BEMANI Sound Team
On November 1st, 2017, KONAMI started branding all of its in-house musicians' BEMANI contributions with the moniker of BEMANI Sound Team. But why did KONAMI do this after over 20 years of not doing so? Well, let's look back a little earlier in time and find out why.
Rewinding back to 2015
In 2013, Hideo Kojima announced that he was beginning work on Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, and was planning to leave KONAMI after completing the project. While he had made this claim on multiple occasions in the past, he seemed more serious about it this time. In response, KONAMI removed all references to his names in promotional materials for the game, including posters, and started hiring new staff to work on new projects.
Earlier on in 2015, KONAMI announced that it would be restructuring its video game department, and with that change came backlash from internally within. One anonymous employee told GameSpot here that KONAMI had restricted access to corporate internet, emails, and phone calls. They also stated that senior staff at the studio, including Hideo Kojima himself, were now essentially working as contractors, and not permanent employees.
Later that year, KONAMI announced a new Metal Gear twitter account, removing any reference to series' creator Hideo Kojima. During The Game Awards 2015 show, Kojima Productions was nominated for (and won) Developer of the Year. However, Kojima was reportedly blocked from attending the event by KONAMI's lawyers. As a result, voice actor Kiefer Sutherland had to accept awards for The Phantom Pain on his behalf.
In December 2015, after months of speculation and rumors, Hideo Kojima officially left KONAMI. But this was far from the last time KONAMI and its employees would clash, and it's speculated that KONAMI's clash with Kojima was the genesis of what was to follow in BEMANI two years later.
Fast-forward to 2017
In early 2017, out of the blue, KONAMI suddenly removed all of its BEMANI artist names from the BEMANI Fan Site artist page, with the sole exception of top beatmania IIDX player DOLCE.. At the time, this wasn't really noticed by the BEMANI community, but later that year the first cracks began to show.
Goodbye, live BEMANI appearances
Episode 173 of the BEMANI Namahousou (kari) (BEMANI生放送(仮)) stream show, which used to feature in-house staff talking about the latest upcoming news in BEMANI, was the final one to feature in-house staff, as well as its original host, on-screen. Following this episode, which aired on April 19th, 2017, the next few episodes afterwards featured the camera near exclusively pointed to a table with black cloth, with a card for BEMANI生放送(仮) and its bunny mascot visible; any announcers would only be heard talking off-screen. Only outside artists, like Yuki Nakashima or MAD CHILD, or top players like DOLCE., appeared in-person afterwards. Following the last numbered episode in the series - episode 178 - the show went on a month long hiatus. When the show resumed, Nakashima took over hosting duties, with a rotating set of guest hosts outside of KONAMI tied to BEMANI appearing, most notably MAD CHILD. No in-house BEMANI staff have appeared on the show since Nakashima took over hosting duties.
Uncredited song contest
In 2017, KONAMI announced a contest in SOUND VOLTEX IV HEAVENLY HAVEN for vocalists titled Continuing the Seniors! The Second Vocalist Contest (先輩に続け！第2回ボーカリストコンテスト) whose details can be found here. The website cryptically hinted at having "sound professionals" working on the songs without mentioning any of the artist names.
The infamous moniker came when the songs later debuted in the game on October 13th, 2017.
Enter BEMANI Sound Team
Only the vocalists were credited on the jackets and in-game for the Continuing the Seniors! The Second Vocalist Contest songs. To this day KONAMI has not officially revealed any of the musicians for the songs; it wasn't until HDD ripping months later that any artists were confirmed. The SOUND VOLTEX website however, makes the first known mention of an entity simply known as BEMANI Sound Team, crediting the contest songs to them.
On November 2nd, 2017, three new songs were added to pop'n music うさぎと猫と少年の夢. Monkshood was done by a commission artist, while two others - Dance to Blue (Respect Style) and Mychronicle - were credited to BEMANI Sound Team. GERBERA, a SOUND VOLTEX song added for the Dai yon kai Tenkaichi otogesai (第四回天下一音ゲ祭) event, also had its artist name - TAG - removed and replaced with simply BEMANI Sound Team on the official website, with only its song name listed on the final jacket. KONAMI wouldn't credit the artists for these songs until late into December, now listed as BEMANI Sound Team (artist name). KONAMI even went so far as to censor the jackets of songs even before the BEMANI Sound Team change on BEMANI Fan Site CHECK!SONGS Monthly Ranking lists, as seen here.
Why the moniker?
KONAMI themselves have never given any official word for the BST branding, but at least two reasons for the change have been speculated:
- In late 2016/early 2017, KONAMI started shuffling around its executives in the company, as can be seen on their press releases on their official website here and here. It has been widely suggested that the new staff have wanted to focus more on the mobile division and less on arcades, and in order to have their in-house musicians stand out more, they created the label of BEMANI Sound Team to distinguish them from commission artists like Ryu☆ or kors k.
- KONAMI merged with a pachinko company rumored to have very strict policies on public appearances of its personnel and staff. In an attempt to dumb down appearances, the BEMANI Sound Team moniker was added, to the point where their names aren't even listed in the rare live events the in-house BEMANI staff participate in now.
- According to KONAMI's 48th annual general meeting of shareholders, the reduced public appearances of BEMANI artists was made so "they can focus on making content"  (link down).
Effects on BEMANI as a whole
The resulting effects of the BST branding were more than a simple artist name change. Here is just a few of the known changes the name change resulted in:
- Otoca♥d'or (オトカ♥ドール), an arcade card game that was regularly updated since its debut in March 2015 and featured BEMANI artist Seiya Murai doing its soundtrack, ceased music updates completely after July 2017.
