In 2014, the production value of physical and digital music sales decreased 5% to ca.2,5 billion USD, according to a RIAJ (Recording Industry Association of Japan) 2015 report. The value of vinyl production increased by 66% in 2014, although the total amount of units sold remains small (ca. 400,000 units).
Arguably, one of the main reasons Japan still retains a relatively strong recorded music market is a result of the 2012 Copyright Act that enacted penalties including imprisonment and fines for illegal downloading, uploading and even viewing of copyrighted material.
According to the Oricon 2014 music market report, J-Pop (Japanese pop) is the country’s most popular genre, accounting for 73.2% of total music sales (http://www.musicman.net.com/business/43498.html). Of the remainder, Anime soundtrack account for 9.7%, international music (known as YOGAKU) 8.4%, Jazz and Classical 4.6% and Enka (Japanese traditional/country music) 4.1% of total sales.
When looking at 2014, Japanese music accounted for 84% of all music sales compared to 16% for international artists. Because of cultural reasons – including language barriers – and the fact that international artists seldom perform in Japan, it can be challenging for international artists to connect with Japanese fans.
Record Labels, Licensing and Distribution
Universal Music LLC
Warner Music Japan Inc.
Avex Entertainment Inc /Avex Marketing Inc.
JVC Kenwood Victor Entertainment Corp.
King Record Co.,Ltd.
Teichiku Eertainment, Inc.
Sony Music Entertainment (Japan), Inc.
Hats Unlimited Co. Ltd.
Naxos Japan, Inc.
Spiritual Beast Co. Ltd.
Ward Records, Inc.
Nippon Columbia Co. Ltd.
Pony Canyon Inc.
Yamaha Music Communications Co. Ltd.
Yoshimoto R and Co. Ltd.
NBC Universal Entertainment Japan LLC.
Konami Digital Entertainment Co., Ltd.
Space Shower Networks Inc.
Rambling Records Inc.
Wave Master inc./Billion
Wowow Entertainment, Inc.
King International Inc.
Japan Publications, Inc.
Village Again Association Co. Ltd.
Crown Tokuma Music Distribution Co. Ltd.
Japan’s major music publishing companies are mostly owned or partly owned by media companies (eg TV networks, radio stations, newspaper publishers, film and TV production companies), as well as major marketing agencies, artist management companies and record labels.
Most publishing companies and broadcasting media companies have umbrella agreements with JASRAC (the Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers, and Publishers), the collective management organisation administering music copyrights and collection of royalties in Japan.
The music-related publishers listed below are the ones that have their own international department.
Avex Music Publishing Inc.
Bad News Music Publishing Co. Inc.
EMI Music Publishing Japan Ltd.
Fujipacific Music Inc.
Lastrum Music Entertainment Inc.
Mr. Music, Inc.
Nippon Television Music Corporation
Seven Seas Music Co. Ltd.
Shinko Music Entertainment Co. Ltd.
Sony Music Artists Inc.
Sony Music Publishing (Japan) Inc.
Taiyo Music, Inc.
Teichiku Music, Inc.
Toy’s Factory Music
TV Asahi Music Co. Ltd.
TV Tokyo Music, Inc.
Universal Music Publishing LLC.
Victor Music Arts, Inc.
Warner/Chappell Music, Japan K.K.
Watanabe Music Publishing Co. Ltd.
Yamaha Music Publishing, Inc.
Zen-On Music Company Ltd.
Being the world leader in physical sales, Japan still has a large number of music retail chains and stores. Despite online retail sites such as Amazon and sites run by major retail chains (eg Tower Records, HMV, Tsutaya), physical retail stores remain popular for purchasing music and related merchandise.
In-store promotion sponsored by record labels is a useful promotional tool in Japan. Radio promotions tend to be less effective as most people commute by public transportation, rather than listen to the radio in their cars.
In most music stores, customers have the option to listen to entire albums before purchase, while in-store events with artist signings, live performances and talks are also common. Music store staff are generally well informed about their field, which contributes to a healthy retail culture.
Retail Stores and Chains
In 2014, the value of digital music sales increased 5% to USD $360 million, which marked the first year-on-year increase in five years since 2009 (RIAJ 2015).
Digital music sales in Japan include large volumes of ringtone downloads directly to mobile phones. Ringtones are popular especially among minors and others who want to be saved the trouble of registration, as such services are charged directly to the phone bill. However, this somewhat prevents other music downloading services such as Apple’s iTunes Store and Amazon from gaining users.
