April 2011 Archives

Korg Multi-Effect Processor

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PANDORA mini ¥9,500
An ultra compact size model with multi functions packed for guitar and bass players joined the PANDORA multi-effect processor line.

It provides 158 uncompromising effect voices produced with Korg's exclusive REMS modeling technology including fat driven tube sound, spacious sound of speaker cabinet, traditional voices and characteristic sounds created with intelligent pitch shifter, acoustic simulator and guitar synthesizer.

In addition to 200 preset effect voices which include 160 types for guitar and 40 types for bass, it allows the user to save 200 user original programs. Seven effect voices can be used at one time. A Value dial is provided for instant control and edit of the parameters.

Four program memory buttons are offered to assign selected programs and recall them by one-touch control.

 It has 100 rhythm patterns and a built-in metronome helpful for session play and rhythm training. Other user-friendly functions include AUX input with pitch shift capability to change the pitch by ± one octave, and jam along to favorite songs on CD, MP3, etc.

 It is operated by battery or USB bus power, and two body colors of black and white are available.

Further information is available from:

V-Drums Friend Jam

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Roland and SiTE4D have teamed in creating V-Drums Friend Jam free social tool which provides the V-Drum user with 3 tutorial tunes.

Installing the V-Drums Friend Jam into PC, 3 latest titles of music in mp3 format are automatically downloaded. It allows the drummer to enjoy playing any music selected from 7 genres including rock, pops and jazz. Performance skill is evaluated and world ranking is shown immediately on the display screen. V-Drum users worldwide can share results and tweet.

 It supports V-Drums TD-20KX-S, 12KX-S, 9KX2-S, 9K2-S, 4KX2-S, 4K2-S, and V-Drums Lite HD-1, and works on Windows XP/Vista/7 and MacOSX10.5.

Further information is available from:

About the statistics
We have 3 different statistics on Japanese music products production (sales), import & export, compiled by Japan Musical Instruments Manufacturers' Assn. (JMIMA), The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, (METI) and Customs Bureau, The Ministry of Finance. (Individual statistics are provided in PDF files in this report.) As the METI statistics have been more simplified in recent years, figures are only available for limited items today. In this context, the JMIA statistics with detailed data on diversified product categories are the most reliable source to review the performance of the Japanese music products industry. Any comments on import & export figures are based on The Ministry of Finance data.

According to the 2010 statistics compiled by Japan Musical Instruments Manufacturers' Association, domestic sales and export of music products declined 3% from the previous year to 141.5 billion yen.
The domestic sales were 49.6 billion yen, a 7% decline, and export also went down but slight 1% to 91.9 billion yen. Experienced a significant 28% decline in 2009, the Japanese market has not yet fully recovered from the most recent stern economic downturn.

Export increased in majority of the product categories, from acoustic pianos, electronic organs, digital pianos, electronic keyboards, woodwind instruments, guitars to school market instruments. Only a few categories including brass instruments, electric guitars, other electronic instruments and musical instrument amplifiers decreased.

Piano manufacturers enjoyed favorable export to developing countries including China during the year. High recognition for advanced models has resulted in increased sales of competitive models as well. It has contributed to strengthen brand image of Japanese-made pianos in these areas. The same went for digital pianos and electronic keyboards.

Contrary to the export which closed the year with relatively good performance on most categories, soft sales continued in the domestic market except trombone, concert/ marching/jazz drums, table-top xylophones, electric guitars, keyboard synthesizers, portable electronic keyboards and musical instrument amps during the year.
The sales of keyboard synthesizers increased 7.5% in units but decreased 3.4% in value. They reported record high unit sales in 8 years. At the back of the surged demands, there were a host of remarkable models put into the market. Yamaha announced refined MOTIF XF three years after the initial launch. Roland and Korg also unveiled new models featuring exceptional functions which are easy to use and come in light weight structure at reasonable price. It's apparent that these attractive products pulled the sales of the segment. The new software sound engine apps for iPhone and iPad also generated interest in synthesizer. Despite the considerable sales growth in units, it tells the fact that the manufacturers managed to maintain competitive price points, and thus unit price has significantly dropped.

Intensified popularity for electric guitars and musical instrument amps is much attributed to a series of popular music-themed movies and animated cartoons including 'Soranin' featuring well-known actress Aoi Miyazaki performing electric guitar and 'BECK', a story of budding band members. They helped stimulate interest in band activities among junior and senior high school students and young generations.

