Sony Music Entertainment Japan

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Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) Inc.
Native name
Founded1968; 50 years ago (1968) (as CBS/Sony Records Inc.)
HeadquartersRokubancho, Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan
Key people
Naoki Kitagawa, CEO and Representative to the RIAJ
Masao Morita, Chairman
RevenueIncrease ¥2,826 billion
Number of employees
SubsidiariesSME Records
Epic Records Japan
Ki/oon Music
Sony Music Records
Sony Music Associated Records
Ariola Japan
BMG Japan
Sony Music Artists
Sony Music Publishing
Music On! TV
Sacra Music
Peanuts Worldwide (39%)
Sony Music Entertainment Japan headquarters in Rokubanchō, Chiyoda, Tokyo occupied in June 2001
SME Nogizaka Building in Akasaka, Minato, Tokyo.
Naoki Kitagawa, the CEO of Sony Music Entertainment

Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) Inc. (株式会社ソニー・ミュージックエンタテインメント, Kabushiki gaisha Sonī Myūjikku Entateinmento), often abbreviated as SMEJ or simply SME, and also known as Sony Music Japan for short, is Sony's music arm in Japan. SMEJ is directly owned by Sony Corporation and independent from the United States-based Sony Music Entertainment due to its strength in the Japanese music industry.[1] Its subsidiaries including the Japanese animation production enterprise, Aniplex, which was established in January 1997 as a joint-venture between Sony Music Entertainment Japan and Sony Pictures Entertainment Japan, but which in 2001 became a wholly owned subsidiary of Sony Music Entertainment Japan. It was prominent in the early to mid '90s producing and licensing music for animated series such as Roujin Z from acclaimed Japanese comic artist Katsuhiro Otomo and Capcom's Street Fighter animated series.

Until March 2007, Sony Music Japan also had its own North American sublabel, Tofu Records. Releases of Sony Music Japan now appear on Columbia Records and/or Epic Records in North America.

Sony does not have the trademark rights to the Columbia name in Japan, so releases under Columbia Records from another country appears on Sony Records in Japan, but retains the usage of the "walking eye" logo. The Columbia name and trademark is controlled by Nippon Columbia, which was, in fact, the licensee for the American Columbia Records up until 1968, even though relations were officially severed as far back as World War II. Nippon Columbia also does not have direct relations with the British Columbia Graphophone Company (an EMI subsidiary), so the licensee for the British Columbia Graphophone Company was actually Toshiba Musical Industries.

With Sony Corporation of America's buyout of Bertelsmann's stake in Sony BMG, Sony Music Entertainment Japan stepped in to acquire outstanding shares of BMG Music Japan from Sony BMG, making it a wholly owned subsidiary of Sony Music Japan.[2]


Sony Music Entertainment Japan was officially incorporated in March 1968[3] as a Tokyo-based 50/50 joint venture between Sony Corporation and U.S. conglomerate CBS to distribute the latter's music releases in Japan. The company was incorporated as CBS/Sony Records and with Sony co-founder Akio Morita as president.[4][5][6]

Norio Ohga was part of the management team from the formation of the company and served as president and representative director since April 1970.[7][8] In 1972, when CBS/Sony was generating robust profits, Ohga was named chairman and at the same time gained further responsibility and influence within Sony. He would continue to work for the music company one morning a week.[9] In 1980 Toshio Ozawa succeeded Ohga as president.[10]

In 1983 the company was renamed CBS/Sony Group.[3]

Sony acquires CBS Records in 1988[edit]

In January 1988, after more than a year of negotiations, Sony acquired CBS Records and the 50% of CBS/Sony Group that it did not already own.[11]

In March 1988, four wholly owned subsidiaries were folded into CBS/Sony Group: CBS/Sony Inc., Epic/Sony Records Inc., CBS/Sony Records Inc. and Sony Video Software International.[3][12]

The company was renamed Sony Music Entertainment (Japan), Inc.

Shugo Matsuo was named new president in January 1992, replacing Toshio Ozawa, who was appointed to the post of chairman.[13]

Overall sales for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1991 were 83.8 billion yen with a pretax profit of 9.2 billion yen.[13]

In June 1996, Ryokichi Kunugi became the new president. Shugo Matsuo was named chairman.[14]

Shigeo Maruyama was appointed to the new post of CEO on October 1, 1997 and replaced Kunugi as president in February 1998.[15]

As of 2007, Naoki Kitagawa is the current CEO of the group.

In May 2018, SMEJ acquired a 39% stake in the Peanuts comic strip franchise from DHX Media.[16]

Increased competition[edit]

The company's leading role on the Japanese market was increasingly challenged by labels such as Avex (where SMEJ formerly owned 5 percent of shares).[15][17] Net sales for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1997 were down 10% to 103 billion yen, while net income fell 41% to 7.7 billion yen.[17] The market share at that time was less than 18%.[17] In August 1997, Dreams Come True, until that point Sony Music Entertainment Japan's best-selling act, signed a worldwide multi-album deal with competing U.S. label Virgin Records America.[18]

Since then it was said that SMEJ ceded to Avex's challenge,[19] but SMEJ bounced back and regained leadership from its indie rival until 2012. SMEJ netted 22.4 billion yen for 1H 2012 and 14.3% of the market, second behind Avex (24.95 B yen, 15.9%).[20]

Labels and sublabels[edit]


