Merlin Appoints Former Spotify Exec As It Looks to Grow Streaming In World's Second Largest Market

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Courtesy of Merlin
Kaoruko Hill, Head of Member Services and Operations and Akira Nomoto, General Manager.

It's all about change at Merlin's Japan office, where general manager Haji Taniguchi has left the company and been replaced by former Spotify and Apple exec Akira Nomoto.

Taniguchi helped set up Merlin's first office in the world's second largest music market in 2016. Thanking the outgoing exec, Merlin CEO Charles Caldas said Taniguchi played "a lynchpin role" in establishing Merlin's presence in Japan and wished him all the best for the future.

Nomoto takes up the role of full-time general manager – reporting to Caldas -- with immediate effect and will be responsible for growing Merlin's business in a key market where streaming sales recently surpassed those of downloads for the first time.

Physical is still overwhelming the dominant format in Japan, representing over 71 percent of sales, but a 33 percent rise in streaming sales in 2018, as reported by the Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ), has given execs hope that the tide is slowly turning.     

"There is now a huge opportunity for Japanese independent labels to expand their business globally as the market shifts from ownership to access," said Nomoto, who joins Merlin from Spotify where he spent six years, rising to become director of licensing and label relations. Before Spotify, he led Apple's label relations and music programming initiatives in Japan.

Working alongside him at Merlin Tokyo office will be Kaoruko Hill, who has played a key role in the company's operations there since its inception two and a half years ago. In recognition of her successes in the areas of music rights and licensing, she's been promoted to the expanded role of head of member services and operations.

In the first six months of 2018, Merlin's distributions to independent label members in Japan increased by over 200 percent from the same period the previous year, although the company has not revealed monetary values. Japan is now Merlin's fifth largest source of members.

In a statement announcing the executive reshuffle, CEO Caldas said the unrivaled experience of Nomoto and Hill "will help Merlin's expanding Japanese membership capitalize on the continued consumer adoption of music streaming, and boost our long-term commitment to the region." He added, "There is nobody who better understands the Japanese music market."

Since its launch in 2008, Merlin's membership has grown to 800 members, representing more than 20,000 labels and distributors in 62 countries, which collectively account for more than 12 percent of the global digital recorded music market.

To date, the Amsterdam-headquartered company, which also has offices in London, New York, alongside Tokyo, says it has distributed over $1.5 billion to its members.