August 2013 Archives

Meet the New Roland President: Jyun-ichi Miki

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Since joining Roland Corporation after graduation from Ritsumeikan University in 1977, Jyun-ichi Miki has been a devoted engineer as a sound expert. Under his leadership, a series of corporate restructuring programs and new strategic plans are on the way to find seeds for future business. Japan Music Trades interviewed him at Roland headquarters in Hamamatsu.     

JMT: What Roland products were you involved in development and designing?
Miki: The first project I got involved was data recorder for MC-4 micro composer, which was put into the market in 1981. It was followed by sound chips designed for SA sound engine (RD-1000 digital piano). The digital piano came as the Roland's first model featuring digital sound generators. I remember Sir Elton John performed it, and it generated a sensation in the music scene. It's one of the most impressive models for me. Then, I spent considerable years as a sound engineer, designing sound libraries for S-50, S-770, and so on. In the ensuing years, I experienced broad lines of Roland products from HP, FP-8 digital pianos, JV synthesizers, MC-303 Groove Box, V-Accordions, C-30 digital harpsichord and C-330 classical electronic organ.
JMT: From your extensive involvement in sound generators, do you think digital music products can go further?
Miki: I'm sure they continue progressing, however, they have matured to some extent. Nevertheless, we have a plenty of issues to explore not only sound, but also man-machine interface, I mean mechanical structure such as keyboard for piano and organ, or striking pads for drums for one thing, and sound output, sound field, etc. in the second thing. I believe we can do more to make Roland products truly comfortable to play as a result of advancement of each factor. That approach will make Roland products differentiate from other makes in the future.
Even today, classical pianists prefer acoustic piano to digital counterpart on concerts. What makes it different from digital piano is authentic expressiveness, comfortable play feel, superior responsiveness to player's subtle feeling, or characteristics of individual instrument. The point is interactive capability with player. We know we can further explore digital musical instruments to be a first choice for professionals. Otherwise, what awaits us will be fierce price competition because all makes of digital piano on the market have equally high standard of tonal quality. When digital piano advances to a supreme level, customers will select it by characteristics of individual brands.  

New management policies
JMT: Assuming the position of CEO, what kind of plans do you have for the future of Roland?
Miki: We keep holding our company slogans, 'Inspire the Enjoyment of Creativity', 'Be the Best rather than the Biggest' and 'The Roland Family-Cooperative Enthusiasm.'  To pursue these concepts, I suggest regaining old tradition we had when the company launched. At the time I joined Roland, it was a tiny new company with a minimum business structure. People around me desperately loved music, discussed sound, and in many cases developed musical instruments what we want. In the process it expands, better organizational structure and corporate management system were established. We have lost venture spirits we had in the early days. They are quick decisions, challenging spirits, and seed ideas for products development. My idea is to get more young staff involved in major schemes and projects. Because Roland had been tech-oriented from the beginning, we were more inclined to innovative technologies and ideas that would be seeds for future business. I feel that has caused some gaps between Roland and customers. Our engineers can find the ways to explore our technologies and ideas, meeting retail sales staff and customers to know how they use Roland products, what's the problem if any and what they want now. We need feedback from customers and young staff most close to them. 
As the first step, I opened "Idea Seeds" page on the bulletin board of Roland intranet on July 1. It was amazing. I received more than expected several dozens of comments. We can share unique ideas posted and give them 'Like it' evaluation. We dig interesting ideas, and chances are good to turn them into new products. I'm very pleased with the great responses from young people.  
JMT: What's the key of the reorganization?
Miki: We launched RPG internal subsidiary company, which is responsible for development of Roland's original flagship products to enhance our current lines. Today we have independent product engineering and sales divisions, but at the new company, engineers and sales force work together sharing information. It will launch an office in Tokyo and Los Angeles. Studios and live stages tell us musical trends. It's critical to stand music frontline and get feedback from players and audience so that we can design and present products in their need.

Domestic and Overseas Markets
JMT: Could you please tell us business climate for the markets worldwide?
Miki: We see very limited difference in U.S., European and Japanese markets. But there are some gaps among countries in Europe in terms of general economy and distribution system. Business is stagnant in Spain and Italy. We hear comments that U.S. market is recovering, but it seems to take more time before digital music products manufacturers feel it. As to the developing markets, we expect steady growth in coming years. These countries have indigenous music culture, and I ask our engineers to develop music gears complying with local culture.
The big issue in the market today is rise of Internet business. Products are traded crossing borders, and it promotes globalized market. The point is customers buying pattern starts from gathering necessary information, selection of desired products, and closes buying them. Whether we sell our products on existing stores or on the net, the industry must recognize reality in distribution and cope with it to better serve the needs of customers. We are now re-evaluating Roland 'shops in shops' project. While there are some shops with its sales and customer service work harmoniously, some have difficulties to maintaining them.  They should be redesigned in cooperation with the dealers.      

