It's a performer's dream: audiences who idolize them, full houses, high ticket prices, potentially huge record sales.

And for many of the world's hottest musicians, Japan is the best place to be. Whether it's rock, classical or jazz, Japan has become a must stop - often the first stop - for traveling bands.Madonna kicked off her 1990 world tour, "Blond Ambition," with a seven-concert tour of Japan beginning April 13, then went back to the United States and on to Europe.

"The money (in Japan) is certainly a factor," said Liz Rosenberg, a publicist for Warner Bros. Records. "Tour sponsorship in Japan is on a much bigger scale than in other parts of the world. Financially, it's very worthwhile."

Although Rosenberg refused to say how worthwhile, fans paid about $4.5 million to attend Madonna's first three concerts in Tokyo alone. There was no indication how much of that went to Madonna and how much to local organizers.

The singer's flashy show in Tokyo consisted of little more than deafening music and a garishly lighted stage. Still, about 35,000 young fans at an outdoor stadium screamed and cheered under driving rains through shows that lasted for two hours.

Other pop performers who played for Japanese audiences in the first half of 1990 include Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Tracy Chapman, Bobby McFerrin and David Bowie.

Rock stars perform in huge stadiums, packing in tens of thousands, while classical music concerts are much smaller. But while Madonna's top ticket price was about $56, good seats for the Chicago Symphony in Tokyo ran as high as $168 each.

For classical music lovers, the Chicago Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra and the London Symphony, with Leonard Bernstein conducting, have all made recent tours of Japan.

Many of the orchestral world's top batons are enthusiastic about the Japanese music consumer.

St. Louis Symphony Conductor Leonard Slatkin finds Japanese audiences "quiet, polite and appreciative."

"European audiences often take the music for granted. Japanese never do," said Christoph von Dohnanyi, the conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra, which toured Japan for two weeks in May.

Israeli conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim, who has been coming to Japan to perform for 25 years, agrees.

"I'm always struck by the silence with which the Japanese audiences listen to music. It makes me feel the music is not just entertainment, but that there is a deep respect - almost awe - for the music," said Barenboim, musical director-designate of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, in an interview.

"That is something I find inspiring. No other audiences are like this." No other audiences buy rec-ords like the Japanese do either. Henry Fogel, executive director of the Chicago Symphony, says that among the three largest record markets in the world - Europe, the United States and Japan - the orchestra's royalties payments are highest from Japan.

Fees paid to the orchestra by musical presenter Kajimoto Concert Management Co. are about twice what the Chicago Symphony gets when it tours European capitals, but costs are higher in Japan too, says Fogel.