Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) Inc.
Native name
Kabushikigaisha sonī myūjikkuentateinmento
FormerlyCBS/Sony Records Inc. (1968–1983)
CBS/Sony Group, Inc. (1983–1991)
Company typeSubsidiary
Founded11 March 1968; 56 years ago (1968-03-11)
Headquarters4–5 Rokubancho, ,
Area served
Key people
Toshiaki Muramatsu
(President and CEO)
Number of employees
ParentSony Group Corporation
SubsidiariesSee § Subsidiaries
Sony Music Entertainment Japan headquarters in Rokubanchō, Chiyoda, Tokyo occupied in June 2001
SME Nogizaka Building in Akasaka, Minato, Tokyo.
Naoki Kitagawa, the CEO of Sony Music Entertainment

Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) Inc. (株式会社ソニー・ミュージックエンタテインメント, Kabushiki gaisha Sonī Myūjikku Entateinmento), often abbreviated as SMEJ or simply SME, and also known as Sony Music Japan for short (stylized as SonyMusic), is a Japanese music arm for Sony. Founded in 1968 as CBS/Sony, SMEJ is directly owned by Sony Group Corporation and is operating independently from the United States-based Sony Music Entertainment due to its strength in the Japanese music industry.[a][1] Its subsidiaries include the Japanese animation production enterprise, Aniplex, which was established in September 1995[2] as a joint-venture between Sony Music Entertainment Japan and Sony Pictures Entertainment Japan, but which in 2001 became a wholly owned subsidiary of Sony Music Entertainment Japan. It was prominent in the early to mid '90s producing and licensing music for animated series such as Roujin Z from acclaimed Japanese comic artist Katsuhiro Otomo and Capcom's Street Fighter animated series.

Until March 2007, Sony Music Japan also had its own North American sublabel, Tofu Records. Releases of Sony Music Japan now appear on Columbia Records and/or Epic Records in North America.

Sony does not have the trademark rights to the Columbia name in Japan, so releases under Columbia Records from another country appears on Sony Records in Japan, but retains the usage of the "walking eye" logo. The Columbia name and trademark is controlled by Nippon Columbia, which was, in fact, the licensee for the American Columbia Records up until 1968, even though relations were officially severed as far back as World War II. Nippon Columbia also does not have direct relations with the British Columbia Graphophone Company (an EMI subsidiary), so the licensee for the British Columbia Graphophone Company was actually Toshiba Musical Industries.

With Sony Corporation of America's buyout of Bertelsmann's stake in Sony BMG, Sony Music Entertainment Japan stepped in to acquire outstanding shares of BMG Japan from Sony BMG, making it a wholly owned subsidiary of Sony Music Japan.[3]


Beginnings as CBS joint venture

The idea for a CBS/Sony joint venture came in 1967 from Harvey Schein, then President of Columbia Records International who had spent a decade traveling the world building CBS’s international company. In 1972 Schein would leave CBS to become the president of Sony Corporation of America.[4]

Sony Music Entertainment Japan was officially incorporated in March 1968[5] as a Tokyo-based 50/50 joint venture between Sony and U.S. conglomerate CBS to distribute the latter's music releases in Japan. The company was incorporated as CBS/Sony Records and with Sony co-founder Akio Morita as president.[6][7][8]

Norio Ohga, who himself was a musician, was part of the management team from the formation of the company and served as president and representative director since April 1970.[9][10] In 1972, when CBS/Sony was generating robust profits, Ohga was named chairman and at the same time gained further responsibility and influence within Sony. He would continue to work for the music company one morning a week.[11] In 1980, Toshio Ozawa succeeded Ohga as president.[12]

In 1983, the company was renamed CBS/Sony Group.[5]

Sony acquires The CBS Records Group in 1988

In January 1988, after more than a year of negotiations, Sony acquired the CBS Records Group and the 50% of CBS/Sony Group that it did not already own.[13]

In March 1988, four wholly owned subsidiaries were folded into CBS/Sony Group: CBS/Sony Inc., Epic/Sony Records Inc., CBS/Sony Records Inc. and Sony Video Software International.[5][14]

The company was renamed Sony Music Entertainment (Japan), Inc.

