Like any other place in the world, people in Japan enjoy live music in both large and small venues. Yet, it seems like there are quite a number of differences between how they enjoy indie gigs in Japan and in western countries.
Many artists start their career in small venues built in bars, where people enjoy the music while they have some drinks and socialize, but in Japan, people are mainly here only for the performance. The venues, called live houses in Japan, are made especially for playing music, so they don’t have the bars like they do in other countries, but they do have far better audio equipment. When people in Japan want to chat and drink, they usually go to izakayas, which are Japanese style pubs. Therefore because people at the live houses are seriously here for the music, it is a bit harder to more casually come in for a drink and listen. Yet, at the same time, they don’t check your ID, so it is fairly more open to minors who also want to see the band play.
Due to these differences, money becomes another issue for both the audience and the players. Even for the cheapest tickets, it would cost about 2000~3000 yen ($18~27), and you would also need to pay another 500~600 yen ($5) at the door for one drink. The players would also need to pay quite an amount to rent the venue, and added to that they need to sell a certain number of tickets to earn money from their shows. This system economically impacts both the audience and the band, but it is also inevitable for the venue to pay for their rent (which is not cheap, especially in the crowded urban areas), wages for their employees, and maintenance for the equipment. Although the prices are much higher than what you would expect in western countries, the audience is happy with the high quality sounds and the exclusive experience.
Despite the differences, the fact that people want to enjoy the music they love, and that even the most famous artists start off their career from these small venues and perform on bigger stages as their fan base grows are universal. The up coming issues will be featuring these live houses in Japan one by one.