Johnny & Associates, the Japanese talent agency that has been embroiled in a huge sexual abuse scandal, is rebranding itself as Starto Entertainment.
The name is derived from the words ‘star’ and ‘to’ implying “to head toward the future,” the group said on Friday. “It is an expression of our commitment to all our artists current and yet to come, with whom we inaugurate a new era in accordance with their individual talents and personal goals,” the group explained.
Johnny & Associates was for many years the most powerful talent shop in Japan, creating idol groups such as Snow Man, and leveraging its male performers into film and TV roles.
It was brought low by a scandal relating to its founder Johnny Kitagawa who abused young male performers over a period of decades before his death in 2019. While this seems to have been known, but widely ignored by many in the industry, the scale of depravity and cover-up blew up earlier this year following a BBC documentary.
Two subsequent third-party investigations revealed details. And Johnny’s current management was forced to admit the events were factual. It also said that it would set up a compensation fund and investigate claims.
Corporate partners and sponsors, however, fled from the scandal. Some ended their use of Johnny’s talent in commercials. Others, such as state broadcaster NHK, chose not to book Johnny’s talent on its shows.
With a new name, Johnny’s appears to be trying again to put recent events behind it and to be looking forward again.
“Starto is, without any doubt, an entertainment team that represents the pride of Japan. Be it song, dance, or stagecraft, the first-class contents and national treasures of Japan have left an indelible mark around the world and mandate continued effort to meet the appropriately high expectations of their passionate fans,” it said.
Additionally, it set out three addition undertakings: greater digitization, including the establishment of a proprietary music streaming platform; increased global openness and overseas outreach; and “metaverse market entry”: extending artists’ talents with state-of-the-art technology.
“We will fervently apply ourselves toward a just, upright, bright, and international future for a new entertainment landscape,” it added.