Units sales of digital piano went down in the year, but it is worth to note that unit price rose. The manufacturers introduced value-added models which resulted in improved sales in value. Yamaha expanded high-quality ARIUS line. Roland's new models featuring SuperNATURAL piano engine are much acclaimed in the market, and Casio celebrated its 30 years history In MI business with new commemorative models.

In 2010 electric and electronic keyboards shared the largest 17.1% of the total import. They were followed by 15.5% electric guitars and 9.7% other wind instruments. In the year electric guitar import surged 16% in units and 7% in value, but other segments slipped down somewhere between 3% and 8%. Upright pianos jumped up 73% in units and 53% in value, and piano parts also went up 26% in units and 20% in value. Because they represent only minimum share of the import, the total import ended in 41.1 billion yen, 2% below the previous year.  JMIMA_Stat_2001-2010.pdf  MI_Export_2010.pdf  MI_Export_List_2010.pdf  MI_Import_2010.pdf   

With A Huge Base of Experienced Consumers, Industry Growth Continues By Offering Performing Opportunities

(photo: Mitsuru Umemura, left and Hidekazu Tanaka, right)

The latest White Paper of Leisure 2010 issued by Japan Productivity Center tells that 'appreciation of music' ranks 5th of the most popular leisure activities, jumped up from 10th in the previous year. Popularity for concerts also went up to 14th from 18th.

The survey illustrates Japanese population enjoying music making doubled to 14.4 million in 2010 from the range between 7.9 million and 6.3 million in the last 8 years.

Since the survey is based on selected group of 3,000 people aged from 15 to 79, they are not actual figures, but look to be an indicator to know desire for music is growing in the total population. It's evident that the growing popularity for band activities and music lesson among adults has pushed up music to a favorite leisure activity.

Contrary to the increasing interest in music making, domestic sales of musical instruments and related accessories are on the downward trend according to the latest Japan Musical Instruments Manufacturers' Association statistics. Slow sales of music products seem to be much related to stagnant economy resulted in weak consumer spending on discretionary items. Given the sizable population with music experience and high possession rate of musical instruments, majority of consumer are either postponing purchase of new instruments or choosing used gears.

The White Paper points out all industries expect 'revival market'; that is to explore consumer experienced big social and cultural trends in the past. For the music products industry, it is market for adults who have music performing experience, and interest in music making.

Yamaha and Roland have been enthusiastic in bringing music making back in today's social scene under 'Family Ensemble (Yamaha)' and 'Better Life with Music (Roland)' campaigns. Mitsuru Umemura is also instrumental in promoting the 'Family Ensemble' concept across the industry as president of Japan Musical Instruments Association. Broadly, the concept embraces not only music making by family members but also colleagues in workplace and members of local community.

Japan Music Trades invited the two leaders of the industry sharing a goal of market development, to have them talk on their activities and future prospects

