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Shunsuke Muramatsu, CEO of Sony Music Entertainment (Japan), on the CD’s continued dominance in the market, and how anime acts as a gateway to Japanese music worldwide

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MBW’s World Leaders is an everyday sequence by which we flip the highlight towards a few of the most influential trade figures overseeing key worldwide markets. On this function, we converse to Shunsuke Muramatsu, CEO of Sony Music Leisure (Japan). World Leaders is supported by PPL.


Shunsuke Muramatsu didn’t desire a job that required him to put on a swimsuit after he graduated.

So he landed a job within the music enterprise in eighties Tokyo at CBS/Sony Group Inc. – identified right this moment as Sony Music Leisure (Japan), the place he now serves as CEO.

“I’ve at all times favored leisure,” says Mr. Muramatsu, when requested to mirror on his lengthy profession on the firm and in Japan’s file enterprise, the world’s second-largest after the US.

SMEJ, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Japan-headquartered know-how and leisure big Sony Group Company, was initially based as CBS Sony Information in Tokyo in 1968 as a JV between Sony Group Company and Columbia Broadcasting System Inc. (CBS Inc.).

Though SMEJ contributes to the general Sony Group Corp music division, it’s run individually from Sony Music Leisure – headed up by CEO and Sony Music Group Chairman Rob Stringer in New York.

SMEJ’s personal historical past is deeply intertwined with Japan’s bodily music enterprise. Its predecessor CBS Sony Information began manufacturing data (Simon & Garfunkel’s The Graduate Official Soundtrack was the primary) and began making cassette tapes that very same 12 months.

By 1982, after the compact disc had been co-developed by Sony and Phillips within the late seventies, CBS Sony Information began manufacturing CDs and launched the first-ever industrial CD in Japan: Billy Joel’s 52nd Avenue, in October of that 12 months.

Remarkably, despite music streaming’s international development and dominance in most mature markets, greater than 40 years after SMEJ first began manufacturing CDs, the format nonetheless reigns supreme within the Japanese market, and SMEJ nonetheless manufactures them.

“We imagine bodily CDs and different disc merchandise are full of all kinds of creativity, from the aesthetics to packaging specs and bonus options,” says Muramatsu.

“The bodily merchandise are an embodiment of what’s within the artists’ minds, the concepts and issues that they care about, and as such will maintain worth to the customers and followers.”

“Bodily merchandise are an embodiment of what’s within the artists’ minds, the concepts and issues that they care about, and as such will maintain worth to the customers and followers.”

As Muramatsu explains in our interview under, whereas he doesn’t see bodily music’s worth in Japan dropping its dominant place any time quickly, he’s additionally hopeful about music streaming’s development and coexistence with the enduring recognition of CDs.

SMEJ itself was formally born in 1991 after Sony Company acquired all of the inventory beforehand owned by CBS Inc in 1988, and consolidated 4 corporations, CBS Sony Inc., Epic Sony Inc., CBS Sony Information Inc., and Sony Video Software program Worldwide, underneath the SMEJ banner.

At present, SMEJ is cut up into three enterprise models: the Artist & Music Enterprise Group, the Visible & Character Enterprise Group and Leisure Answer Enterprise Group.

Muramatsu explains that the three enterprise teams, “will not be unbiased however fairly work collectively organically, efficiently making a wholesome number of completely different IPs and options, additionally providing customers an assortment of strategies to benefit from the varied IPs”.


Reflecting on his personal timeline in music, Muramatsu explains that after becoming a member of CBS, he went on to work in gross sales, promotions, and as a producer within the A&R division on the music firm.

He was then appointed as a regional promotion supervisor in 1999, and says it was on this position that he “realized the significance of placing collectively an excellent crew,” which was “a significant turning level” for him in his skilled profession.

By 2001, on the age of 39, Muramatsu says he was catapulted into the management place on the firm’s file label division Sony Music Information (now Sony Music Labels), which, he explains, was on the time, “dropping cash regardless of having the longest historical past inside SMEJ”.

