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Anime Fans March to A Different Drum

Anime fandom has reached the point where non-anime/comic/gaming businesses are seeking the otaku fan base. One such company, a record label called A Different Drum had a booth at Anime Next, though they are connected to the anime industry. At least, they are now.
While walking around Anime Next dealer’s room I saw many wonderful yet not unusual things--for an anime con. I passed one brilliant display of colorful merchandise after another, stopping at a strictly CD booth that a Red Mage was attending. What was really drawing people into the A Different Drum table was the electronic music playing. It was fast, synthesized like in the 80s, and it did its job--it made you want to stand around the table and look at all of the other colorful CDs. They were kind enough to play any CD you wanted so you could listen before you buy, which was the first unusual thing about this table. I had listened four or five songs the infinitely patient staff was playing for me (hoping I'd find something to purchase) when I noticed an oddity beyond simple brilliance in customer relations. THERE WAS NO ANIME OR ANIME MUSIC, ANYWHERE. I had to start asking questions. Pressing my A Button, I began to converse with the Red Mage.

A Different Drum is a record label and wholesaler for synthpop music. “Synthpop” is the word that describes the music of Erasure, Duran Duran, other pop bands that produce mostly synthesized music, and a good amount of anime music up into the late 1990s. (Ever hear Japan accused of being trapped in the 80s? Thank you, Bubble Gum Crisis 2032!) This style of music was popular in mainstream America for awhile but died at the hands of something called “grunge”. In spite of America’s new demand for angrier music, synthpop continued to live on in other parts of the world, and new CDs are coming out all the time. A Different Drum not only handles the business aspects, but also has clubs and concert info on their website to help join the synthpop-loving communities together—much like what Booty Project does for anime. So that tells you who they are, but we still don’t know just what they were doing at an anime convention. After retrieving a rare spell component, the toenail of the giant, 33rd-level golden frog that lives in the Dread Caverns of Elsinore, the Red Mage divulged further information.

There are two major reasons, each more major than the other, that A Different Drum was dealing in an anime convention. ADV Films contacts them when they need background music. In other words, that bouncy mix of upbeat and dramatic that paints the aural background of anime previews comes from artists under their label. They also supply background music for the show itself when ADV chooses to eliminate the original Japanese score. I’m always sad to see the authentic carved away to make way for something more package-able for mainstream America, but trust me, if someone has to make new music be glad its these guys. I won’t change the wording of the second reason; Red Mage said it perfectly:

“A lot of anime fans like electronic music.”

This is a very good sign for the anime industry. In Business 101, you learn to take your product to where there are lots of people who will buy it. That is, if you need to sell 20,000 hot dogs, you don’t take your hot dog stand to a school playground, you take it to a stadium. The mere presence of an industry like A Different Drum shows that the anime community is now large enough to attract businesses that aren’t anime-related.

Anime fans, invariably have at least one of the following other hobbies as well: PC gaming, console gaming, role playing, card gaming, manga, science fiction, star trek, or building a 5upr3m3 b0x of 1337/\/355. Due to the connections, most of these industries cater to the needs of anime fans, and thus ordinarily non-anime hobbies now have anime influence. There are anime-based RPGs, card games, video games, and PC games. (Even certain umm…”massagers” have Hello Kitty on them.) For the first time, I’ve seen an non anime/scifi/gaming company recognize anime fans as a market. What other industries will be forced to sit up and take notice of our growing numbers? Will Yomiko Readman become the spokesperson for Lens Crafters? Will Misato and the cast of Shin Seiki Evangelion wind up in a bikini sipping Budweiser?

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