Warner Music is growing its footprint in the world’s second-biggest music market with the launch of a new music label focused on Japan’s fast-growing urban and hip-hop scene.
Named +809, the new venture will be based in Warner’s Tokyo office and overseen by Warner Music Japan president and CEO Kaz Kobayashi. He said the label would “help break down barriers and enable Japanese artists to succeed in the global streaming market.”
The launch of +809 comes as major labels ramp up investment in local repertoire on a global scale, with a particular emphasis on urban and hip-hop artists.
In September, Universal Music Group opened new headquarters in Southeast Asia supporting A&R and marketing teams in Malaysia, Indonesia, Indochina, Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore. The structural reorganization also saw the launch of regional offices for Def Jam and dance imprint Astralwerks.
This year Universal teamed up with New York-based media company Mass Appeal to launch a new urban-focused label in India to tap into its own thriving hip-hop scene, fueled by the rise of streaming.
In Central Europe, where homegrown hip-hop artists are currently dominating the charts, it’s a similar story, with all three major labels committing more dollars and resources towards signing and development of local urban acts.
That strategy is now shifting to Asia, where the popularity of local rappers performing in their own languages has grown in tandem with the rise of streaming.
“Urban music is exploding across Asia and the Japanese market has some very exciting talent coming through,” said Warner Music Asia president Simon Robson announcing +809, which is named in homage to the Roland T808 drum machine.
Robson described Warner Music Japan as a “digital-first business” primed to help local urban acts build an international fan base. Kobayashi said the goal was for +809 to become established as the country’s “leading urban label and showcase the future of Japanese music to the world.”