Billboard publisher VNU Business Media and Osaka-based Hanshin Contents Link (HCL) on Sept. 14 unveiled a master licensing agreement that will see "Billboard Live" venues open in three Japanese cities

Billboard publisher VNU Business Media and Osaka-based Hanshin Contents Link (HCL) on Sept. 14 unveiled a master licensing agreement that will see "Billboard Live" venues open in three Japanese cities in summer 2007 and extend the range of the Billboard brand in Japan.

Under the agreement, announced at press conferences in Tokyo and Osaka, HCL will operate Billboard Live venues in Tokyo, Osaka and Fukuoka. The Tokyo venue will be located in the soon-to-open Tokyo Midtown development in the Japanese capital's Roppongi entertainment district. The Osaka and Fukuoka venues, currently operated by HCL as Blue Note clubs under a licensing deal, will be re-branded as Billboard Live venues.

"We hope to attract many music fans by providing a wider variety of musical genres than we have with Blue Note," said HCL president Tsuneaki Miyazaki. HCL is a wholly owned subsidiary of Osaka-based Hanshin Electric Railway Co.

"We anticipate creating new print properties, charts, websites, digital download services TV and radio programs and even apparel" through the deal with HCL, VNU Business Media VP Howard Appelbaum said. VNU and HCL have had a licensing agreement for the Billboard Mobile ringtone download service since early 2005.

"Our vision is that in the not-too-distant future the Billboard brand will be as revered in Japan as it is in the United States," Appelbaum said.

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