Avex’s new project, the “a-genic PROJECT”, that started this spring, hopes to cultivate the latest dance and vocal group that will carry on the label’s DNA. The top twelve young men and women who made it through the auditions will tour as limited-time unit, at the same time competing to become the official members of the soon to be formed group in a survival-style entertainment project. What are the hopes and intentions behind Avex’s new mission to hand down their DNA? We sat down with the three key men behind the project to find out; project manager Junichiro Kawata of Avex Entertainment, head of new talent and training Yusuke Mikami and assistant manager Inamura Hidemasa of Avex Management.

DNA the likes of
TRF and AAA.
A challenge: to
the center of Avex.

The a-genic PROJECT chose 12 people out of the many hopeful participants who came for the April auditions. Those chosen are now on a journey as a temporary unit, performing on stage, taking training, and creating music to build experience. In the end the official members will be chosen according to an overall scoring system that includes categories such as popularity, potential and spirit.

Kawata “Preparation for the project started in the summer last year. When you look back at the history of Avex, you have groups like TRF. We are a company that started off producing Japanese artist groups that both sang and danced. Now we have groups like AAA under our management, who have grown to the point where we’ve been able to tour the four biggest (concert) domes in the country. Avex has a strong culture of artists that can sing and dance, which now includes such artists as Da-iCE and lol. And now, with our a-genic PROJECT, we plan on creating the next generation to carry that torch.”

As Kawata explains, the object of this project is to create the new sing and dance group to embody the Avex DNA, that will follow in the footsteps of groups like AAA, Da-iCE and lol. The project takes its name from the English adjective “genic,” symbolizing the carrying of DNA, and having the ability to adapt, or create.

Kawata “To be the next to carry on the DNA of Avex, is to dive into the middle of Avex, in other words, to challenge oneself at the dance and vocal aspect of the music industry that groups like TRF and AAA have carried up until now.”

During the auditions, the project members all approached the selection process from their own perspective.

Mikam “Honestly, there was no one person that stood out, like “this is the one!” Most of the contestants excelled at certain things but lacked in other areas. So when the chosen few get to the next level, people will look to those areas, to see just how they will go about trying to improve them. We put more focus on the potential inside.”

Inamura “Iwata was paying attention to skill, so it allowed me to pay attention to the strength of will among the contestants—what it is they’re aiming for, how much will power they are willing to wager on getting there. I look more at that human aspects.”

Kawata “For example, the power in one’s eyes directly correlates with their will power and intent, and it ultimately leads to a way to calibrate future potential. Also, we planned to have a good mix of boys and girls, to some extent. We couldn’t simply go off of “he’s cool,” “she’s cute,” “they’re really skilled.” We had to consider an overall harmony among the members as well, which is important when choosing a mix of genders. Sometimes you find a boy that would do or look great in a boy group, but they kind of stand out too much when put in a mix gender group, in which case the audience has a hard time sympathizing with that person. So we put extra importance on that aspect, choosing characters that would suite being in a mixed group.”

Showing how to gain
the relatability
of this generation
through a “survival unit”

Though the planning process for the a-genic PROJECT started in the summer of last year, the team didn’t sit down and say, “Okay, we’re going to produce a mixed gender group that dances and sings!” Mikami explains that the wish and need to make such a group has been a part of Avex for some time.

Mikami “Our team recruited a lot of different capable people for this project. In fact, we have always had the idea to start a project with this theme, but Kawata was never seriously ready to undertake it until last summer. When it came time to actually do it, we had Kawata and Inamura take a look at our guys and girls in our training programs. There are a lot of people in Avex Academy who can sing, who can dance, who look up to our artists like AAA.”

Among the twelve individuals that made it through the auditions are students who have been polishing their skills at Avex Academy, as well as very promising and talented youth that honed their talents elsewhere. Either way, it seems both of them have been waiting for a project like this to come along.

Inamura “Out of all the potential paths these young entertainers could go down and different ways we could help them make their break, this is the form it all took. I think this path is a way to really invigorate the academy students and now that they have a concrete goal ahead of them, it will really put them in the working mindset.”

The survival project is aired at 6:00 PM every Friday on YouTube as a documentary series. Starting in May, the series closely followed the twelve from the auditions, to the extensive training camp, and recording studio all the way on stage at the tour show of Da-iCE and regionally held a-nation.

Kawata “We decided on going with a survival theme just as we were planning the auditions. We thought that instead of just having an audition and forming a group and saying “here they are,” it would be better to show all the drama, the ups and downs that come with making a group. That it would be a way of getting viewers to relate with them, in a way that is only possible in this generation. Taking a hard look and really distinguishing who exceeds at what was really important too. That’s another reason we chose the survival format.”

The determination
behind the project
and the future story
it entails

While re-solidifying their position in the domestic market through this mission of passing on their DNA, Avex also sees in a-genic the potential to greatly separate themselves from the rest of the mix-gender dance/vocal groups in Asia. Do they have the important youth factor down in order to get this move right?

Kawata “I think there is a way to make and a way of showing, in regards to that. A lot of young talents these days are able to compose their own tunes. In fact, there is one in a-genic now. It used to be that groups just did what they were given, and as they gained more experience they evolved into being able to write their own songs as well, but now people are doing that from a much earlier point. And as for communication with the fans, now that social networks totally changed the artist environment, the distance between artist and fan has grown shorter, and has even become borderless in some aspects. The one thing that hasn’t changed though is the factor that artists must capture the hearts of their fans and patrons. They have to give them a surprise and utilize empathy.”