He managed to show the label round, with the subsequent turning level in his profession arriving when Sony Music Information signed Japanese rock band ORANGE RANGE to its gr8! Information imprint in 2003.



Their second single by way of the label, Shanghai Honey, peaked at No. 5 on Japan’s Oricon charts. Their first full-length album, 1st CONTACT, debuted at No.2 in Japan.

“Once we signed ORANGE RANGE, I believed to myself, ‘If this band doesn’t make a break, I’ll stop’,” remembers Muramatsu. “It really grew to attain gross sales of just about 3 million models.”

“Once we signed ORANGE RANGE, I believed to myself, ‘If this band doesn’t make a break, I’ll stop’. It really grew to attain gross sales of just about 3 million models.”

Shunsuke Muramatsu

He provides: “Whether or not or not it’s the artists or employees, I’ve at all times discovered the individuals fascinating and as I continued to work on turning round labels which had been struggling. I really feel like that is the explanation that now we have been capable of make stars from many artists who stay lively right this moment.”

Along with the corporate’s music operations, SMEJ is a powerhouse in visible leisure throughout varied anime tasks and video games, with its Visible & Character Enterprise Group housing anime big Aniplex.

As Muramatsu notes in our dialog under, SMEJ is turning into more and more involved in how the worldwide recognition of anime can function a gateway for Japanese artists to succeed in wider audiences around the globe.

With this in thoughts, simply final month, SMEJ teamed up with US-based (and Sony Group-owned) anime streaming platform Crunchyroll to license its music content material outdoors of Japan on Crunchyroll’s new music and content material hub.

Different bold non-traditional music actions from SMEJ embrace main digital expertise tasks – one in every of which, VEE, is described on the website as “the biggest digital expertise growth and administration challenge in historical past”.

SMEJ additionally launched a world expertise audition final 12 months for real-life creators to work as digital characters by way of the Tokyo-based ‘PRISM Mission’. On PRISM Mission’s web site, it’s referred to as “a multinational VTuber agency from the future”.

Trying on the wider Japanese market, Muramatsu is assured about SMEJ’s positioning and future in it.

“The spectrum of on-line and offline options we provide makes us an all-around and distinctive leisure firm and offers us a particular character that we share with no different firm within the Japanese leisure market,” he says.

Right here, in an unique interview with MBW, Sony Music Leisure (Japan) CEO Shunsuke Muramatsu shares his ideas on digital expertise, TikTok, SMEJ’s positioning in Japan, and the distinctive challenges Japan faces because the world’s second-largest recorded music market…


What differentiates Sony Music Leisure Japan from different gamers available in the market?

SMEJ is the successor to CBS/Sony Information, based in 1968 as a three way partnership between what was then Sony Company and CBS Inc., and as such it has the longest historical past of all of the leisure companies throughout the Sony Group.

After all, there’s the music enterprise, which now we have been engaged in because the firm was based, and we now have a wide range of companies together with anime comparable to “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba” and “Sword Art Online,” cellular video games led by “Fate/Grand Order,” character license enterprise domestically representing franchises for Peanuts and Sesame Street amongst others, manufacturing and distribution of discs and media comparable to CDs, Blu-ray, and vinyl, logistics of business merchandise, administration of reside live performance venues, reside streaming of on-line live shows and occasions, in addition to managing and internet hosting fan golf equipment.

The spectrum of on-line and offline options we provide makes us an all-around and distinctive leisure firm and offers us a particular character that we share with no different firm within the Japanese leisure market.

As well as, being a part of Sony Group provides us invaluable entry to different companies throughout the group together with the most recent know-how and distinctive options, and we are able to hopefully proceed to develop as an organization that generates emotional experiences using a mix of know-how and leisure.


 Are you able to inform us about a few of the artistic or enterprise developments that you’re seeing in Japan at the moment that we must always find out about?

A music pattern presumably distinctive to Japan with potential outdoors of the nation stands out as the Vocaloid tradition. Music manufacturing utilizing Vocaloids began within the early 2000s, including the participation of illustrators and animators, and extra just lately precise singers posting cowl variations on the web, with no Vocaloids. Every on this trinity performs an important half on this distinctive technique of music manufacturing, and depends closely on what we name neighborhood DIY, or the position of the neighborhood and ecosystem in creating the music.