Growing demands for music making

Japan has one of the most matured markets for music making in the world. Per capita and household share of musical instruments is unquestionably high. As we all know, our industry contains broad segments. Maturity level may differ from one segment to another, but it's a common understanding in the industry that the market has nearly touched the ceiling. As a manufacturer, Yamaha and Roland are making best efforts to offer music players inspiring and exciting new products. In doing so, Yamaha is now heavily promoting 'Family Ensemble' campaign in hopes of developing the market presenting opportunities for making music with family or band members, friends and colleagues. We are encouraging them to enjoy live band music. I believe all industry efforts under the unified concept will help generate new music makers.
Tanaka: Aside from the developing countries, music products markets in North America, Europe and Japan have been fully cultivated by now. Generally speaking, the reason that music products manufacturing and sales are flat in developed countries is, people already own some types of musical instrument, and there is an established market for used instruments. The statistics show slow sales of music products, but that doesn't necessarily mean number of music makers are decreasing. We see growing demands among middle-aged and senior groups inspired by popular daddy bands. TV and movie animation programs themed with music has influenced junior and senior high school students to start music playing. The music products industry now sees surging interest in music making among all generations.
I know you play bass guitar, Mr. Umemura. I strum guitar, and more recently I sing in a band. As it is at Yamaha, Roland has a good number of music playing personnel. We all know pleasure of making music. While supporting musicians with attractive products, I think the industry can offer them more venues and opportunities to enjoy music making.
Umemura: One or two out of 10 people play some kind of musical instrument. I'm sure there will be four or five among 10 people of my age who are interested in playing music. And there is a good number of adults who have a desire for music making deep in their mind. We haven't explored this huge market yet. The baby boomers and following generations have grown up with Elvis Presley, The Beatles and pop music. Band activities are widely approved. They are the first generation familiar with western style musical instruments.
In promoting 'Family Ensemble', Yamaha has organized concerts teaming with a dozen dealers as part of music studio events, and Yamaha Family Music Camp in Tsumagoi and Yamaha Family Ensemble Session 2010 since last year. As a first step, we needed consumer response. We are planning to carry additional events based on these experiences this year. It's a long term project seeding and cultivating before harvest. But music products industry has grown as a result of these all-industry efforts.
Tanaka: Roland's market development project started under the banner of 'Better Life with Music' about two years ago. Since then we have developed a host of tools for music that offer broad walks of people pleasure of making music. They include battery-driven synthesizers and amps much appreciated by street musicians for easiness of use.
To develop market, collective industry efforts for providing performance opportunities are required in addition to supporting music makers with attractive products. Medium for recorded music has changed from phonograph, CD to internet, but I believe it is live music that is most exciting and inspires us. We usually get involved in band activities stimulated by live music performance. Accordingly, our market development project concentrates largely on concerts and contests. In cooperation with the dealers we have staged versatile contests for pianist, organist, accordionist, drummer, and more recently phrase loop performers. We organize them in large scale starting from local preliminaries to complete with international competitions. We hope every stage inspires the audience and encourage them to get involved in making music themselves.
Umemura: I agree with you on two points. One is excitement of music ensemble and live stage. It promotes communication among players and audience. It's my belief that improvisation in jazz performance is the core of music making. Another is to provide music makers with opportunities to perform in front of audience. Whether they are seasoned players or beginners, performing experience on stage gives them tremendous excitement and pleasure. We see they really enjoy music playing. I say that is the essential part of music. The industry can work together to offer performing opportunities and stages.
Today's consumer is divided into two opposite groups; price-conscious, or value-focused.
The music products industry will better serve the market as manufacturers, distributors and retailers make their efforts to add extra value to the products and services on each level. Concerts and contests we organize with the dealers surely contribute to this goal.
Team with dealers
Tanaka: Industry growth much relies on retailers. Roland is ready to support customers by heavily promoting Planet and Foresta store-in-store, and music education in association with the dealers.
We have recently introduced V-Drums Friend Jam, a social networking service designed around V-Drums. It connects V-Drum users throughout the world on the Internet. It is a new communication tool capitalizing the benefits and capabilities of the internet as drummers can compete drum skill in global level and get response through Twitter. VR-5 we developed last year provides the user with live streaming capability. We set live music as the center of our market development, but Internet serves as a powerful tool to carry our programs to global market. In addition to these products that offer new type of user communication, our customer card tells that home organ, basically a solo instrument, is now used more frequently accompanied by V-Drum, guitar and shoulder-type keyboard. We hope parents and children enjoy session play in desired style.
Umemura: Our approach is a little bit different from Roland. While you are trying to explore the market with products suggesting new type of music making, our project is deeply rooted in music education that has over 50 years of history. Roland and Yamaha have one single goal that is to develop the market, but there are many options for manufacturers to accomplish the task. Consumer will definitely appreciate diversified approaches presented by individual manufacturers.
Dealers have their own strength that is retail know-how garnered in local market. Because they face consumer in day-to-day business, they can design their original plans for market development in best ways. In fact, Yamaha dealers are working to present various styles of music ensemble based on their business lines and music studio operation. The best scenario is that music ensemble programs are staged by as many dealers, generate excitement, and spread throughout the country.

Collaboration with outside industries
I think music products industry can work intensively with other industries. For example, Toyota has been sponsoring TOYOPET MUSIC SESSION, a band contest for adult players. We can support such events to advocate pleasure of music making and increase exposure of band activities. It will be a great benefit as we can send message to consumer groups who have been out of our reach so far.
Tanaka: We have already business cooperation with outside industries, but yes, we need to explore cross-industry activities to advocate life-long benefits of music making.
Umemura: We see growing number of TV and print media advertisements feature musicians playing piano, synthesizer and other instruments. It is great we are involved in the music products industry, isn't it? Auto and electric appliances industries are well aware that consumer wants the richness of the mind to which music is deeply related. Music and music products industry can serve the very crucial needs of society.
Nikkei Adults Band Contest has run 4th session successfully. It is widely recognized because Nikkei sponsors the event. I understand Nikkei knows the vital role of music to our life. It is our great advantage and asset that the music products industry is highly regarded by outside businesses.
Tanaka: Roland is also promoting music and image production. People enjoying music making has creative sense in other fields as well. They will find a combination of music and image an interesting approach.

