Several Canadian acts have signed deals with Japanese labels or are set to perform in Japan as a result of the Canadian Independent Music Association (CIMA)’s trade mission to Tokyo and Canadian Music Week (CMW)’s Spotlight on Japan.
Singer/songwriter Maylee Todd, who performs at Billboard Live Tokyo on June 22
Singer/songwriter Ron Sexsmith, who is performing at the Fuji Rock festival on July 26
“Mediterranean”-style guitarist Pavlo, who’s signing with King Records and set to play Tokyo’s Cotton Club Aug. 31
Crooner Matt Dusk, who’s due to perform at this year’s Tokyo Jazz Festival, which takes place Sept. 6-8
Female rock trio Hunter Valentine, who will play at the Summer Sonic festival in Tokyo on Aug. 11
There are also rumors that Toronto-based power-pop band Courage My Love may strike a Japanese label deal.
On the other hand, it seems to be harder for Japanese acts to break into Canada. Trumpeter Chihiro Yamazaki scored a booking for the Toronto Jazz Festival following her performance with the Route 14 Band at the CMW Japan showcase on March 20. Sebastian Mair, head of Tokyo-based consulting company Music Solutions, says many CMW delegates expressed interest in Japanese female rock act Baby Metal.
CIMA’s November trade mission to Tokyo featured a showcase of Canadian acts hoping to break into the Japanese market. And this year’s edition of CMW, held in Toronto March 19-23, included a Spotlight on Japan. It comprised a showcase of eight up-and-coming Japanese acts, a networking session aimed at developing Canada-Japan industry contacts and a panel session that discussed the current state of the Japanese market.
“To me, both parts of the mission (CIMA and CMW) were very successful,” says Canadian Music Week President Neill Dixon, who also took part in the November CIMA jaunt to Japan. “The CIMA Canadian Blast showcase was a big hit. Our objectives were met in Tokyo, and results from our incoming guests (at CMW in Toronto) have been nothing but positive.”
Dixon and CIMA President Stuart Johnston have worked hard for many years to help Canadian acts get better exposure in Japan. Also playing a key role in developing ties between the Canadian and Japanese music industries is Laurie Peters, the tireless and effervescent head of public affairs at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo. Their collective efforts represent a very Canadian example of cooperation between government and the private sector.
Aya Ohi, general manager, international repertoire, at Victor Entertainment, says Canadian acts are right to focus on Japan.
“For Canadian artists wishing to make it in Japan, there is great potential given the wealth of talent that is available from Canada, she says. “I believe Canada has been more open historically to doing territory-by-territory deals which helps labels such as ourselves that are always in search of new artists and repertoire suitable for our market and that want to create our own hits.”
Ken Nishikawa, director of Tokyo-based music-promotion company Listen Up, came away from CMW with a positive impression of the Canadian music business. “I was pleasantly surprised by the degree of interest Canadian music industry people have in Japan,” he says.
But Nishikawa notes how hard it can be to make inroads into the world’s second-biggest music market.
“It is increasingly difficult for any western acts to penetrate the Japanese market, and Japanese acts have always been having a hard time in the West,” he says. “But I still think the potential is there. Feist became big in Japan because of an Apple commercial. Getting your tracks used in an advertisement or a TV show/drama always helps a lot.”
There are also opportunities for Canadian songwriters in the Japanese market, says Jonny Thompson, general manager, international, at Tokyo-based music publisher Nichion.
“Particularly if we are able to launch some co-writes between Canadian and Japanese songwriters,” Thompson notes. “There will be a bit of a learning curve, but if the business end is less lawyer- and manager-oriented (which is one of the hindrances for U.S. writers having success in Japan), which I get the impression it is, then most definitely yes. I think the ‘laid-back and friendly’ Canadian style might be a good fit with the Japanese songwriters.”
Thompson adds that in future it might be effective to have Japanese representatives serve as a “listening panel” and allow them to comment on songs, artists and live performances by Canadian acts. “It’s supposed to be about music, so rather than talking about music, actually having a chance to listen to some music and have the panel comment on that music’s potential for Japan would, I think, help the other attendees gain some insight as to what type of music or artists Japan (and the various Japanese representatives) are looking for,” he suggests.
Source: Asia Music News