On March 11th, Japan suffered one of the most devastating earthquakes in world history, affecting many lives, the habitat, and the economy. The Japanese music industry was not immune. After news of the earthquake shocked the world, numerous musicians opted to cancel or postpone their appearances in Japan, due both to the destruction and the danger of radiation. Now, many artists and record labels are joining forces to raise money for Japan.
“Songs for Japan” is a combined relief effort album presented by the four major labels in the US. The labels agreed to work together in order to release the album as quickly as possible. In the words of Columbia Records chairman Rob Stringer “[we wished to include a mix of tunes that] had something for everyone.” iTunes also jumped on board with the album, releasing it for $9.99 on the iTunes store on March 25th. It features an array of songs including Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way”, R.E.M’s “Man on the Moon”, and Bruce Springsteen’s “Human Touch”. According to SoundScan, by the end of the week of March 27th, 68,000 copies of “Songs for Japan” had already been sold, with all the profits going to relief efforts in Japan.
According to Japan’s Fuji TV news, by April 1, thirteen hundred concerts were cancelled or postponed indefinitely, with hundreds more postponed into the fall. Though many artists haven’t given specific reasons, managers have expressed skepticism about the radiation reports. In lieu of the sudden concert pull back, artists who were scheduled to play in Japan have connected with their fans using social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. They have also joined support forums online that enable fans to speak with one another and simply express their condolences to the Japanese people.
A few foreign artists have visited Japan recently to spread hope. Acts such as Incognito, Wilko Johnson and Jane Birkin have taken the initiative to schedule a select number of shows in Japan, showing little concern for allegations of radiation poisoning. Showing up reflects generously on their persona and art. As time goes by, we hope more US acts will feel at ease and travel again. Our hearts go out to the Japanese people in this time of crisis.