Tap the hidden market
General managers of banks and insurance companies stationed in Hamamatsu live in many cases in company-owned apartment house away from home and family members. They usually leave Hamamatsu in 3 to 4 years. One day a department store manager suggested me to offer those corporate worriers music playing experience as they are sent to Hamamatsu, a famed center of musical instrument manufacturing in Japan. So, we have just started 'Play Beatles,' a band course, at Yamaha Hamamatsu Store. The largest obstacle for band activity is to find time and place for practice. But the problem is solved if a music room is provided in their domicile building. That means we have a huge untapped market we can develop if we help them clear some conditions to get involved in music playing.
Well, Ukulele is reportedly hot in U.S. now. Why? That is because Paul McCartney played a song with ukulele. Built more compact than guitar, ukulele is easy to start, and play casually. More music and gears are exposed in exciting way, more we can stimulate interest for music making.
Tanaka: Ocarina and ukulele were ranked as one of those instruments people most want to play in a consumer survey reported last fall. They are casually played and people love those natural and healing sounds. Ocarina and ukulele users have a variety of applications today; from minus one practice and ensemble session to sound recording and CD production with help of latest recording equipment at reasonable cost. Our dealers also say that demands are growing for relaxed style music lesson among adults.
Umemura: Manufacturers, distributors and dealers can work together to advocate pleasure of music ensemble, providing customer with hardware and software in exceptional value by identifying their needs.
Tanaka: Since involved extensively in promotion of music making a couple of years ago organizing concerts and contests, we see our engineering and sales personnel at Roland are more motivated than ever. I believe market development much relies on the industry's efforts to offer customers diversified applications and meet their requirements.     

Markets Are there In the World

Hisatake Shibuya
Born in 1937 in Sado Island, Niigata-ken. Graduated from Doshisha University in l961. He is now U.S.-based. The interview was arranged during his recent 2-week home coming trip to Japan.


Be Innovative-Never Be Follower
I started working for the music products industry at the age of 24 as a freshman of Electric Guitar Dept. of Kawai. It was 50 years ago. Teisco and Guyatone electric guitars were coveted instruments of young players at that time. I loved my work, but 4 years later I clashed with my boss and left Kawai. I know I was too bold and stubborn, but they are my nature anyway.

Jobless for one year, I joined Nippon Gakki (present Yamaha). I left the company to launch my own business with 4 years of experience in product distribution. I worked with Shigeki Saito who had been a colleague at Kawai, and then ran Fernandes, guitar maker. He was one of my mentors in this business, and supported me in many ways during the year out of work.

I have learned business through 4 years work each at Kawai, Yamaha and Fernandes which have different corporate culture and product marketing.

The Japanese guitar industry has grown with help of the great guitar boom. But we also saw countless numbers of rise and fall in the history. While many entered in the market there were always many went out of business. Years later, world manufacturing base transferred to Korea, and appreciation of the yen against U.S. dollars hurt the Japanese makers.

I launched ESP, guitar store, in 1975 in Shibuya, Tokyo. It had a partitioned area where I brought in machinery to operate as a guitar retail store/workshop. I had 3 staff and we started building Navigator high-quality hand-made electric guitars and repair services.

Why did I go high-end line from the outset? It had been my policy since I started working for Yamaha. I thought that having ordinary guitars on our store walls wouldn't much impress the shoppers. To quickly respond to requirements of musicians, our store should have been located in Tokyo. We stayed in Metropolitan area until we established an efficient manufacturing base. It greatly helped us to enhance communication with musicians and meet their demands. 

Years later, we moved our production facilities outside of Tokyo, but we kept our policy that we concentrate on high-ticket guitars. Once we tried to triple our sales of one high-end model which sold 200 units a month to 600 units. The result was extra cost generated in advertisement and marketing, and our gross profit remained flat. In terms of operating risk, our ambitious plan was far greater than selling 200 units. I took a lesson from this experience. Thus, we build expensive models with additional value under ESP brand, and sell mid-range and competitive models under second and third brands.

Thirty six years in this business have not been easy. More than once, I put our competitors on trials. Every time I had to protect our business I told myself that I wouldn't get defeated. Some people in U.S. called me 'cobra' because I bite as I am prodded on my head. In one way, such my attitude has helped me to survive in the industry (laugh).

