[MUSIC] Steve Harrell - Avex Records of Japan
Avex Goup A & R
Time in Japan:
What do you do?
I look for new bands and acts. Being a major independent company we
don' have any brother or sister companies anywhere so whatever we
want to release, we release ourselves. Whether it's through word of
mouth or through clients you worked with before or going to import
stores to find new CDs, you look for finished goods based on music
potential, marketability and talent. Then there's the paperwork why
you think it'll do well in Japan, getting all the approvals, then
the legal parts take over. Then it's just media. You have to contact
all levels of media to promote the new band, get the buzz built up
try to find different angles that other people haven't used. With
the right timing, the right artists, the right material, it all goes
How did you get to Japan?
I originally came with the Air Force. I was based in Yokota for five
years and stayed. I knew I wanted to be in the entertainment
business, and I got my first chance when the father of the girl I
was dating (who I ended up marrying!) pulled some strings for me
because he was working at a record company here in Tokyo. He opened
the doors for me and there I was.
What's the most difficult thing about your job?
The language barrier; I have a hard time getting my ideas across. I
hear the music for what it is, even if it's a no-name band from
nowhere. What I hear and feel as a whole package from start to
finish and try to express in my limited Japanese so it can be
visualized is really hard. I use a lot of sign language and facial
Is there a specific thing you look for in musicians?
You can't listen to an album once and get an impression. Many people
take time and mail their product whether they know you or not. It's
always been a part of me to give back and say yes or no. If they
take time to make the promo cassette, which is pretty much of a
hassle nowadays, then I think I owe them an answer, whether it's
good or bad, and if it's a no, give them some ideas and feedback on
why it's a no. I like to give them an idea of what kind of rock is
popular in Japan and to help keep the pipeline open for them.
What do you like about Japan?
Lots of things. It's a well-knit, tightly woven society. Individuals
know what's right and wrong. They don't over-abuse things. Although
there is some graffiti, it's not as much as the States and you don't
have to be looking over your shoulder every ten seconds. Of course,
Japan's got its share of bad vibes, but for a father with a
daughter, it's a place where we can have less gray hair worrying
about our kids.
How would one get into a Japanese record company?
Connections, a love for and knowledge of music. Mainly connections.
Avex goes through resumes once a year and the best chance for your
resume to go to the right person is to have a connection inside so
that you know it will bypass all the red tape.
What's your recipe for a happy life in Japan?
Be open-minded and make friends. If you don't like small and crowded
places, this is definitely not the place for you. If you don't have
claustrophobia you'll be all right.
Steve Harrell spoke to Maki Nibayashi.