Let’s get this out of the way: HOLY SHIT BABYMETAL’S GOING TO BE ON STEPHEN FUCKING COLBERT!
This marketing overview for Babymetal in the United States, as published by Red, who handles their U.S. distribution, is kind of fascinating.
For purposes of this discussion, I’m presuming that these are marketing efforts being led by Red, not by Amuse or William Morris Endeavor.
The big buzz right now is over the fact that Babymetal will make their network TV debut on the very popular Stephen Colbert’s very popular Late Show. Colbert has an audience that he imported from his time on The Daily Show and then The Colbert Report, and the Late Show has legacy viewers from David Letterman’s time, too. This is generation-spanning, and very good exposure.
What’s more interesting to me, though, is the marketing presence at South by Southwest. Japanese artists have had their place at SXSW for a while (agencymates Perfume turned in a pretty great headline performance there last year), but I don’t think this move is an effort to court the J-pop audience there, but to catch on in general with the <cue up marketing speak> influencers and thought leaders in North American music, particularly in the under-40 set who have the ability to set and build trends.
The other major element in Red’s info isn’t in the local marketing efforts per se, but where those are being executed. In addition to venue cities, we have Atlanta, Detroit and Portland; that is, we have the New South’s capital city, the next-biggest media market in the Midwest (after Chicago) and a city that I thought might even be a decent stop on a longer tour (Portland), which incidentally is having its own hipster renaissance at the moment and might really dig on Babymetal until they get too popular.
With all of that, there’s the typical stuff (you can probably guess from the press list who’s going to be running features and/or interviews), and there’ll be additional press and blogging(!) and whatnot. That’s not the meat.
So what’s the meat?
I think this plan says two really important things about Babymetal, one for this year and one going forward.
For this year, I actually think that they’re not done setting tour dates. The Colbert appearance is booked for the week of the release of Metal Resistance, which makes perfect sense; that is, for the week preceding the release, which will happen on a Friday. They’re going to be in London on April 2 for the big Wembley show, and I assume that they’ll want some padding on either side of that date, so Colbert’s probably going to be no later than March 30 (though even doing it on Fox Day wouldn’t be completely out of the question).
That’s a long way of saying that two trips to New York with only a big-as-hell London date in between doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, even allowing for the members’ school schedules. Last spring, they held some men- and women-only shows in Japan, which I suppose is again possible (exclusive for The One members, naturally, which could also be nice) and more likely than the other possibility.
But all of that promotional effort, and FWIW that work probably isn’t done being arranged yet, I won’t believe that they’re done setting dates until it’s Dec. 31 and they aren’t performing that night at some New Year’s celebration.
If 2014 was Babymetal’s breakout in the West, and 2015 was like their coming-out party, 2016 needs to be more than a victory lap (they can do that in 2022, when Moametal and Yuimetal are done with university). The very large set of hands that stand to profit off of the Kitsune Warriors are going to want them to maximize their impact this year, so just wrapping up the U.S. leg of the tour in July must be the beginning. Expect dates in Europe and greater Australasia outside of Japan.
Going forward, what this plan says, and I think a number of things mentioned above prove, is that Babymetal may have longer shelf life than even a lot of their biggest fans (raises hand) have reckoned.
I’ll admit to have been nervous about the Tokyo Dome performance feeling like a going-away party. After all, what else is there to prove after that? Wembley Stadium? Even at their absolute peak, Wembley Stadium is probably outside of Babymetal’s capability; they technically haven’t sold out Wembley Arena yet. But the Dome is basically it if you’re Japanese, and with Su-metal just about ready to start college and Yuimetal and Moametal deep into high school, I could see the Babymetal that we know and love either going on semi-hiatus or being reconfigured or even ceasing to exist.
But this marketing effort puts that idea to bed. They’d probably do a late night talk show or two, anyway, as part of the promotion for Metal Resistance, and I’d be surprised if they didn’t fit in SNL while they’re around New York anyway, but Colbert, as mentioned, has a particular audience; that is, it’s the same general demographic as the people at SXSW who are going to be hit with those marketing efforts.
Babymetal management is looking at a longer game now. I’m not going to try to pass judgment on whether the group will stay 100 percent together beyond the next couple of years, but I do think that Babymetal, an idol game-changer in the first place, are making people really consider what’s possible with idols, what idol groups really can do and be, and exactly where the limits on that are set.
Me, I’ll very happily WOD at Philly and stand in line all day in DC, and watch the rest of their long-term development with very eager eyes.