  • Aniplex
  • Antinos Records was launched in 1994 with Sony Music director Shigeo Maruyama as its president. The first releases on August 21 were a mini-album by indie group Confusion and singles by the groups Aniss, Neverending Story, and Ginji Itoh.[21]
  • Ariola Japan
  • BMG Music Japan
  • DefSTAR Records – founded in 1997 as a Warner Music sub label. Acquired in 2000.
  • Epic Records Japan
  • Ki/oon Music – launched as Ki/oon Sony Records on April 1, 1992[22]
    • Fitz Beat[22]
    • Haunted Records
    • Ki/oon Records2
    • NeOSITE
    • Siren Song[22]
    • Trefort[22]
  • OKeh was launched in 1994 and headed by Sony Music deputy president Hiroshi Inagaki.[21]
  • SME Records
  • Sony Music Records
  • Sony Music Associated Records
    • onenation – joint venture with LDH
    • tributelink
    • Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Records
  • Sony Music House
  • Village Music
  • Music Ray'n[23][24]
  • Roc Nation Japan (a Japanese distribution of Jay-Z's label)
  • Sony Music Marketing – Oversees distribution of labels which have a distribution contract with SMEJ. Formerly known as Sony Music Distribution until 2014.
  • Sacra Music
    • Kalafina (SME RECORDS)
    • ClariS (SME RECORDS)
    • LiSA (Aniplex)
    • EGOIST (Sony Music Records)
    • Tomihisa Kako (SME RECORDS)
    • Kana Hanazawa (Aniplex)
    • Luna Haruna (SME RECORDS)
    • SawanoHiroyuki[nZk] (SME RECORDS)
    • Mashiro Ayano (Ariola Japan)
    • TrySail (Aniplex)
    • Tsukicro (SME RECORDS)
    • Soma Saito


Notable artists[edit]

Key people[edit]

See also[edit]

Key rivals[edit]


  1. ^ "Sony Japan not part of BMG merger plan-Bertelsmann". November 15, 2003. Archived from the original on 2007-11-14. Retrieved July 21, 2006.
  2. ^ "Acquisition of Shares in BMG Japan Inc. by Sony Music Entertainment Japan Inc. (Japanese)" (PDF). Sony Corporation. October 2, 2008. Retrieved December 31, 2009.
  3. ^ a b c Sony Music Entertainment Japan - History Retrieved September 15, 2010
  4. ^ Kimio Kase, Francisco J. Sáez-Martínez, Hernán Riquelme: Transformational CEOs: Leadership and Management Success in Japan. Edward Elgar Publishing, 2005, ISBN 1-84542-046-2. Page 16.
  5. ^ "Sony and the Modern Age". Archived from the original on February 17, 2001. Retrieved 2017-09-14.. Sony Music UK, Retrieved on August 6, 2006.
  6. ^ CBS/Sony Records is Established in First Round of Capital Deregulation. Sony History. Retrieved September 15, 2010.
  7. ^ Press release: Chairman of the Board Norio Ohga Retires as Director of Sony Corporation. Sony Corporation, January 28, 2003. Retrieved September 15, 2010
  8. ^ John Nathan: Sony. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2001, ISBN 0-618-12694-5. Pages 146-147.
  9. ^ John Nathan: Sony. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2001, ISBN 0-618-12694-5. Page 147.
  10. ^ The Joy of Creating Something New. Sony History. Accessed September 17, 2010.
  11. ^ The Acquisition of CBS Records and Columbia Pictures. Sony History. Accessed September 27, 2010.
  12. ^ CBS/Sony to Take Over 4 Subsidiaries. Jiji Press Ticker Service, February 12, 1988
  13. ^ a b Steve McClure: Sony Music Names Matsuo to Head Label in Japan In: Billboard, February 8, 1992. Page 4.
  14. ^ Attorneys Launch Entertainment-Focused Firm In: Los Angeles Times, May 3, 1996. Accessed September 17, 2010.
  15. ^ a b Steve McClure: CEO Maruyama Steps Up as New SMEJ President. In Billboard, February 28, 1998.
  16. ^ "Sony Music Entertainment Japan pays $185m to buy 39% in Snoopy cartoon company Peanuts - Music Business Worldwide". 14 May 2018.
  17. ^ a b c Steve McClure: SMEJ's Other Announcements, "Komuro's Sony Deal Won't Hurt Avex Relations" - Maruyama. In: Billboard, February 28, 1998.
  18. ^ Virgin's Dreams Come True. In: Billboard, August 20, 1997.
  19. ^ Kana Nishino | CNN Travel. (2009-12-11). Retrieved on 2013-07-16.
  20. ^ "Avex tops total sales ranking for the first half of 2012". Oricon. July 20, 2012. Retrieved August 15, 2012.
  21. ^ a b Steve McClure: Sony Bows Two Japan Subsids. In: Billboard, October 15, 1994. Page 53.
  22. ^ a b c d International - Newsline. In: Billboard, April 25, 1992. Page 36
  23. ^ ミュージックレイン. Retrieved on 2013-07-16.
  24. ^ Sony Music Group Company Site - グループ会社情報. Retrieved on 2013-07-16.
  25. ^ "72". S.M. Entertainment. Retrieved 2012-07-28.
  26. ^ Dancing Dolls Official Site. Retrieved on 2013-07-16.
  27. ^ (in Japanese) デビー・ギブソン. SonyMusic. Retrieved on 2013-07-16.
  28. ^ (in Japanese) エリック・マーティン. SonyMusic. Retrieved on 2013-07-16.

External links[edit]