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Matsumura Aims To Renew Nippon Columbia: Incoming President/CEO Will Concentrate On Developing Hitmaking Acts

Billboard, 10.13.01
Steve McClure


TOKYO - Former BMG Funhouse music director/executive VP Katsumi "Jack" Matsumura faces the challenge of bringing new musical talent to Japan's oldest label in his new role as president/CEO of Nippon Columbia.

Matsumura left BMG Funhouse Sept. 30 and was appointed to the new post Oct. 2, replacing outgoing president Tadahiko Shinohara.

"It's a unique opportunity," Matsumura says. "Nippon Columbia has a vast catalog and covers all demographics." His priority, he says, is to find and develop new, hitmaking acts—an area in which the label has failed for several years. Matsumura will also have to deal with staff layoffs and restructuring in an effort to put the loss-heavy label back into the black.

Prior to joining BMG in 1996, Matsumura held a series of executive positions at Sony Music Entertainment (Japan). He is not the first member of his family to serve as an executive at Nippon Columbia: His paternal grandfather was on the company's board of directors when it was founded (as Nippon Chiku Onkai) in 1910.

Nippon Columbia's mounting losses led parent firm Hitachi to sell the bulk of its shares in the company this May to New York City-based investment firm Ripplewood, which named former BMG Entertainment CEO Strauss Zelnick chairman of the label and split off hardware division Denon as a separate company. Ripplewood and Hitachi now have stakes of 41.7% and 27.5%, respectively, in Nippon Columbia. The deal raised some 16 billion yen ($133 million) for the label's "revitalization." Nippon Columbia had a 3.3% market share in the first six months of 2001, according to SoundScan Japan.

"Jack is the most successful and creative Japanese record executive," says New York City-based Zelnick, who first met Matsumura when the pair worked for BMG. "I'm thrilled we were able to recruit him.

"We're going to work closely together, but he has an open-ended mandate in terms of revitalizing the company," Zelnick continues. "I'm going to be very hands-on, but Jack is the CEO." Other key executives will likely be brought in from outside as part of continuing restructuring.

Former Liquid Audio Japan president Alex Abramoff, himself formerly considered a contender for the Nippon Columbia role, comments, "Jack's experience in finding, developing, and breaking acts will undoubtedly prove useful at the label, where A&R activities need to be strengthened without any delay."

A Nippon Columbia statement says its revitalization plan will include:

• developing a new strategy to successfully address the high-growth "J-pop" market;
• leveraging its catalog to create a strong base of consistent cash flow;
• focusing efforts on hit releases;
• reviewing marketing and sales policies;
• improving project and information management process;
• re-evaluating core businesses; and
• reviewing human-resource management policy.

Zelnick concludes, "It boils down to making sure the company is passionate about what it takes on creatively."