Behind the “Music Station” TV Legacy
Some TV programs are like cultural assets that should be preserved as they are. I believe that one of the programs that can be mentioned at the top of this list is TV Asahi’s “Music Station” (hereinafter referred to as “M-Station”), which is a valuable “TV heritage.
Although it may not be apparent to the viewers watching the program, the fact is that “airing a live music program every week in prime time” is an astonishingly difficult task. It is only through the accumulation of the excellent work of numerous “TV craftsmen” that it is possible to continue broadcasting.
Although I have never been involved in the production of such programs, I have heard many stories of hardship from my seniors and colleagues who were involved in the production of such programs when I worked at TV Asahi in the past.
The most difficult job is probably that of a producer. According to one senior producer, “There are so many producers in the TV industry, but the producer of MSTE may be the one who receives the most “pitches” from the most people.
Of course, what is being pitched is “artist appearances. It is said that people in the music industry in Japan and abroad are approached on a daily basis, or rather, day and night, on a minute-by-minute basis, asking if they can have their artists perform on the program. That is how high the status of “M-Station” as a music program is, and how special it is.
What makes it so “special” is its rarity as a “primetime live music program.
In the past, there were a number of “monster music programs” in the prime time slot, and TV Asahi was a “latecomer” in music programming, falling behind programs such as TBS’s “The Best Ten” and NTV’s “The Top Ten”. However, as a result of being the only one to remain amidst the successive demise of legendary programs on other stations, “M-Station” has become a one-of-a-kind program.
The flood of offers for the program was said to be extraordinary. I remember one of the senior former producers saying with a distorted face, “I had to meet with people day after day to the point of getting really sick of it.
And it is not only producers who have a hard time. The live music program is a challenge for all the staff members.
Among them, the art staff puts their lives on the line. This is because they have to switch sets one after another for each artist during the live broadcast.
During the short time that Tamori-san is introducing the artists and giving a short talk, the previous set has to be moved and the next set has to be built. In fact, an art staff member I know was seriously injured during a set change for “M-Station.
The collaboration between the designers who design the art sets and the art progressors who are in charge of on-site work is also very important, he said. The designer must design a set that is not only beautiful but can be built in a short time and worked on safely. And if the art director does not take that intention into account and safely manage the site, a terrible accident can occur. I think it can be said that the flower of TV Asahi’s art department, now and in the past, was in charge of “M-Station.
In addition, the on-air staff are all skilled craftsmen. On Fridays when “MSTE” is broadcast, TV Asahi’s headquarters is filled with a unique kind of tension from the morning. This is because of the elaborate rehearsals that begin on Friday morning and last almost all day.
Switching the camera to a song during a live broadcast is called “breaking the song,” and it requires a great deal of experience and skill, with only a handful of directors being able to break the song.
The director’s script, which takes into consideration the set and the artists’ placement and movements, is used as the basis for repeated rehearsals by experienced cameramen and technical staff to create a video production that is satisfactory to the artists.
Although it is not often paid attention to, I was very impressed by the message (text information projected on the screen) of “MSTE. In a live broadcast, the message of the lyrics is naturally added live. If the message is incorrect, in the wrong order, or at the wrong time on the screen, the performance will be ruined.
I have heard from TK (timekeeper) that it is very difficult to put in this message correctly.
The TK is the person in charge of program time management, and depending on the program, he or she may also be responsible for putting in the message. He is very busy, working on many programs for various stations, but he said that the one program where he “must never make a mistake in putting in the message” is “MSTE,” and once he has decided which artist will appear on the program, he listens to the song thoroughly every day during his travel time.
I was impressed by his rigorous attitude toward his work, as if he were a craftsman, listening to the song “until the lyrics soak into your body” and making sure not to make any mistakes.
I could go on and on, but I think that “weekly live” music programs like “M-Station” are very valuable to the Japanese TV industry. As a TV person, I hope that “M-Station” will continue to be a part of Japanese TV for a long time to come, including in terms of “passing on skills and know-how.
Text： Hiromichi Chinmoku / TV producer and writer
Mr. Chinmoku joined TV Asahi in 1992. After covering the Great Hanshin Earthquake and the Aum Shinrikyo cult as a reporter in the Social Affairs Department, he worked as a director of Super J Channel, Super Morning, and News Station before becoming a producer. He has covered many overseas events, including coverage of China and the Korean Peninsula and the terrorist attacks in the U.S. He also launched the ABEMA service. He also participated in the launch of the ABEMA service. In August 2019, he became independent and is active not only in broadcasting programs but also in various media. He is a part-time lecturer at Edogawa University and an instructor at MX Television Visual Academy. As a member of the Society for Public Communication, he studies local media and has researched and written articles on face-framing panels as his life's work. His recent books include "Dramatically Increase Access and Registrations! Video Production: 52 Professional Tricks" (Nihon Jitsugyo Shuppansha, Ltd.)
Photo： Kyodo News