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Japanese major label Avex downsizing

By | Published on Wednesday 18 November 2020


Japan’s fourth major label, Avex, has begun a possibly significant downscaling, in part as a result of the pandemic, according to Billboard. It has reportedly put its Tokyo HQ up for sale and has offered early retirement to almost a third of its staff.

In a statement to Billboard, the company said: “It is true Avex is moving forward with structural reforms and is considering selling the head office building as part of these, but we have not made a decision at this time”.

At one time the dominant record label in the Japanese recorded music market, it was last year third behind Universal Music and Sony Music, seeing its market share halve in just five years. The fall, apparently, is due to many of its former big earners being past their career peak, or – in the case of singer Namie Amuro – having retired from music completely.

It has also been hit by the pandemic, even though COVID restrictions in Japan have generally not been as severe as in Europe and North America. Nevertheless, Avex has been hit by COVID in two ways.

Firstly, while Japan has finally begun to shift to digital, physical record sales remain much more important than in other territories – with 68% of the country’s record industry revenues coming from the sale of physical discs in 2019. And, of course, COVID has had a bigger impact on physical sales than digital consumption. Avex has also generally been slower than other majors to recognise and embrace the shift to digital, meaning it has been harder hit in this domain.

Secondly, according to Billboard, with record sale revenues in decline, Avex had started becoming more involved in live entertainment as a means of boosting its overall income. Meaning that it was also involved in the side of the music industry even more impacted by COVID.

Sources who spoke to Billboard said that the company is hoping to downsize its 1500 strong workforce by 100 people. However, anyone over the age of 40 at the business – around 440 people – has been offered early retirement.

The record company continues to actively release new music and has seemingly begun looking to build profile for its artists outside of Japan. Artists signed to the label include numerous girl groups, such as Faky, BiSH and AKB48 offshoot SKE48, ‘mannequin rap’ duo FEMM, and composer Ryuichi Sakamoto.