Left to right: Akihiro Miyamoto (Operation Group II); Misaki Matsuura (Sales Group II); Kaori Kondo, (Operation Group I); Takahiko Kakiuchi, (General Manager); Tomohiro Tokue, (Sales Group I); Yuho Akimoto, (Sales Group II).
The IMI 7th Jul 2021

ArtLed is tipping a new generation of stereotype-busting Japanese artists to go global

The curtain was pulled off NexTone’s new music division in June. ArtLed boss Takahiko Kakiuchi says the company has a “great advantage” in Japan’s fast-growing digital market…

Last month Japanese music rights admin and distribution company NexTone made a play for the next generation of artists and indie rights-holders with what it described as a “digital-first, global-facing” music division called ArtLed.

Led by Takahiko Kakiuchi, ArtLed offers five core services – distribution, marketing, promotion, copyright management and funding – built on three key commitments of unrestrictive contracts, transparency and rights remaining with artists.

Upon announcing the new division, Kakiuchi pointed to the digital market having opened up enormous new opportunities for artists, but suggested that the Japanese music business had fallen short in seizing them.

Here, Kakiuchi tells The IMI how the mentality of the Japanese music business is changing when it comes to DSPs and what that means for a new generation of Japanese artists with global sensibilities and an ability to break stereotypes.

You’ve said that the Japanese music industry has failed to seize digital opportunities to date. Why do you think that’s been the case?

Takahiko Kakiuchi: In Japan, the sales of CDs and music downloads have been slower to decline than those in other countries. A fear that the adoption of streaming models would result in a decrease in sales has hindered the digital transformation of the Japanese music industry. Many large domestic labels held content back from services when they launched, which meant that the domestic content available on streaming platforms was not enough both in quality and quantity to attract much attention.

However, the digital environment in Japan has dramatically changed in recent years. NexTone started our digital distribution service in 2003 and we have had a digital-first approach from the beginning. We believe that our long-term experience in this space is our great advantage in the fast-growing digital market.

"We are hopeful we will see new talents, with a global audience, emerge through this initiative. Our mission is to maximise their potential in partnership with a wide variety of players and media."

How do you think things could be different going forward? What’s the potential for artists once those opportunities are seized?

TK: Taking advantage of the opportunities that digital services provide, with a global focus, will broaden options for artists who are aiming to take steps to reach a bigger audience.

More than just distribution, we offer our clients strategic marketing and PR services, along with legal and rights management support. Our goal is to be the partner that will help them to achieve their medium to long-term goals. Working with us as a strategic partner allows artists to devote themselves to their creative activities.

You talk about ArtLed being for a ‘new generation of rights-holders’. Who is that new generation exactly in your view? What characterises them and what do you hope to achieve with them? 

TK: We see many artists, labels and management companies pursuing fairness and transparency in their deals. We hope that ArtLed, with our like-minded focus on the same values, will meet those demands.

Could this new embracing of digital platforms domestically in Japan see more Japanese artists break globally? 

TK: We are keen to support global-facing Japanese artists who are not bound by the stereotypes in the existing music business in Japan. We are hopeful we will see new talents, with a global audience, emerge through this initiative. Our mission is to maximise their potential in partnership with a wide variety of players and media.

The new generation of Japanese artists naturally has global sensibilities and perspectives. As the markets continue to evolve, we are sure that Japanese artists will connect with fans globally and play a crucial role all over the world, not just in Japan.