Kawata has been managing AAA from 2010, has seen the group’s story first hand and has seen up close, more than anyone else, the charm they present as a mix-gender group on stage. It is safe to assume that he will be making good use of the things he learned there in the a-genic project. At the same time Mikami and Inamura also have clear set visions for the project.

Mikami “I had thought from the very beginning, when the group was first formed that we really had to get moving while the iron was hot, to get ready for the next step when it comes. It goes without saying that we had a lot riding on these members and we felt attached. We don’t want this to end as a one-hit thing.”

Inamura “It would be great if we get the kind of synergy where, you know, the artists are able to instill the younger generation with some ambition and show them how it’s done, at the same time the younger guys get to impress their seniors with their hard work and innocence.”

Kawata “I would like to make it a kind of project where the members don’t simply stay happy and satisfied that they made the cut and where able to make their debut. Another thing would be, for example, and this is something that I learned through experience, that mix-gender groups like this really have a variety of restrictions that we have to worry about, like the key of the songs. So I think we’ll really have a groove going with this group that you couldn’t get with an all boy band, or all girl band. That’s one of the charms. There is a theory I have about these mix-gender groups and some of the factors it takes to make a good one, and I would really like to help bring that to life through the a-genic PROJECT. I think this is the right time for it.”

Who will be chosen as the official member of this new dancing and singing group? One thing is for sure, it won’t be easy. In the words of Kawata, they’re “thinking about it 24/7.” It is not easy to choose whose lives you will be changing. It is surely a lot of pressure. With that said, one can really sense the determination and difficulty of decision making the a-genic PROJECT entails, especially when seeing those challenging themselves, fighting head on to be the ones to inherit the DNA of Avex.

What do the
participating members think about the project?

This project has really given me the chance to obtain my dreams of being a member of a dance and vocal group.
I won’t waste this chance. I will give it everything I have and do what it takes to get chosen as a member.
I hope to be a part of something that supports our fans, something that they can lean on at any time. I want to help them make a brighter tomorrow.

I think that this project is more than just a chance for artists to make their major debut. It’s also a chance, a ticket to see behind the scenes and see what it takes.
I want to be the kind of person that fans can look up to, to be support for them to work hard every day. I would like to grow alongside everyone.

I’m putting all I have, my life on the line for this project. It is a huge chance to realize my dreams.
I hope that my fans are re-instilled with motivation to dance and sing when listening to my music, just like how I was with my mentors. I want to be the fuel to the fire for my fans.

It goes without saying that by entering this project, I plan to become an official member and stand on that starting line.
I will take every moment of every day seriously knowing that I want this just as bad, if not more than everyone else.
I would like to be the kind of artists that people can be close to, whose songs are there for our supporters through all the ups and downs of daily life.

I would like to thank everyone who supported me up until today, especially Takahiro Nishijima from AAA who instilled a dream within me when I was really young. I consider this my last chance and I want to grab it by the neck so that I have no regrets.
I hope that my performances can bring smiles and good spirits to our fans.

I’m not that very good at singing, but now I’ve realized that I want to sing and dance and bring happiness to a lot of people.
I can’t give up after coming this far. I’m going to make it. So I have to give it my all. Every challenge fills me with worry, but I want to try my best and pull through!
I hope to become someone that others can look up to, to give them a dream or a goal, and be what makes them feel good.

I owe so much to a-genic. I feel so much gratitude to the staff and other members.
After thinking long and hard, I’ve decided that this is a team that I can put my life on the line for.
I want to be an artist that offers fans something other than the mundane, someone that can invigorate people when they’re board, that can make people dream.

I have everything riding on this.
I want to shine. I’ve gathered everything I have learned up until now and hope to put all of my hidden potential into this project, and I am determined to help make this team shine.
I think a chance comes to anyone who seriously plans to start something and I hope I can be that kind of chance for others, to make their day happier and give them power to get by.

I am chancing my whole life on this.
I will make best use of all my experiences and become the vocal pillar of this group. I am confident that I will become an official member no matter what.
We are nothing without our fans, so I will never let that get to my head. I hope to instill them with a lot of feelings through our music. I want to create the kind of music that people live for.

I seriously want to make it in this project.
This is a chance that may never come again and I won’t let it go.
I hope to be an irreplaceable part of our fan’s everyday lives!

The last group I was in broke up.
It kept me awake almost every night and caused trouble for my fans and family members so I won’t let that happen again. There is no second chance with this project.
I want to show our fans that you can make your dreams come true if you work hard. I want to be the kind of artist that artists of the future can look up to.

I was full of both hope and worry at first, but now my strongest feeling is “I’m gonna make it no matter what!”
I’m so happy that I met everyone else through this project. You are the best, the strongest and so important to me. It’s all thanks to a-genic.
As for our fans, I hope to be an artist that stays in people’s memories generations from now.

Avex Management Inc.
Artist Development
Unit reader & General Producer Yusuke Mikami

Avex Entertainment Inc.
Music Label Division
General Manager Junichiro Kawata

Avex Management Inc.
Artist Management, Management 1
General Manager Hidemasa Inamura

Over view

Related Link

a-genic PROJECT YouTube Channel