Naoshi Fujikura, President and CEO of Universal Music Japan, has made it to Billboard’s International Power Players list four times, a feat that highlights his significant influence on the global music industry. Recently, he discussed Universal Music Group’s expectations for the Japanese market and laid out the challenges and strategies for turning local artists into global stars.

Universal Music Japan’s Achievements: The Case of King & Prince

King & Prince, a Japanese boy band, reached a significant milestone by selling over a million CDs. According to Fujikura, this wasn’t just a win for the band or Universal Music Japan; it was a major achievement for the Universal Music Group (UMG) as a whole. The feat also showcased the dynamism of the Japanese music market, as such numbers are incredibly rare today, especially when achieved in just one country within a week.

UMG’s Expectations: Global Stardom and Localization

Fujikura explains that UMG’s expectations for Universal Music Japan go beyond just regional success. The global leadership sees Japan as a ground for innovation and a launchpad for producing “global stars.” Interestingly, thanks to the age of streaming and content sharing, the idea of a “global star” has been evolving. Artists from outside the Anglosphere, such as BTS, Karol G, and Bad Bunny, are proving that language is no longer a formidable barrier in the music industry.

The Threefold Strategy for Global Stardom

When it comes to turning Japanese artists into international sensations, Fujikura outlines three key approaches:

  1. Fan-based Stardom: Leveraging fan communities, akin to how BTS and King & Prince rose to fame.
  2. IP-based Hits: Associating music with forms of video entertainment like anime, as seen with RADWIMPS’ success linked to “Your Name.”
  3. Viral through UGC (User-Generated Content): Utilizing social networks to create viral hits, a strategy that worked well for artists like Fujii Kaze and imase.

The Digital Edge: Streaming’s Double-Edged Sword

While global streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music have given Japanese music unprecedented exposure, Fujikura admits that these platforms offer the same advantage to all artists worldwide. Therefore, the real distinction lies in an artist’s ability to transcend cultural, linguistic, and geographic barriers.

The Future: Adaptation and Innovation

Fujikura emphasizes that UMG remains dedicated to discovering talented artists and innovating ways to engage new audiences. As technology evolves, so will the formats for delivering music. Despite these changes, the goal remains consistent: to discover and polish new talents and share them with the world.

Breaking the Norms, Setting New Standards

Fujikura’s insights not only serve as a blueprint for Universal Music Japan but also as a case study for how localized markets can aim for global recognition. As the music industry evolves, so too must the strategies for producing the next global star.