For this month’s interview, we sat down with SPECTRUM member Kazumi Fujita, Regional Director of Japanese entertainment Powerhouse Avex Asia Pte Ltd as he shares with us his experiences and his views on entertainment in Singapore. If you attended the recent impressive NYE fireworks countdown event in Marina Bay or participated in the Pokémon run, you have already been part of one of the many AVEX events organised across the island. While the company manages some of the most well known J-pop and K-pop talents, its focus in Southeast Asia has mostly revolved around organising large-scale events that, as Fujita-san puts it, “make people happy”.
First of all, we would like to congratulate you on the successful execution of the Star Island NYE event. Many of us were there and absolutely loved the show. Was it a major challenge to make it happen?
Thank you. Yes, it was quite a feat; we had to bring in more than 10 thousand firework shells from Japan – not a usual practice by any means. Both insurance and cargo companies were extremely hesitant to take responsibility for the event but we were insistent that we would make it work. We eventually had to seek the assistance of the Japanese government to help with logistics and such.
There is also the fact that Japanese fireworks are extremely different from those that other countries are used to, and it was the first time we were organising such an event out of Japan. It was a new experience for people here, something that the local market had to warm up to.
The concept revolved around a stage in front of the audience with lights, pyro techniques, lasers and motocross stunts at a ticketed event. Usually, such shows with only fireworks would be free so we needed to assure value to our paying customers. We did this by educating our target audience through our website, billboards and MRT wrappings. As the event day edged closer, we started releasing restricted new tickets for sale due to an overwhelming response from the public.
So we have to ask, how did you find yourself in the entertainment management sphere? What discipline were you from before Avex?
I’ve been with Avex for over a decade. Before that, I was in the finance industry where I spent a few years.
I then moved to a thinktank-oriented company where I carried out research and consulting for 6 years. During this time, I approached Avex to collaborate on certain projects. In the end, they asked me to join the company and contribute my skillsets to their overall growth plans.
Can you tell us about the story of Avex Asia in Singapore? We know it’s a prominent entertainment company in Japan, when did Avex enter Singapore and what is your main mission here?
We’ve actually been here since 2014.
Before that, we spent more than 20 years in Taiwan. The spread of Japanese pop culture from Japan allowed the general public to be familiar with the artists we were managing. Our main business there was CDs.
Between 2006 and 2007, we launched a one-time challenge in China by opening a business there but the market wasn’t ready. We created a movie together with John Woo called Red Cliff which was a huge success in terms of popularity but we realised that the market there was pretty nascent as a whole and decided to pull out shortly after.
Although 2012 saw the best year in revenue for our company, we realised that Japan’s ageing population coupled with its declining economy opened up the necessity to expand across Southeast Asia, a region that in contrast had a growing young population experiencing economic growth.
We already had a presence in Hong Kong but Singapore EDB approached us for collaborative opportunities here and we thought it would be a great move to expand into such an inviting business culture.
In terms of our mission here, we aim to focus on what we do best, making people happy through entertainment. That’s in our DNA. We are also open to taking risks while being bold and trying new things to achieve this aim.
Have you been involved in organising large events in Japan prior to moving to Singapore? What are the main differences between the two countries when it comes to planning and executing such events?
In Japan, our business model is all about music and artist management as well as TV commercials. In Singapore, it’s more about leveraging all our different acquired IPs to organise events and operate some of our business functions. You can say that we do a lot more over here in terms of the breadth of services offered.
Moving forward, are you going to be focusing on events or are there plans to explore other areas such as the world of online entertainment?
We will expand on a number of IPs and our overall vision for Singapore. Other than our exclusive rights with Pokémon, we are already in discussions to assist other big names with their business development.
We also already have a Joint Venture partnership in the Philippines which will further our regional expansion. We are also exploring other such partnerships or even acquisitions to increase our profile in the region.
Yes, your exclusive rights with Pokémon. Quite an achievement. How did that materialise and are there any plans in the works for further developments on that front?
Our original plan was to bring Japanese artists to SEA. One of our first projects here was a-nation at the Mastercard Theatres in Marina Bay Sands in 2014. Our list of artists included the world-renowned Ayumi Hamasaki, but the market wasn’t so receptive when it came to Japanese artists performing here.
We also found out that Anime was highly popular in the country as well as in the region. We organised a Pokémon run and signed up 4000 people. This was followed by a Final Fantasy classical concert that included a full-sized symphony orchestra with 5000 tickets sold.
This is when we got a bit lucky in terms of timing. The resurgence of Pokémon through Pokémon Go at the time was perfect to complement a second themed-run at Marina Bay Sands where more than 6000 people gathered. Pokémon agreed to give us the rights for marketing in Singapore and events for the entire Asian region.
In terms of plans moving forward, we have huge news to be released on Pokémon soon – much of which I can’t mention here for obvious reasons. What I can say is that we are also providing the merchandise for the first official merchandise store out of Japan and we are extremely excited about this collaboration moving forward.
What do you think are the big trends of entertainment in Singapore that we will see emerging more prominently in 2019 and the next few years?
Tech is definitely going to guide the industry. Entertech will be pivotal and the Avex group has already been in talks with companies in Silicon Valley to work on projects revolving around its adoption.
In terms of the region, I think a growing middle class will allow barriers for entry to be reduced.
How has your experience in SPECTRUM been so far?
I only have positive comments – we used to be in an office space in the CBD that was too formal and conservative in terms of setting. SPECTRUM is such a vibrant and convenient place to work so we are very happy with our decision to move here.
I am also blown away by the small touches and the effort that the team makes to ensure members have a great experience.
We have successfully connected with members here that have helped us organise events and carry out marketing efforts to sell tickets nationwide. They even introduced us to potential partners overseas. SPECTRUM understands our strengths and needs and is connecting us with individuals and companies that can add value to our business.