The topic of how to break Japanese acts overseas has been a hot topic for years. Earlier this year, Universal Music Japan President & CEO Naoshi Fujikura named to Billboard‘s International Power Players list for a third consecutive time, marking this his fourth appearance on the list. The annual list recognizes leaders driving the success of the music industry in countries outside the United States.
Billboard Japan spoke with Fujikura in recognition of his selection for the list. The interview was then translated for the main Billboard into English. In the interview, Fujikura spoke on parent company Universal Music Group’s expectations for Japan and the challenges involved in creating global hits.
One of the reason that he was chosen for the list was due to King & Prince‘s massive success this year, being named one of Universal Music Group’s most valueable acts worldwide, alongside the likes of Taylor Swift. Of Universal Music Group’s response to King & Prince selling over a million with their various releases this year, Fujikura said, “Here in Japan, the market is changing and digital is also a priority, but we have still been able to achieve huge success with CD sales, utilizing our unique business insights and data analysis to better understand what fans want, what the market wants and how to maximize the opportunities for each artist. For UMG as a whole, it provides renewed perspective on how dynamic the Japanese music market is, because for any artist to sell a million CDs today is a huge achievement for any project – creatively, commercially and for the company as a whole, especially when it is done in one country and in one week.”
Speaking of King & Prince, Fujikura named three strategies for created a Japanese global star. “We’re now considering multiple different approaches. The first is to produce artists that become stars with the support of a fandom, like BTS and King & Prince. The second is what we call the “IP-based” approach, creating a hit linked to some form of video entertainment, whether that is anime or another piece of Japanese culture that exposes global audiences to new sounds. For example, in recent times we had great success for RADWIMPS with “Your Name”, and in the last two years we’ve had Ado with “One Piece Film Red” and Hiromi Uehara with “Blue Giant”, respectively. The third is through hits that generate a viral buzz on local, regional or even global social networks and spread further through UGC, which we have achieved with our artists Fujii Kaze and imase. Fujii Kaze’s “Shinunoga E-wa” became popular through UGC in Thailand, and from there it spread to South Asia, India, Europe, and the U.S. imase’s “Night Dancer” was popularized by BTS’s Jungkook and Stray Kids, and now he’s well-known in Korea, rather than just in Japan.”
Fujikura’s full interview can be read here.