to respect the astonishing and admirable resolve and dignity shown so far by people not living in the directly-affected crisis areas a few hundred kilometres North of Tokyo, and specifically thinking about those for whom music is an important element of their lives, try with us to do our part -- get proper international music back on line.
We are already aware of numerous charitable activities and happenings overseas, which are very welcome -- any means of delivering money quickly and simply to the urgent destination can only help.
We have however taken the decision with Hostess to not embark on any charity-based compilation album release or specific event on the ground here. Far from being cold or heartless, this position has been reached very simply by acknowledging the realities of the music market in Japan, even before the recent catastrophe in the North-East. As an example, a charity compilation album in either physical or digital form of western music in Japan at this time will generate pennies for charity, pennies that will take time to be delivered. Thus whilst the sentiment may be good, the reality is it will have negligible positive effect on the relief effort whilst also probably obstructing the path of getting original music -- albums -- back into circulation, in whatever form.
In other words, the music market from a fan or consumer point of view, of which I am one, faces huge obstacles going forward in Japan, and will not benefit in anyway from a "SuBo covering Elton" effect, on whatever level.
Finally I would like to ask everyone to exercise some consideration when approached from Japan for music or music related charity-related projects. Be they requests for "messages of support" to the people of Japan for a magazine where just a percentage of the profits from the issue in question will be donated at a later date, or grander schemes requesting artist involvement etc. -- we've already been quite disturbed by some of the naive or, worse, self-interest-driven plans afoot, and again would just ask everyone to please consider well before agreeing to anything.
It is okay to say no to proposals -- assuming that is they even approach you before announcing your confirmed involvement -- as what matters here is being responsible and respectful.
Please help this situation by considering the above two requests. Donate if you wish, in private, direct to the frontline effort. Then with an eye on moving forward -- maintain dignity in what is our chosen subject. No clutter, minimal confusion, and avoid supporting any attempt to cash in somehow on the recent shocking sequence of events.
Please feel free to circulate this letter as you see fit, and thank you for reading.
Andrew "Plug" Lazonby is founder/CEO of Hostess Entertainment, a Tokyo-based music company that provides management, promotion and marketing services to international artists and labels.
To find out more about what you can do to help with earthquake relief in Japan, go to RedCross.org.