Major and Independent J-Rock Labels

Visual Kei is a style especially in the Japanese independent scene and was popularized by bands like X Japan, Malice Mizer and Dir en gray.

In Visual Kei, there is no fixed look, the artists are not limited in appearance – is allowed, what pleases. The various fashionable elements such as punk, new romantic and gothic, as well as stylized school uniforms and fantasy costumes are combined. Crossdressing is not uncommon among the predominantly androgynous male musicians.

Visual Kei is not static, but changes with every appearance. The musicians also like to be silent about their biographies or to give fictitious data in order to maintain an impenetrable and changeable image.

Whether a band is referred to as “indie” or “major” depends on the plate label being produced. Most rock bands have a contract with large Japanese record labels belonging to the four major major labels.

The career begins either through relationships or by submitting demo tapes, which are partly also offered for sale in small numbers. Good bands are usually produced by a manager or manager under an indie label. If an indie band has gained enough accolades and fans, it receives an offer from a well-known label and may be called “Major”.

Some labels also sell both types of bands, and others are their own labels of great artists. There are also major bands that take promising indie bands into their care.

Especially in the visual kei scene, indie bands have developed into a genre of their own, limited to clubs and smaller events, rather than on big stages such as the very important Shibuya AX, Tokyo Dome and Budokan , to play.

Not all bands have an interest in becoming a “major” act because they can make a name for themselves in the indie area too, and a change to a major often leads to a break in style (a major mostly markets commercial, mass-produced music ). This is facilitated by the fact that the marketing has also adapted to this. There are special clubs or venues, fashion magazines and shops that have adapted to it.

In Japan there are also low-cost labels promoting bands that mimic both music and the look of well-known artists to make money.

In Europe and America, the Japanese indie label Freewill, founded in September 2004, sells Japanese music of some selected bands in European special editions, with translated texts and at European prices.