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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Kanashimi Twilight Debuts at #2 on Oricon ..... A Tainted Celebration

Morning Musume's 33rd single Kanashimi Twilight, Yoshizawa Hitomi's last single with Momusu debuts at #2 on Oricon. Kinki Kids takes #1 with "Brand New Song". A remarkable achievement indeed.

See here.

With this achievement, Kinki Kids still hold the World Guinness Record of achieving #1 on the charts for ALL singles they have ever released. When I first heard that Kinki Kids would be on the charts to challenge the top spot, I knew that Momusu's chances would be slim.

First, some facts. The current top 5 chart positions are as noted in the image:
#1 Kinki Kids - "Brand New Song"
#2 Morning Musume - "Kanashimi Twilight"
#3 Orange Range - "Ika Summer"
#4 WaT (Wentz Eiji, Koike Teppei) - "Awaking Emotion 8/5/my brand new way"
#5 BoA - "Sweet Impact"

To be honest, I am at some point looking forward to see how Kanashimi would fare in the longest hit chart in Japan. Number 2 is still good, but... why am I not entirely happy? I find myself in swinging between balance of the truth and lies.

Ikimasshoi notes that the actual sales for Morning Musume are actually higher than what was stated in the Oricon website. And that is exactly what I am going discuss here...

Oricon - of lawsuits and reliability...
I have recently discovered that on December last year, Oricon had filed a civil suit against a well-known freelance music critic Ugaya Hiro for libel and defamation, and is demanding compensation for the damages he has caused.

Apparently, the magazine Cyzo had called up Ugaya for a short interview for an article which they are about to publish. The article speaks about how Oricon had "fixed" the sales numbers for certain artistes, using questionable statistical methods for their ranking chart, and how it favoured talents from Johnny's & Associates company(e.g. SMAP, KATTUN, V6). End of the day, the publisher Cyzo wasn't the one being served the papers - it was the freelancer Ugaya. The president of Oricon Wataru Koike said that they will drop the charges if Ugaya apologizes and admits that his statements are incorrect.

This case greatly reflects on today's ranking position, because, for those who didn't know - Kinki Kids is from Johnny's.

Here's a snippet of what quoted from the article entitled "The Lies Behind the Hits; Does Johnny's Get Super-VIP treatment?!; The Honeymoon Between the Talent Agency and Oricon":

In Japan, Oricon was the only hit chart to exist for a long time, so their statistical accuracy has been excessively valued. First of all, Oricon puts reservation copies in its count. There is a high probability that there are dummy reservations in there - that somebody reserved a copy and then later canceled the reservation. If the words "Oricon Debut #1" get used, you can later use that as promotion. I have also heard from multiple record company employees that "you can manipulate the Oricon numbers to a certain degree." Oricon is a mysterious organization to start with. They assert that they use "Oricon's unique statistical methodology" but almost never clarify those methods. In a normal statistical survey, you detail the methods publicly, so it's natural that you emphasize that there is no room to insert doubts about the [survey's] credibility. If you don't do that, it's like as I am saying, the statistical reliability is low.

Not only that, apparently Oricon made up the numbers at will!. Neomarxisme has the translation for that interview.

The part of the interview that concerns me:
When you were editing Geinou Shijou Chousa, did you go out personally to check exactly how many copies of records were selling at the stores?

No, no. For those rankings, I just made up the numbers at will.

The "A rank" meant it sold about 150 copies in a week. "B" was 130. C was 100. I just assigned the ABC ranking as I liked!

At that time, it's not like stores were really checking their inventories.


It was like...
"Did you have the data?"
"Sorry, Mr. Watanabe. We've been busy and haven't done it yet."
"Well, shoot. Today's the deadline, so please do it."
"Just please make up appropriate numbers, Mr. Watanabe."

"We made this record the #1 seller at that store" - "Oh, that! That's selling well at our place too. Please make it #1."

From the looks of it, Oricon is perhaps trying to protect its public image, and is concerned that this article could defame its reputation. However, after further searching on the net, I find that lots of people are already aware of Oricon's inaccuracy and questionable ranking methods for a long time.

Then why the lawsuit? Why make a standpoint for an "open secret" that is well known for a long time?

What about having the wrong party sued for the wrong reasons? Why is there a price to pay for freedom of speech? A method of shutting up the negative critics in a legal way? Taking the blame for another's fault?

.... Most importantly, is it true that the Johnny's are favoured by Oricon?

Questions, questions, questions...

A similar case have been going on in my country on a national level, which is why I can relate to this Oricon vs Ugaya case. Seems like wherever we go in the cyberspace, we still cannot run away from situations like this.

Sorry I have mix a moment of celebration with this piece. Just that I felt my joy over Momusu's achievement have been tainted over these news, and I don't know if I should continue to believe what was on ranking charts anymore.


Oricon Music Charts Sues Freelancer Over Quoted Comment in Article
Oricon vs. Ugaya Update: "I just made up the numbers at will."
Oricon case gives insights into Japan's democracy

The Japan Times Online
Libel suit attacks free speech: defendant

Reporters Without Borders
Music chart company urged to drop lawsuit against freelance journalist who questioned its practices

Ugaya Hiro's side of the story
Letter of apppeal to public from Ugaya Hiro

Oricon's side of the story
Summary description of the case against the journalist Mr. Ugaya


Anna said...

