Kaz Kobayashi named Warner Japan CEO, Utsumi in as COO

Media veteran Kazuyuki (Kaz) Kobayashi has joined Warner Music Japan as its new Chief Executive Officer.

He will be bolstered in the role by the founder of video game developer Q Entertainment, Shuji Utsumi, who becomes Chief Operating Officer at Warner Music Japan.

Kobayashi joins from Sony Music Entertainment Japan where he most recently worked as Corporate Executive, overseeing Sony‘s music TV assets, live venues, ticketing and magazine publishing. He started his music business career in the A&R team at Epic Records, moving up through the company to become CEO. He served as the CEO of Epic Records longer than any other CEO in the history of the company and then took on responsibility for Ariola Records for several years, as head of a label group that included Epic and Ariola.

In his new role Kobayashi will report to Lachie Rutherford, President, Warner Music Asia Pacific. Kobayashi will be responsible for discovering and nurturing local acts and devising high-impact opportunities for global repertoire as well as overseeing the expansion of the company’s digital footprint and its range of artist services.

Shuji Utsumi is successful entrepreneur in the gaming industry. He founded Q Entertainment, which created seminal puzzle game Lumines, as well as being a founding member of Sony Computer Entertainment America.

Kobayashi and Utsumi join Warner Music Japan on April 1st. They will work alongside Honorary Chairman Kei Ishizaka until October to ensure a smooth transition of the business. Ishizaka confirmed his retirement from Warner last month.

“I am thrilled to welcome Kaz and Shuji to Warner Music. They are both pioneering executives with exemplary track records and a wealth of entertainment experience,” commented Lachie Rutherford.

“Kaz is one of Japan’s leading music professionals whose unrivalled A&R and marketing expertise has guided the careers of huge Japanese artists and global superstars. Shuji’s many business successes can be attributed to his sharp entrepreneurial instincts, strong operational knowledge and deep understanding of the wider opportunities to monetize music. I am confident that their combined skills, vision and commitment to innovation will ensure that we continue to offer the best home for extraordinary talent in Japan.”

Stu Bergen, President, International, Warner Recorded Music, said, “Our new Japanese leadership team has the transformative skill-set needed to navigate the challenges and to capitalize on the myriad opportunities that lie ahead in Japan. Kaz’s creative vision and Shuji’s consumer-focused expertise will add new levels of dynamism and innovation as we break extraordinary talent, forge new commercial models for the industry and deliver unique opportunities for our artists.”

“I look forward to working with Lachie, Stu and Shuji. It is a privilege to represent such strong repertoire and to lead an immensely talented team of people who are focused on the future of Warner’s artists,” said Kaz Kobayashi. “I am passionate about signing and developing the very best local acts and excited to have the opportunity to create an environment that will enable their careers to flourish.”

Shuji Usumi added, “There are an increasing number of ways for fans to connect and engage with music which provide scope to expand the tools and expertise offered to artists. I look forward to working with Kaz to explore new business models to ensure Warner Music remains an industry leader across all areas of the organisation.”

Pictured: Kazuyuki Kobayashi (left) and Shuji Utsumi.Music Business Worldwide

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