I hear you, but you need to do your homework.
Maybe because I’m one of the rare Japanese musicians who also have English websites, I have had a wide range of inquiries about the music industry in Japan. A half of them have nothing to do with my business and are self-serving (I dare say) requests from artists to facilitate their releases, sub-licenses, gig opportunities, etc. But obviously, connecting them with “industry professionals” is not my priority. Moreover, I’m not based in Japan anymore.
Having said that, I understand how much they have been struggling with difficulties of reaching out to the music industry professionals in Japan. When it comes to useful resources and networks about the industry, even in this day and age, it’s still hopelessly hard to find them online because of language issues and difference of business cultures (check out my articles as well). So, I have decided to provide you here with some tips and information you may not know that I come up with. I can’t help you further, but I would be glad if this post could help you do your homework.
Find music conferences where you could meet Japanese music publishers.
I guess what they are most interested in is how to reach out to Japanese music publishers who could consider a sub-publishing deal. While I think there may be several possible ways to get to know them in spite of the tough situation like above, this time I would like to focus mainly on information about music conferences.
Attend international music business conferences where Japanese music publishers take part on a regular basis, such as MIDEM, TIMM, and Music Matters.
There are numerous music conferences across the globe, but there are just a few that many of them attend routinely. As you can see in MPAJ (Music Publishers Association of Japan)’s website, MIDEM and TIMM (Japan Content Showcase) have already been essential fixtures for them. I have participated in both and could confirm a lot of industry professionals from Japan were there.
Music Matters is relatively new but crucial as it’s one of the fastest-growing conferences where top executives, decision-makers, and industry professionals attend. You can find a lot of participants from Japan on its list. MPA also joins as an official partner. I will spare you the details here, so please visit these websites.
TIMM (Tokyo International Music Market) of Japan Content Showcase
Also, MPAJ provides a list of major sub-publishers. This is pretty useful for those who want to reach out to Japanese music publishers, but I would recommend you don’t send unsolicited emails randomly without researching what they do carefully. Will they give you any feedback? Fat chance! At least you will need to know which sub-publishers operate which artists, which overseas publishers & libraries, what types of music, etc.
If you want to search sub-publishers on a song basis, JASRAC’s J-WID (JASRAC Works Information Database) is helpful though it’s available only in Japanese. Preferably you should pin down who is in charge of sub-publishing in each company before approaching them. But as you may know, most Japanese shy away from communicating with strangers and first-timers. That’s why you should attend those music conferences and get acquainted with as many industry professionals as possible. Musicman-Net is one of the most reliable music industry journals in Japan. While entirely written in Japanese, it is still worth checking out.
Japanese (sub-)publishers list from MPAJ (Music Publishers Association of Japan) website
Find your workforce
Do you have difficulty exploring Japanese websites? Are you looking for anyone who could give a call in Japanese for you? You may want to consider hiring capable freelancers on Elance or Upwork. When it comes to seeking an agent or management company in Japan, I would suggest you refrain from doing it until you get a picture of the industry and the market on your own.
Hopefully, these tips will help you to go one step further to “make it in Japan.” Remember there’s no shortcut to developing a successful relationship with them. Don’t try to make do with info and contacts on the Internet. The more homework you do, the fewer obstacles you have. So, take your time and buckle down to work.