Opening Guitar Builders' School
A big turning point came when I launched guitar building school. The plans got started when we opened new job opportunities at ESP. More young people than we expected called us for interview, I thought that they saw guitar building so attractive. An idea for opening guitar craftsmen school came into my mind. I examined every detail of the new project. It took me 10 months to design blue print for the new business because there were no schools of that kind in Japan.

Launched Japan Guitar Builders' School much strengthened the ESP corporate structure and finance. Not a few of the early time graduates of the school now take most of the ESP's managerial positions. The school brought growth to the company. It's safe to say we wouldn't have today's rich asset of human resource if we didn't have the school. I expanded school business opening Japan Musicians' Academy and Japan Piano Technicians' Academy years later.

Settled in U.S. to Explore the Market
In course of time, ESP came to know Musicians Institute (U.S) had financial problem. The school was once an approved place for young musicians seeking professional opportunities, but it lost its glamour as advanced sound equipment replaced studio musicians. I thought it was logical to purchase the school because entering diversified entertainment business has been my years of dream.

Acquired the MI, the faculty members presented us 10 requests including pay raise.                 Perhaps, they were skeptical about Japanese management. Moved in U.S., I made up my mind to keep my policy not easily compromise in business. I didn't accept their requests but promised they would be better paid once MI was restructured successfully. I had my hair shaved and wore sunglasses to make me appear tough negotiator. People spoke of me something mysterious. In reality, too much stress in business caused me several physical disorders. After all, it took us 16 years to get MI back to right track. I fell that I'm ready now to pursue my dream plans.

The reason I put my feet in U.S. was, firstly, to set MI, ESP and Shecter on right course, and secondly, I felt I should dilute my influence as founder of ESP on senior managers in Japan. Frankly speaking, I was very anxious about their management skill, and I continued calling Japan office every day from U.S. In a year or so, they could control everything themselves saying that there was nothing I could support. Well, good for them, but I felt a kind of self-contradiction that they could go on without me. (laugh)

In the following years I purchased United Television Broadcasting (broadcast station in Japanese language), Theatre of Arts and Elegance International (school for special stage make up), etc in further pursuit of my dream plans.

Design Your Dream- World Markets Are There
Young people often say they have no specific dream. It's not given. I say dream is what individuals conceive in mind themselves. Japanese guitar market has been dwarfed in the last years because our society is getting older, but market has expanded throughout the globe. Korea has less than half population of Japan , but people there eminently focus on world markets.

I expect that young industry people develop products with originality and additional value to be differentiated from competitors. I understand my key role at ESP is to present a corporate succession plan. I always tell my managers to find seeds for future businesses, never be content with the present conditions and have challenging spirit.

About ESP
1975- Founded as a manufacturer of high-end electric guitar, and to train guitar repair servicemen.
1979- Started accepting orders for 100% custom-made electric guitars.
1981- Established ESP-USA.
1983- Established ESP Europe in Germany. Opened Japan Guitar Builders' School.
1986- Opened a 6,600 sq. meter factory in Sado Island, Niigata-ken.
1990- Purchased Schecter USA.
1982- Launched ESP-China.
1995- Purchased U.S. Musicians Institute.
1997-2010 Acquired and opened more than 10 educational institutions and retail shops.
ESP Co., Ltd. has 18 member companies, 1,300 workers and 13 billion yen annual sales as a group. The business expands from musical instrument manufacturing, distribution, sales, import/export, music and movie production, publishing, development and distribution of music software to multiple educational institutions.

'Admiring Guitar'- Shiro Arai's Book Published

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More than 100 music products industry members, music publishers and guitarists celebrated Shiro Arai, consultant of Arai & Co., Inc., Nagoya-based distributor, for his new book, 'Admiring Guitar' at Hotel Okura Tokyo on Feb. 8.

The book is based on his series of essay about his career in guitar business as founder of Arai & Co., which he contributed to Japan Music Trades from April, 2009 to July, 2010. He added photos and rewrote part of those writings, and an A5-size, 184-page book was published by Gendai Guitar publishing house last year.

He also told about his early days in JMT feature story, Meet the Founders, in October 2010 issue.

Arai has served a host of key positions in Japanese classical guitar society, and now devotes good part of his times for Central Japan Guitar Association as honorary chairman and Japan Guitar Association as chairman.

His career is a synonym to the history of Japanese guitar industry, and the book depicts a full story of Japanese guitar making from the early days to today.

Speeches by Kazuhito Osawa, classical guitar master, and Jiro Hamada, music critique, were followed by concerts of Shinichi Fukuda and Niibori Guitar Ensemble.