Hidemi Tsuji of Ubiquitous Entertainment at South by Southwest on Thursday (photo: Evie Nagy)
Less than a week after the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Japanese musicians and representatives at South by Southwest are focusing their efforts on keeping their music industry vibrant and helping families of musicians.
According to SXSW Music Asia representative Audrey Kimura, after the welfare of musicians and their families, the biggest concern following the disaster from a business standpoint is the touring industry.
"All the entertainment and shows are canceled in Japan now, and musicians coming to Japan have all canceled, they're not going to come to Japan now," says Kimura. "Some of the clubs will probably go out of business, we're not sure. And their families ..."
A long-planned SXSW Japan Nite on Friday, March 18, including bands White White Sisters, Oh Sunshine and Mo'Some Tonebender, will now be a benefit concert -- although it will have a different focus than the SXSW Cares campaign for the American Red Cross, which has already raised more than $65,000 for tsunami victims.
"We're talking about which organizations to donate to, but the money will go to musician's families, and to the clubs," says Kimura. "The clubs need money, they need to be rebuilt."
Kimura says that after the earthquake, she was concerned that the Japanese bands traveling to Austin would cancel their trips. "But they all said no, we're definitely coming -- we can't do as much in Japan as we can there. Absolutely nobody, nobody canceled."
Other Japanese representatives at SXSW have put aside their business agendas for relief efforts. Hidemi Tsuji of mobile app and software developer Ubiquitous Entertainment relocated from her trade booth to a Support Japan booth on the Austin Convention Center's third floor, where volunteers were selling t-shirts and coordinating "cheer-up meetings" for attendees, among other activities. According to Tsuji, the booth raised $2600 for Red Cross relief efforts on Wednesday.
Kimura says that Japanese musicians back home have wasted no time in coming together for their country. "The bands, among each other, they're all talking, saying we're going to do something," she says. "The promoters are not doing anything officially yet because they're afraid, maybe they'll have a big show and then there will be an aftershock, another one. But the bands, the musicians, they've already started, saying let's get together, let's do something big. They already have individual benefit shows planned this week in Tokyo and Osaka."