New business opportunities
JMT: Are there any possibilities to venture into new business?
Miki: Yes, though it's still on planning, but my thought is that Roland's sound and imaging technologies may be able to find markets outside the industry.
Speaking on our current lines, my perception is that Roland provides customers with truly characteristic, original instruments not found in other makes. In the past, we have designed our product lines as a group consisted of several models with slightly different specifications for individual price ranges. My idea is to present products with distinctive capabilities and features to targeted customers from entry to professional levels, or musicians who have some playing experience when they were young. Branding is key to establish our products selected by top professionals. And we put the technology and product image earned with highest models into entry-level lines. Nevertheless, this can be achieved only by understanding customers of their need. Roland has a tradition that product development engineers are heavily involved in all stages from designing to distribution. Easiness to play, feeling of knob control, or response when hit on the drum surface, are the elements that engineers should share with user.
  

31 Exhibitors Show at 2013 Music China Japan Pavilion

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  The 2nd Japan Pavilion accommodates 31 exhibitors from the Japanese music products industry at the upcoming Music China in Shanghai from October 10 through 13, which is a 30% increase from last year, sharing 530 square meter space. For the first time in the history, the industry staged the first Japan Pavilion last year in support of JETRO. With 3 meeting rooms and a performance stage added, the exhibitors expect enhanced presence of high-quality music products made in Japan at the show.

The new exhibitors include Suzuki Gakki, Prima Gakki, Pearl Musical Instruments, Musik Josef, Gottsu, Japan Musical Instruments Manufacturers' Association (JMIMA), Western Japan Musical Instruments Manufacturers' Association (WJMIMA), Eastern Japan Musical Instruments Distributors' Association (EJMIDA). Aoyama Harp, Nippon Case, Higashi Gengakki, Korogisha and Sakae Rhythm take part at WJMIMA booth, while Nihon Elecro Harmonix and Freedom Custom Guitar Research exhibit at EJMIDA booth. Last year Japan Pavilion featured mostly manufacturers of acoustic music products except Korg. The second session expands exhibit items to electric guitars and drums.

Atsuhiko Naoye, assistant manager of Overseas Exhibition Fair Dept., JETRO said, "We are very pleased with the successful result of the first Japan Pavilion last year. Music China Japan Pavilion will expand its scope despite other JETRO-related exhibitions staged in China this year are under severe pressure due to Japan-China political turmoil. We believe it's the result of positive approaches by JMIMA and increased expectation of the industry toward Chinese market."

2013 Music China Exhibitors
*Overseas Exhibition Committee, Japan Musical Instruments Manufacturers' Association
*Muramatsu Flute Manufacturing (flutes)
*Cosmo Machine (musical instruments parts)
*Sankyo Flute (flutes)
*Miyazawa Flute (flutes)
*Pearl Musical Instruments (flutes)
*Western Japan Musical Instruments Manufacurers' Association (Aoyama Harp, Nippon Case, Higashi Gengakkki, Korogisha, Sakae Rhythm)
*Mishimaya (Sho and Japanese Taiko drums)
*Duplex (string instrument cases)
*Ohtsuka Gakki (ocarinas)
*Best Brass (mutes, E saxophones and mute system)
*Korg (keyboards and sound generators)
*Gottsu (mouthpieces for saxophone)
*Morizono Boeki (accessories with music motives & tuners)
*Japan Music Trades (industry magazines and books)
*Suzuki Musical Instruments (harmonicas)
*Musik Josef (oboes, clarines, piccolos)
*Toyama Musical Instrument (recorders and travelso)
*Kiwaya (ukuleles & cases)
*Rokkomann (classical and folk guitars)
*Central Japan Musical Insruments Manufacturers' Association
*Global (wind instrument accessories)
*Prima Gakki (violin bows)
*Eastern Japan Musical Instruments Distributors' Association (Nihon Electro Harmonix, Freedom Custom Guitar Research)
*Tombo (harmonicas)
*Saito Gakki Seisakusho (marimbas, vibraphones & xylophones)
*Yanagisawa (saxophones)
*Tokyo Musical Instruments Manufacturers Association
*Tokai Yoko (gift items with music motives & accessories)
*Marmaduke Music (mouthpieces for saxophone& accessories)
*Saxz (mouthpieces for saxophone, saxophones & accessories)