Pro AVL Asia March-April 2021

Page 58


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Full stream ahead

Japan’s live music production industry has been hard hit by Covid-19, forcing the cancellation of more than 150,000 concerts in 2020. Caroline Moss finds out how production rental company, MSI Japan, has adapted

MSI Japan’s Moto Yamasaki

FOUNDED IN 1979 AND CHANGING ITS NAME TO MSI JAPAN in 1992, the company has played a major role in establishing touring standards in the country. “I wanted Japan to experience the same high levels of production that existed in America,” MSI founder Shuzo Fujii told Pro AVL Asia when we interviewed him for a profile in 2018, and this modest statement underscores the genuine love of music, good sound and live production that drives the company. Having introduced L-Acoustics to Japan in 1998 by becoming a V-DOSC partner, MSI has continued to raise the bar for live audio production across the country. Early adoption of similarly groundbreaking technology, including d&b audiotechnik’s J-Series loudspeakers, Martin Audio’s Multi-cellular Loudspeaker Array (MLA) technology and the Avid S6L console, has seen the company building up a vast inventory of products to ensure international touring standards and riders are upheld across Japan. Offices in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Taiwan extend the service across neighbouring countries and, in 2007, a sales division, Audio Brains, was added to the mix. Recently, MSI turned its attention to the US, setting up MJ Sound Entertainment in November 2018 with the aim of bringing Japanese engineers over to work in the US, thereby extending their experience to worldwide touring. “In order to create more opportunities for our company and staff, we set up a base in Los Angeles,” explains Moto Yamasaki, who transferred to the US to head up the new division. “We were also considering supporting and coordinating concerts by Japanese artists in the United States.” For a year and three months, red tape replaced console faders as Yamasaki set about preparing for his work visa, officially setting up the company and hiring office staff. Until the visa was granted, he couldn’t begin work in live production, aside from a stint coordinating the Chara Expo 2019 Japanese anime event at the Anaheim Convention Center in December 2019.

In a cruel twist of fate, Yamasaki’s long-awaited work visa was finally granted in February 2020, just in time for the Covid-19 pandemic to begin closing down all forms of live entertainment and ruining the company’s carefully constructed plans, including the arrival of a second engineer to expand the US business. Returning to Japan in April last year, Yamasaki began work with the rest of the team to figure out what was salvageable. At this stage, MSI Japan had hundreds of tours and concerts of all sizes scheduled, almost all of which were in the process of being postponed or cancelled. However, all was not lost. As Japan fought to contain the initial outbreak of the virus, concerts began to cautiously resume from the end of May, with permitted audiences of 200 people outdoors and 100 indoors, or 50% of the capacity, whichever was smaller. By late June, this was increased to 1,000 people or 50% of capacity and, by mid-July, regulations were further relaxed to 5,000 or 50% of capacity, again adhering to the smaller figure. In the last few months of 2020, venues that could accommodate more than 10,000 were limited to 50% or less, while those with a capacity of 10,000 or less were allowed a maximum of 5,000 or 50%, whichever was smaller. An exception was made for classical concerts, where 100% capacity audiences were allowed due to a presumed absence of loud cheering. From May, MSI Japan started to work on livestreamed events, including those taking place without an audience in its own live music club, Vi-code in Osaka, as well as from other existing venues and rehearsal studios. “Livestreaming for large-scale concerts is carried out by specialised video and audio recording companies, although some of the smallscale live music clubs and rehearsal studios purchase their own streaming equipment,” explains Yamasaki. Some of the equipment being used for livestreaming includes the Roland VR4-HD HD AV mixer, Blackmagic Design Atem Mini Pro camera

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