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Cultural-export whiz Michiko Fujimura will offer insights on world’s second-largest music market at Jade Music Festival

MADKID
Japanese boy band MADKID recently appeared at the Tokyo International Music Market. Photo by TIMM.

The vast majority of North Americans have never heard of MADKID.

But that could change as a result of a boost that Japan Music Culture Export has given this Japanese boy band.

The Tokyo International Music Market, a.k.a. TIMM, recently promoted the five highly synchronized singer-dancers at one of its events. Japan Music Culture Export is one of the sponsors of TIMM, which is the Asian country’s largest international business-to-business music convention.

In October, more than a dozen other acts performed at the major annual TIMM conference in Shibuya, which is a special ward and major commercial and financial centre in Tokyo. They included the rapper Kazuo, anime J-pop and J-rocker Nano, and Ekotumi, a novelist whose shows are inspired by Japanese mythology.

Video: Watch Ekotumi in concert in Lithuania in 2019.

“The main purpose of TIMM is not only to support the overseas expansion of Japanese music and artists, but also to create new business opportunities by gathering music industry support from all over the world in Tokyo,” Japan Music Culture Export deputy director of business planning, Michiko Fujimura, recently told Pancouver over Zoom.

Today, Fujimura will be one of several music-industry delegates from Asia speaking at the inaugural Jade Music Festival in Vancouver. Her event, “Meet the Music World – International Music Business Presentations”, takes place at 10:15 a.m. at the Annex.

She said that TIMM is supported by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, as well as by visual-industry promotional organizations. JCME, a foundation with many high-powered music executives on its board, launched TIMM in 2004.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, TIMM was held in Tokyo for three days every autumn. In 2019, it attracted 5,000 participants, including 200 delegates from 26 countries and regions. Fujimura said that this resulted in 620 business meetings.

In subsequent years, it’s been held online, with 15,000 to 20,000 annual visitors and 200 to 300 newly registered international delegates each year.

In addition to business seminars and presentations, TIMM features a live music showcase.

MADKID posted this YouTube video to coincide with its TIMM event.

TIMM supports indie musicians

Fujimura said that the organizers of TIMM choose about 15 groups each year to promote through the conference. Most are indie musicians, though sometimes they might have signed with one of the big three labels active in Japan: Universal, Sony, and Warner.

However, she added, internationally successful Japanese performers such as Perfume, Ringo Sheena, and the Fishmans already have their own pathways to fans in other countries through their record companies.

Japan’s music industry ranks second in size behind that of the United States. According to Statista, it generated more than 283 billion Japanese yen (CDN$2,.83 billion) via recorded and digital music in 2021.

According to Fujimura, Japanese music consumers have not embraced streaming services nearly as much as music lovers elsewhere.

“Currently in Japan, unlike in other countries, CDs—physical copies—have a larger market share than streaming services,” she said.

The Jade Music Festival, which is taking place this week in Vancouver, relies on a similar model. Presented by TD, the festival hosted a showcase on Wednesday (November 30) at the Vancouver Playhouse, featuring North Vancouver-based musician Duck Lau, who has a successful career in Hong Kong. Vancouver family folksinger Ginalina, who’s recorded songs in four languages, also performed at the event.

Other musicians included Toronto-based singer-songwriter Silian Wong, and indie guitarist Kerr Lee, as well as Taiwanese singer-songwriter Katree. On Friday (December 2), TD will present Canadian musician Tyler Shaw at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre as part of the festival, along with “Vantopop” singer Athena Wong, Vancouver singer-songwriter Van Lefan, and Taiwanese Hakka musician Yu-Han Huang.

Michiko Fujimura at Jade Music Festival
Japan Music Culture Export executive Michiko Fujimura dealt with Yoko Ono when John Lennon would perform in Japan.

Fujimura worked with Beatles, Queen, and Coldplay

Fujimura hopes that her visit to Vancouver will lead to ultimately lead to more collaboration between Canadian and Japanese musical artists.

She has a great deal of experience dealing with western musicians. Prior to working for JMCE, Fujimura was employed by EMI and Universal. In those years, she worked with the “catalogue artists”, which put her in contact with individual members of the Beatles (after their breakup as a band) and Queen.

Her job was to localize products and songs, as well as oversee promotion. For example, with Ringo Starr, she would look after interviews. As for John Lennon, she would deal directly with his wife, Yoko Ono.

Freddie Mercury had died by the time Fujimura began working with Queen. Later in her career, she also worked with Coldplay.

When asked if Fujimura has any advice for Canadian bands to break into the Japanese market, she said the most efficient way is by signing with one of the three major labels.

But she also said that indie musicians should ensure that their videos carry Japanese subtitles and try to localize it to help with promotion.

“If you can’t sign with the big companies, one of the biggest things is to ensure that Japanese people can actually understand a lot of the content,” Fujimura said.

Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter @charliesmithvcr. Follow Pancouver on Twitter @PancouverMedia.

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Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

Pancouver editor Charlie Smith has worked as a Vancouver journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.