Earlier I saw a new post on Intl Wota about Morning Musume and popularity. Now, this question has been discussed over and over again. I remember this being asked back when I first found Morning Musume, back in early 2008, and I know this discussion of what Morning Musume is doing right/wrong has been going on for a while. However, something in Cat’s post HERE has made me think about this question a bit more, and apply a little something I’ve learned in my Mass Media and Popular Culture course at my university. This I will henceforth call the Morning Musume Risk Paradox.
One of the issues that Cat brings up why Morning Musume doesn’t get on TV shows anymore and why they’ve been in a downward spiral of promotions. While she astutely says that Morning Musume is less popular now than they used to be, this is I think only part of the issue. Yes, Morning Musume is less popular, but I do think a big part of that is because of their less frequent television appearances.
Why doesn’t Morning Musume appear on TV more? The answer lies in the concept of Risk. No, not the board game, but the idea if something is risky, or dangerous. Now you might be wondering “what’s risky about having Morning Musume on TV?” The reason that risk comes up in talking about television and media is because the one thing that companies (including media related) try to do above all else is to minimize risk, especially when it involves losing money. Television shows cost a lot to film and produce, and so it only stands to reason that a TV show is going to focus on what makes up that money and minimize risk in doing so. Same for things like film/drama opportunities.
However, this really just reminded me of a recent complaint I saw, and that was that groups with lesser sales and various KPop groups got TV shows, but not Morning Musume. However, this is still in effect minimizing risk. KPop is booming right now, so it makes sense they’d get on the various music programs. Now, in the case of the groups with lesser sales, let’s compare with a hypothetical. Suppose you had two music shows in front of you. One show had a new, up and coming artist that you may have heard of, but the group’s in a genre you enjoy and you’ve been thinking of giving them a shot. Conversely, there’s another show with a group that you used to like but haven’t followed for years, doesn’t have any of the same members you liked, and will perform their most famous song again. Now, I’m sure some of you are going “I’d choose the second one!” since you realized that’s Morning Musume (and the song is Love Machine). However, would a TV show rather be the show that discovered and helped a group to fame (basically what could be said for the MM/Utaban relationship) or the show that iddn’t know when to let a group die.
It’s tough, and I know it does suck, especially if you want to see your favorite group succeed. However, television is a business, and the media industry is all about minimizing risk factors, and I doubt that we’ll see a huge surge in Morning Musume in television promotions unless for some reason they become really popular.
However, don’t think that Morning Musume is immune to the whole minimizing risk aspect. That’s why it’s a paradox. Have you noticed that sometimes H!P releases sound alike? They have all the same front girls for years? The PVs will consist of a dance shot with some close ups and some other miscellaneous shots? Morning Musume is minimizing its risk too, focusing a lot on trying to please the demographic that it has right now. The group is dropping in sales after every single release, and that’s got to be scary for management. At this point, H!P is pretty set in its ways, to try and make sure that sales don’t drop any lower, by appealing to Morning Musume wota.
This is also shown in things like concert setlists, the DVDs/shows H!P produces, and the PVs. There is hardly any change from H!P product to product, and most of the change is superficial (i.e. the new Morning Musume PVs have new graphics, but use them to make a pretty standard PV in terms of story/editing).
That’s where the paradox is. Television shows won’t put Morning Musume on the shows because they’re not popular enough, but Morning Musume needs these shows to be popular. Television shows are minimizing risk by not having Morning Musume on, but by minimizing risk it’s doubtful that Morning Musume will gain new fans. It’s a tough situation, and I don’t know if there’s anything that UFA/H!P could do to make this situation better, but Morning Musume is indeed stuck in a conundrum.