Two Industry Leaders Talk: Mitsuru Umemura, Yamaha and Hidekazu Tanaka, Roland

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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.     

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This page contains a single entry by jmtrades published on April 17, 2011 3:31 PM.

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