In 2015, several new music streaming services officially launched in Japan:
- AWA, owned by Cyber Agent and Avex Digital – a digital company under a Japanese major label
- Line Music – owned by Asia’s largest SNS message application company LINE
- Apple Music – by Apple
Since all these services have a three-month free trial period, it is currently hard to estimate what their adoption rate will be. Other streaming services like Pandora, Spotify, Amazon Prime Music and Google Play Music are not yet available in Japan.
Although Spotify opened a Japanese office in 2013, the company has not been able to effectively launch its service due to slow negotiations with the Japanese labels. Tidal is not available in Japan.
The launch of major streaming services marks a big change in the Japanese music industry. However, a lot of negotiations remain before the services can provide an artist and song selection similar to that found in Europe and North America.
Key subscription services
There are over 70 promoters and booking agencies in Japan, as well as venue-based booking such as Billboard Live (Tokyo, Osaka), Club Citta and Blue Note Japan.
Major promoters and booking agencies for international artists include:
UDO Artists, Inc.
HIP Hayashi International Promotion
Venue & Booking
Blue Note Tokyo
Management and PR
Artist management companies in Japan tend to discover and develop artists rather than sign them when they are already established. They mostly handle everything from artist management to PR for the artist, as well as overseeing their label work.
It is rare for an international artist to sign with Japanese management, mostly due to the language differences and the long travelling distances. If/when this does happen (or if their domestic management company establishes a Japanese office), then they may be categorised as a “domestic artist” and required to create music according to what the label and management see as “suitable” for the Japanese market (J-Pop).
Hiring independent PR is rare. Almost all labels and management companies in Japan handle PR in-house, except for a small number of indie labels and management companies.
Media, print and online
There are few music programmes on national TV, and most networks prefer to show domestic or global artists.
Most music programs and channels are available on-demand with satellite TV, cable and online. MTV, Space Shower TV and other music channels play international music. However, K-Pop remains more popular than other international genres. Most international music performances and music videos are available through the same networks.
There are six public TV networks in Japan:
NHK (Japanese Broadcasting Corporation) Public broadcaster
NNN (Nippon News Network) & NNS (Nippon Television Network Systems)
JNN( Japan News Network)
FNN (Fuji News Network) & FNS (Fuji Network Systems)
ANN (Ann-Nippon News Network)
TXN (TV Tokyo Network/TX Network)
A public network TV program that often features international music is Sukkiri (Nippon TV)
Satellite and Cable TV
Space shower TV
Music ON! TV
FM radio stations in Japan are not specialised in any specific genre and are considered to be “all-genres” including “talk”. AM stations in Japan tend to be all talk and/or infomercial.
The FM stations still host signature radio programs with specific musical profiles. A morning show on one radio station may feature all J-Pop music, an afternoon show on the same station may feature all international rock and pop, and a Sunday morning show may feature all Hawaiian music, e.g.
For radio promotion it is essential to get a song chosen for “heavy rotation”. Since all public radio stations are connected through umbrella networks, most stations tend to play similar music and choose the same song for their power play. However, the importance of radio as a promotional platform has decreased during recent years, due to the popularity of YouTube, SoundCloud and other digital platforms. There is also an increased focus on talk shows rather than music shows.
Megalopolis Radio Network
Independent FM stations
Japan Radio Network
National Radio Network
NHK (Japanese Broadcasting Corporation)
Music Websites and Online
Many Japanese print publications have been discontinued or converted into online-only magazines over the past five years.
Those online magazines specialising in music and entertainment mainly feature artist interviews and reviews, as well as gossip. Most subscribers and viewers are music fans since several magazines require special apps and the commitment of monthly subscriptions. As elsewhere, light users often prefer social networking sites and social media with free and easy access.
BARKS (the biggest music news website in Japanese)
(In English – Japanese artists only)
Musicman (music business website)
Music Magazine / Record Collectors
The number of Twitter users continues to increase in Japan. In 2014 the service had 19.8 million users, of which 60% were active. Facebook had around 24 million users, of which 53% were active. Increasingly, internet users use social media to search for information online although many still depend upon TV, radio and traditional media sources.
YouTube has become one of the major online sources for music and entertainment with ca. 50 million active viewers. Of these, 37 million Japanese viewers watch YouTube on their smartphones.
Music Industry Organisations
MPA (Music Publishers Association of Japan)
JASRAC （Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers)
RIAJ （Recording Industry Association of Japan)
JAME （Japan Association of Music Enterprises)
FMPJ （the Federation of Music Producers Japan)
PROMIC （Foundation for Promotion of Music Industry and Culture）
ACPC (All Japan Concert & Live Entertainment Promoters Conference)
Industry Networking Events
Hokuo Music Fest, Tokyo, November
Writing music for Japan
On Nov 7th 2016 Export Music Sweden invited the Swedish music industry to a seminar about the Japanese music market focusing on songwriters and how to break in to the market.