Sometimes even I wonder about the Johnny's getting so much attention. I'm a fan of JE also and I must say they do have a LARGE fanbase, but sometimes I feel a bit fishy.

I'm just glad MM did well. :D

The difference in KK and MM are really off to me. Could it be that Oricon is making it look like MM has no chance against KK? xD

Cerb said...

Hi Jin. Terrific article. I hold the hope that MM is actually more popular to the japanese than what it looks by watching Oricon's numbers from the last years.
Anyway, why is Oricon the only accepted chart in Japan? You'd think there should be at least two, specially having such a big monthly number of releases and bands.

Radicalpatriot said...

As I have stated here before, I have always believed that Oricon lacks credibility, that certain powerful figures in J-Pop pull the strings of these "ratings" and that Morning Musume and Hello!Project in general always had higher actual sales than what these "ratings" have listed. Enough said.

Malmeingehr said...

It is rumored that some production companies buy back their own products to inflate the sales figures.
Here's the details of the trick:

Actually, Soko Koike, the founder of Oricon, admitted in an interview long ago that such companies really existed:

I suspect this is one of such cases.

Wildfire said...

Hey finally someone found something about Oricon!

I always wondered how it calculated the scores also...and its like the only recognised chart monopoly...actually another company should take the opportunity to publish its ranking system and then attack Oricon at this time and rise up to compete.

I mean at least there should be 2 or more ranking charts rite...Japan's not a small country anyway.

If u notice the rating, Kinki kids' single now is that 3 or 4 times the 2nd position be it MM or Orange Range...hmmm...questionable.

Wildfire said...

I mean if there are really 100% not making up the figures, just publish their statisical findings lar...need to sue a journalist for wat?

Journalists have a right to find out the truth because the public should be given the truth.

Wildfire said...

I mean if there are really 100% not making up the figures, just publish their statisical findings lar...need to sue a journalist for wat?

Journalists have a right to find out the truth because the public should be given the truth.

Mick a.k.a. jinryuichi said...

@Anna... Kinki Kids do have a large wota-like following like MM. I'm a KK fan myself. But numbers, well... it's just too far apart, and like you said... it's too fishy.

@Cerb... Thanks! And FYI, Oricon is not the only music chart in Japan. But think of Oricon as an equivalent of the Billboard in the USA. It is the most publicized and most widely accepted. Which is why they are trying to monopolize this department.

@RadP... Yeah, and if you use calculate the numbers with the quantifiers, as mentioned in Iki and H!O forums, MM have gathered more that 40k++ in sales by now.

Mick a.k.a. jinryuichi said...

@Malmeingehr... Great find! That adds a lot to what I have written. I've read about cases like that in the local mags here before (but not as detail).
Personally, I think the politics behind hiking up the sales figures have to be more than just buying back their own products(which is an age-old strategy). Times have changed, and I think there are other behind-the-curtains methods utilised. e.g. Hidden partnerships, secret treaties, nepotism, and worst of all - bribery & corruption. I better shut up now, before I will be served the lawsuits next. (^_^)/

@Wildfire... Like what I said to Cerb, there are other music charts, but none as big as Oricon. Most music organization depend on Oricon for their charting reputation, which is why they remained silent.

About the lawsuit... For your info, and for the benefit of many others who are reading this (because I forgot to include this in the post ^_^).... Oricon is using what we call the SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) on the said journalist. Also known as "Sue you until you shut up" strategy. Basically, just file a lawsuit against a critic with a legal cost that is so high until he/she have no choice but abandon their criticism. Read here for more info. That's the reason why, they didn't file a suit against the publisher Cyzo, who can challenge back and drag the court case. So they settled for intimidating the freelancer, because they know he could not afford to fight back.

Charlie said...

This article has been mentioned on Ikimasshoi. Cool! Not many times they mention other sites articles. I think yours deserves it, it's very interesting!

Anonymous said...

i personally think kinki kids has larger fanbase a lot bigger than MM, so im not that surprise with the sales being too far apart

besides that numbers in oricon daily chart is not even sales numbers its just index as mentioned in ikimashoi they usually calculate it with 1.75 or 1.8 to predict until they can get more accurate numbers for the weekly chart

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if Oricon is truly accurate BUT I do know that Johnny's are super BIG and popular in Japan....
So... I 'm not really shock that the Oricon Billboard Chart is made up of hugely Johnny's Entertainment artists...

Johnny's acts are a force to be reckon with in the Japanese music industry...No matter how many singles they release, chances are, they will always end up as #1.. XD

Anonymous said...

Um.... hello????

This is KINKI KIDS, you're talking about..... One of the most popular act in the legendary Johnny's Entertainmnet.. Of course, they would pawn eveyone...

Good research but I'm not convinve that JE needs to cheat in order to gain more sales... They probably do more business with TV stations in order to get their artist feature in dramas, however I think that's a very smart marketing plan.... As others mentioned b4, JE is way more popular than Morning Musume or Hello Project (if pple actually knows what that is). It's sad but it's the truth...

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