Japanese anime has garnered a worldwide following and Japan’s 2D (two-dimensional) leisure has a promising international future. The most recent developments in Vocaloid music have seen a lot selection and diversification, with an emergence of creators with international potential. In 2021, SMEJ opened a Net-based platform known as “MECRE” for creators to work together, now over 7,000 using the DIY neighborhood.

Numerous corporations function underneath the Sony Music Leisure Japan holding firm, together with Sony Music Labels, and Sony Music Artists. It appears like all the businesses are cut up into three teams: Artist & Music Enterprise Group, Visible & Character Enterprise Group, Leisure Answer Enterprise Group. Are you able to inform us in regards to the holding firm’s company construction and wider technique?

SMEJ serves as headquarters for about 20 group corporations together with subsidiaries, and carries out administration and administrative operations for the group, discovering, growing, and offering help to artists, abilities, and creators, in addition to aiding with creating new companies.

The 20 group corporations are cut up into three enterprise teams, “Artist & Music,” “Visible & Character,” and “Leisure Answer,” cooperating as essential to develop the worth and enchantment for IPs derived from the artistic work generated with artists and creators.


Sony Music Leisure Japan’s Sony Music Options enterprise unit operates throughout manufacturing and packaging, logistics and merchandise. How necessary is it for Sony Music to have entry to such options in a market the place bodily music, and particularly, the CD remains to be a dominant format?

In a market the place CDs nonetheless carry substantial weight, with the ability to take initiative within the manufacturing course of permits us to accommodate the creativity of artists and file labels, which generally is a appreciable benefit.

There could certainly be occasions when assembly the precise wants of the artist is probably not environment friendly or simple, however placing the artist first, accommodating their requests, will attain the followers’ hearts and in the end mirror positively on and contribute to the enterprise.

I dare say this will even be the explanation the bodily product market continues in Japan.


Talking of the dominance of bodily music available in the market – in line with the Recording Business Affiliation of Japan, 34.2% of Japan’s recorded music revenues got here from digital sources comparable to streaming in 2022. What are your predictions for the approaching years when it comes to bodily music versus digital music consumption in Japan?

In Japan’s recorded music market, the share of bodily music in 2022 was 65.8%, with the manufacturing for bodily merchandise growing. Video merchandise had been driving the end result, with reside occasions having been held at restricted capability attributable to COVID-19 precautions, which has now been absolutely lifted.

Though I do suppose that is seemingly a short lived phenomenon, I don’t imagine that the bodily market will all of the sudden disappear as now we have seen in another international locations.

“Followers in Japan are significantly loyal to every artist, and plenty of even have a collector’s mindset, making them a fan of the bodily product.”

The explanation for that is that followers in Japan are significantly loyal to every artist, and plenty of even have a collector’s mindset, making them a fan of the bodily product.

As for digital, streaming continues to indicate regular development, with cumulative development at 125% between January and December 2022. Compared to the per capita of nations which are leaders in streaming, we need to attain round 30 million paid subscribers in Japan.


What’s the greatest problem within the music enterprise in Japan at the moment?

That may be globalization. There are individuals outdoors of Japan who like Japanese music from the Nineteen Eighties, and “metropolis pop” is now a style that’s being sampled globally. Time has handed since then, and there was a shift to a digital and borderless world, and earlier than we knew it the Japanese music market had grow to be what we name a Galapagosized, or antiquated ecosystem. Fixing this predicament, actually on the person artist stage but additionally for J-Pop in its entirety could be our greatest problem.

In 2022, there was a reside occasion in Saudi Arabia with performances by artists from SACRA MUSIC, the SMEJ label for individuals who are extending the vary of their actions not solely in Japan but additionally abroad. And YOASOBI, an artist whose work suits effectively with 2D media, additionally had their first efficiency for a pageant in Jakarta, the place the viewers was singing alongside the Japanese lyrics with the artist.

