Merlin, the global digital rights agency for more than 20,000 independent labels, has opened a Japanese office.
Based in the Ebisu district of central Toyko, the move comes two years after Merlin launched its New York office.
The Tokyo HQ is being managed by Haji Taniguchi, formerly President of Avex Music Publishing Inc and one of the most experienced executives in the Japanese and Asian music business.
Japan, the world’s second largest recorded music market, stands at a crucial time in the development of its digital entertainment market.
According to MBW analysis of RIAJ stats, Japan’s total audio recorded music market was worth 113.45bn Yen ($1.12bn) in the first six months of this year.
Of that figure, 25.66bn Yen ($254m), or 22.6%, was made up of digital revenues, of which subscription streaming generated just 9.34bn Yen ($92.5m).
That subscription figure was only worth 8.2% of total revenues – but was up 85% year-on-year, and looks likely to rise following the invite-only launch of Spotify in the territory.
Joining Avex when it was a small independent record company and overseeing its growth to one of Japan’s leading entertainment businesses, Haji Taniguchi has also served as Chair of the MPAJ (Music Publishers Association of Japan), Vice Chair of PROMIC (Foundation for Promotion of Music Industry and Culture) and as Director of ICMP (International Confederation of Music Publishers).
Merlin has also appointed Kaoruko Hill, an experienced licensing and rights administration executive to lead on label and service relations – helping local independents understand the practical aspects of participating in Merlin’s licensing deals.
Confirming the appointments, Charles Caldas, Merlin CEO, said: “Merlin was conceived as an outward-looking global organisation, and the Japanese market will be of paramount importance to our international membership.
“Over recent years, we have also seen a marked increase in members from the Asian territories, while in 2015 Merlin signed its first ever pan-Asian specific deal with KKBOX.
“The japanese market will be of paramount importance to our international membership.”
Charles Caldas, Merlin
“For these reasons, the decision to open a Japanese office as an initial step into this region makes strong strategic sense.
“That we have an executive as experienced as Haji to guide our membership through the idiosyncrasies of the Asian market, and to bring more local labels and distributors under the Merlin umbrella is a perfect combination.
“I would like to welcome both Haji and Kaoruko to the team, and look forward to years of further growth ahead.”
[Pictured, main: Kaoruko Hill, Charles Caldas and Haji Taniguchi]
Merlin’s most recent member survey, published in June 2016, showed 39% of respondents stating that over half their digital revenues originate from outside their home territory.
By comparison, just 16% reported the same for physical.
Driven by uptake of streaming and subscription services, year-on-year revenues (April-March 2014/15 to April-March 2015/16) paid out to Merlin’s independent label members increased by 73% to $232m.
Haji Taniguchi, Merlin’s new General Manager, Japan added: “It is a hugely exciting time to be joining Merlin. Japan is the world’s second largest music market, with a vibrant independent sector and strong appetite for the artists that Merlin’s members represent.
“Coupled with this is the fact that the Asian market is in the midst of significant transition, with new streaming and subscription services launching and gaining traction. Having a permanent office in Japan will offer new opportunities to boost international trade, and for independent labels to grow and extend their digital business.”
Merlin’s 800-strong membership commands in excess of 12% of the global digital recorded music market across more than 20,000 labels, spanning 46 countries and all continents.
These include the likes of Beggars Group, Domino, Epitaph, Kobalt Label Services, Merge, Ninja Tune, [PIAS], Secretly Group and Warp Records.
On behalf of these members, Merlin has global licences in place with the world’s leading new-generation music services, including Deezer, Google Play, KKBOX, Pandora, Soundcloud, Spotify and YouTube RED.
The organisation has existing offices in London and New York, with a head office in Amsterdam.
Music Business Worldwide