- BEMANI artist Akhuta's interview page was taken off of the KONAMI employee interview page. His was the only one on the page that was from an in-house BEMANI musician.
- Initially, in-house artists were not credited in live shows, only referred to as BEMANI Sound Team in scheduled listings.
- At The 8th KONAMI Arcade Championship, all in-house BEMANI staff appearances in the event's live show on the final day were either blurred out by cameras, or covered over by gameplay footage from other BEMANI titles during their performances. Artists also addressed themselves as "BEMANI Sound Team" aloud and wore grey shirts with the words "BEMANI Sound Team" written on them.
- Furthermore, the BEMANI SPECIAL LIVE segment after The 9th KONAMI Arcade Championship in JAEPO 2020 was not broadcasted online. Taking photographs during the LIVE segment was prohibited.
- The live sets on the BEMANI PRO LEAGUE 2021 and 2022 credited each artist as BEMANI Sound Team "artist", with all in-house BEMANI artist appearances uncensored (BEMANI staff are still blurred out).
- Song pack releases for jubeat plus and REFLEC BEAT plus stopped completely after November 2017.
- BEMANI artist albums published by KONAMI have ceased completely; the only albums published by KONAMI since the change that are vaguely BEMANI related either involve HinaBitter♪ or Tokimeki Idol (ときめきアイドル), as both are Konami Digital Entertainment franchises (BEMANI games are by Konami Amusement instead).
- BEMANI game OST production has also slowed down significantly.
- BEMANI game OSTs no longer list staff credits.
- The DJ YOSHITAKA Song Remix Contest, announced near the end of SOUND VOLTEX III GRAVITY WARS on October 19th, 2016, was cancelled. The only remix contest in SOUND VOLTEX IV HEAVENLY HAVEN was for commission artist Ryu☆'s launch of his Ryu☆BEST -STARLiGHT- album.
- Song comments on new songs in DanceDanceRevolution A and pop'n music うさぎと猫と少年の夢 stopped after early fall 2017.
- All future DanceDanceRevolution games and pop'n music games' pages from A20 and peace respectively don't have pages for music and/or characters at all.
- Only two new characters have been made for pop'n music since summer 2017; Estel for うさぎと猫と少年の夢, and Nornir for peace.
- With the exceptions of Nyami and Mimi, virtually none of the old pop'n music characters have received new sprites since September 2017.
- Unlike HinaBitter♪, the BandMeshi♪ cast also have no unique sprites in pop'n music; instead, old rival characters are used in their place.
- In-house designers on the beatmania IIDX 25 CANNON BALLERS website were exclusively credited to BEMANI Designers in Video Production Information.
- Be a Hero!, Catch Our Fire!, and all of the BEMANI SUMMER GREETINGS songs didn't list their jacket artists at all. In the latter's case, composer credits are also not listed.
- From beatmania IIDX 26 Rootage onward, in-house designers on the song pages are credited much like the in-house composers, as BEMANI Designers "artist" (SOUND VOLTEX does not put BST credits on songs).
- The 10th anniversary event of jubeat in jubeat clan, clan kakumichi original characters & songs (clan各街オリジナルキャラクター＆楽曲), exclusively involved commission artists, and all of the jackets for the event were commissioned as well.
- The commissioned jacket trend has continued into jubeat festo.
- The ENCORE/PREMIUM ENCORE STAGE songs from GITADORA EXCHAIN onward don't have unique videos, the first ones that don't since the first two ENCORE STAGE songs in GITADORA.
- On October 1st, 2018, KONAMI removed virtually all pre-2011 BEMANI pages from their website. They now link to their Japanese game page instead. The following game sites were removed (not including old BEMANI pages previously removed):
- All arcade beatmania pages, all beatmania IIDX arcade pages prior to beatmania IIDX 19 Lincle, all CS beatmania IIDX pages after 6th style CS, all core DanceDanceRevolution arcade pages prior to DanceDanceRevolution X3 VS 2ndMIX (and the Solo games' pages), all GuitarFreaks & DrumMania arcade pages prior to GITADORA Tri-Boost, all jubeat arcade pages prior to jubeat saucer fulfill (as well as jubeat plus), all pop'n music arcade pages prior to pop'n music ラピストリア (as well as the CS games and pop'n stage), and all REFLEC BEAT arcade pages prior to REFLEC BEAT colette (and REFLEC BEAT plus).
- In the place of the above removed pages, KONAMI has instead placed little one-page websites for their older BEMANI games instead with very basic information and a few screenshots, which can be viewed here. All references to any in-house BEMANI staff have been removed from these little pages.
- KONAMI later announced that the website removals were due to a restructure of their gaming portal websites, as noted on their twitter here. However, since late 2018/early 2019, most old BEMANI games' links have been "fixed" by redirecting them to the newer, simpler pages, confirming that these old BEMANI game pages were indeed replaced with these new ones.
- Curiously, the beatnation records website was not taken down.
- The track listing for Mayumi Morinaga's compilation album All that is. Is that all? removes the artist listings for both In The Breeze and XANADU OF TWO, due to them being composed by in-house BEMANI artists. They only credit Morinaga now.
- For the KONAMI 50th Anniversary Memorial Songs, all the songs were done by in-house artists under the generic BEMANI Sound Team moniker, uncredited until the pop'n music peace Original Soundtrack album.
- At the location test of the cancelled BEMANI game 彩響DJアニクラゲ, none of the in-house anime remixes were properly credited (instead under aliases/character names), and wouldn't be until the songs were added to other BEMANI titles.