“Japanese anime is serving as an necessary gateway to introducing Japanese music.”

Considering phenomena like this, I’ve to imagine {that a} essential step for additional selling international growth will definitely be figuring out the international locations and areas with the upper potential for it to take off.

One other level is that most of the tracks with listeners outdoors of Japan are in a roundabout way linked to anime, and Japanese anime is serving as an necessary gateway to introducing Japanese music and additional on the chance for hits. On 4 March 2023, SMEJ began offering video content material to Crunchyroll primarily for artists who’ve repertoire related to anime.

Primarily based within the U.S., Crunchyroll has been a part of Sony Group since 2021, and is likely one of the largest anime streaming providers on this planet. Crunchyroll is optimistic and wanting to tackle this initiative, prepared with product growth and advertising plans to assist SMEJ artists attain a wider viewers around the globe.


We just lately reported on Sony Music Leisure Japan’s work within the digital expertise area. How massive do you are expecting this sector will get within the coming years?

A number of years in the past, I actually couldn’t have predicted that VTubers would develop to be so important within the leisure realm, and equally, there isn’t a solution to know the way a lot greater it is going to grow to be over the subsequent few years.

Nevertheless, I’m satisfied that it’s going to grow to be a lot greater. Japan at the moment counts over 20,000 VTubers, and our “VEE” VTuber challenge auditions in 2021 acquired over 18,000 entries on the time. Though there are numerous who aspire to be VTubers, in actuality, it appears there are nonetheless many obstacles that don’t make it a straightforward path nor accessible to everybody.

If ongoing advances in know-how assist resolve the problems, turning into a VTuber will probably be doable for extra individuals, leading to a bigger market. It additionally seems like a sort of leisure that may work effectively with different current developments just like the metaverse and Net 3.0, and with alternatives to additional attain international locations around the globe past Japan and North America, it holds extraordinary potential.


TikTok’s position within the music trade has developed quickly over the previous few years. What do you concentrate on TikTok’s rise, and its relationship with the music enterprise?

TikTok has an important position in creating the present hit tracks in Japan, whether or not or not it’s the event of recent expertise or catalogue repertoire. For streaming hits particularly, most of the new artists who all of the sudden seem within the charts initially went viral on TikTok.

“TikTok has an important position in creating the present hit tracks in Japan.”

Alternatively, because the nature of the platform is for customers to undergo huge quantities of content material instantaneously, an artist with one hit could not essentially have a follow-up hit, even utilizing the once-successful technique.


What are your hopes for what the broader social media area will carry to the desk for the music enterprise in years to come back?

As we transition to the Net 3.0 period, the give attention to hits originating from people pursuing a social media presence in addition to special-interest communities will enhance. This implies understanding the persona and analytics of the viewers on social media turns into a key half within the breaking hit of an artist or monitor.

Along with honing their social media presence, communication from the artists themselves turns into a essential piece within the course of, and so the file firm additionally wants up to date literacy within the efficient use of social media together with precautions and methods to deal with negatively viral conditions.


 If there was one factor you may change in regards to the music enterprise, what would it not be and why?

Taking a look at what sorts of leisure noticed elevated demand and never through the COVID-19 pandemic, video games and video content material grew dramatically whereas music solely met truthful expectations. With varied sorts of leisure competing for the customers’ discretionary time, I’m involved that the variety of hours dedicated to music has not elevated as a lot.

I’ve at all times believed in music as an incredible supporting position in our lives. Again when music was at all times there as a part of the necessary web page in our lives, it meant that listening to a tune may carry you again recollections of these particular moments.

If there was one factor I might change, now that all of us have music at our fingertips, I as soon as once more need music to be absolutely built-in into our lives and make frequent appearances because the wonderful supporting position of life.


World Leaders is supported by PPL, a leading international neighbouring rights collector, with best-in-class operations that help performers and recording rightsholders around the world maximise their royalties. Founded in 1934, PPL collects money from across Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North and South America. It has collected over £500 million internationally for its members since 2006.Music Enterprise Worldwide



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