Wave of Independence Masks Industry Reorganization Driven by ¥10,000 Daily Fee, Resulting in Price Collapse | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Wave of Independence Masks Industry Reorganization Driven by ¥10,000 Daily Fee, Resulting in Price Collapse

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Actress Mikako Tabe left a major production company on April 1. 

In recent times, there has been a succession of news about resignations and independence in the entertainment industry.

Popular actress Mikako Tabe announced on her official website that she left “Hirata International,” to which she had been affiliated for about 20 years, as of March 31st.

Actor Tetsushi Tanaka, husband of actress Yuki Amami, and actor Keishi Nagatsuka, husband of actress Takako Tokiwa, also left “Dongyu Club” at the end of March.

Last year, following an incident, actors Ennosuke Ichikawa, Kuranosuke Sasaki, Ryuta Sato, and Ryoko Fujino left “K Factory,” to which they were affiliated. Sasaki and Fujino moved to a new agency called “Anchor,” while Sato became independent.

The bankruptcy or suspension of entertainment agencies has also become significant news.

On March 27th, it was reported that the talent agency “Fit,” which represents talents like Dan Mitsu and Risa Yoshiki, had begun bankruptcy proceedings.

On April 1st, the entertainment-related activities of “A-Team,” to which actresses Rihori Yoshioka, Asami Usuda, and Wakana Sakai belong, were announced to be suspended on the official website. Marika Matsumoto, who was formerly affiliated with them, had already left in November last year and joined the major talent agency “Ken-On.”

Additionally, due to the sexual misconduct issues surrounding the late Johnny Kitagawa, several former Johnny’s Entertainment talents such as Junichi Okada, Kazuya Ninomiya, Toma Ikuta, Tsuyoshi Domoto, and Shunsuke Kazama have left or become independent from the former Johnny’s agencies (SMILE-UP, STARTO ENTERTAINMENT). Former SKE48 member and actress Jurina Matsui also announced her amicable departure from her agency “Irving” on New Year’s Eve last year.

Why has there been such an unusual increase in people leaving or becoming independent recently?

“It’s definitely all about the money.” 

Asserts a sports newspaper entertainment reporter.

As long as they are affiliated with an agency, talents must hand over a portion of their received fees to the company. The share varies depending on the agency, with the most common split being 70:30 (talent:agency). Some agencies have a 50-50 split, while others allow the talent to keep 90% of the earnings.

“The split also varies depending on the type of work. For TV jobs, it’s typically 70:30, but for commercials, it could be 60:40. For trendy YouTube content, if it’s agency-driven, the agency might take nearly 30%. Conversely, if the talent has been doing it independently for a while, they may get to keep all of it,” explains an entertainment industry insider.

While the proliferation of social media has widened earning opportunities, TV appearance fees are on the decline.

“Compared to 10 years ago, they’ve dropped by over 30%. There are very few people who can command a three-digit (over a million yen) fee per appearance. There have been cases where talent received as little as 15,000 yen for a day-long location shoot for a drama.

With our 70:30 split, that’s around 10,000 yen for the talent and 4,500 yen for the agency. We found ourselves questioning why we were even trekking out to such remote locations,” concludes the entertainment industry insider.

The talent shortage is also exacerbating the situation. While there used to be people knocking on agency doors dreaming of TV and showbiz careers, nowadays, unless the job is posted on job-hunting websites, hardly anyone shows up.

“It seems they’re deterred by the grueling workload. Some managers are overseeing over 10 people on their own due to the shortage of staff. On the other hand, talented managers and staff are being headhunted by other agencies.

Recently, the K-pop agencies seem to be thriving. Many are moving from major record companies,” says a music industry insider.

From the talent’s perspective, if income is declining and managers are not exclusive, it’s not surprising to wonder, “What am I in the agency for?”

“A recent success story is Takuya Kimura, who left Ken-On in 2021. He can directly communicate with TV producers and film directors over the phone, handling everything by himself.

He doesn’t have to share his earnings with the agency, and he can choose not to do jobs he’s not interested in. He’s considered a winner,” says the sports newspaper reporter.

The very existence of talent agencies seems to be called into question.

  • PHOTO Keisuke Nishi

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