Shugo Matsuo was named new president in January 1992, replacing Toshio Ozawa, who was appointed to the post of chairman.[15]

Overall sales for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1991, were 83.8 billion yen with a pretax profit of 9.2 billion yen.[15]

In June 1996, Ryokichi Kunugi became the new president. Shugo Matsuo was named chairman.[16]

Shigeo Maruyama was appointed to the new post of CEO on October 1, 1997, and replaced Kunugi as president in February 1998.[17]

In August 1998, the logo was changed from the original "Walking Eye" to the current one.

As of 2019, Mizuno Michinori is the official CEO of the company.

In May 2018, SMEJ, through its Sony Creative Products division, acquired a 39% stake in the Peanuts comic strip franchise from DHX Media.[18]


Sony Music Entertainment announced the launch of its first video game publishing label, Unties, in October 2017. Unties will publish indie games for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation VR, Nintendo Switch, and PC. The name was selected by Sony as representative of helping to "unleash" the power of independent video game development and "unshackle" such developers from the traditional video game publishing process.[19]

Unties' first release was Tiny Metal, a turn-based tactics video game developed by Area 35, for the Nintendo Switch, PS4, and PC. The game was first premiered at PAX West Indie Megabooth.[20] Published Azure Reflections, a side-scrolling bullet hell developed by Souvenir Circ., on May 15, 2018, for the PS4.[21] Published Touhou Gensou Wanderers Reloaded, a roguelike rpg developed by Aqua Style, for the PS4, Nintendo Switch, and PC.[22] Published Necrosphere, a platformer developed by Cat Nigiri, for the PS4, Nintendo Switch, PC, and PSVita.[22][23] Published Midnight Sanctuary, a VR/3D Novel game developed by CAVYHOUSE, for the PS4, Nintendo Switch and PC.[22][24] Published Tokyo Dark, a visual novel mystery adventure hybrid developed by Cherrymochi, for the PC.[25][22] Published Chiki-Chiki Boxy Racers, an arcade racing game developed by Pocket, for the Nintendo Switch on August 30, 2018.[26][22] Scheduled to publish on Last Standard, a 3d action game developed by I From Japan, intended for PC.[27][28] Scheduled to publish The Good Life, a daily-life rpg developed by White Owls Inc., for the PS4 and PC.[29][22] Scheduled to publish Merkava Avalanche, a 3d cavalry warfare action game developed by WinterCrownWorks, for the PC.[30][22] Scheduled to publish Olija, an action adventure game developed by Skeleton Crew Studio, for the PC.[31][22] Scheduled to publish Deemo Reborn, a music rhythm and urban fantasy game developed by Taiwanese studio Rayak, for the PS4 with PSVR support.[28][22] Scheduled to publish Giraffe and Anika, a 3d adventure game developed by Atelier Mimina, for the PS4, Nintendo Switch and PC.[32][22] Scheduled to publish 3rd Eye, a 2d horror exploration game, based on the Touhou franchise, for the PS4, Nintendo Switch, and PC.[33][22] Scheduled to publish Gensokyo Defenders, a tower-defense game developed by Neetpia, for the PS4 and Nintendo Switch.[34][22] In 2019, Unties was dropped from the Sony group and became the new company Phoenixx.

Increased competition

The company's leading role on the Japanese market was increasingly challenged by labels such as Avex (where SMEJ formerly owned 5 percent of shares).[17][35] Net sales for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1997, were down 10% to 103 billion yen, while net income fell 41% to 7.7 billion yen.[35] The market share at that time was less than 18%.[35] In August 1997, Dreams Come True, until that point Sony Music Entertainment Japan's best-selling act, signed a worldwide multi-album deal with competing U.S. label Virgin Records America.[36]

Since then it was said that SMEJ ceded to Avex's challenge,[37] but SMEJ bounced back and regained leadership from its indie rival until 2012. SMEJ netted 22.4 billion yen for 1H 2012 and 14.3% of the market, second behind Avex (24.95 B yen, 15.9%).[38]

In May 2017, SMEJ, through subsidiary Sony Music Marketing (now Sony Music Solutions), acquired the physical retail and distribution rights to releases of another rival, Warner Music Japan.[39]

Labels and sublabels



Other services

Notable artists



Key people

See also

Key rivals


  1. ^ While Sony Music Japan is directly owned by Sony itself, Sony Music Entertainment is owned by Sony's New York, USA-based subsidiary Sony Entertainment through Sony Music Group.
  2. ^ SCP held the licensing rights of Peanuts in Japan since 2010. Later in 2018, SMEJ bought 39% of DHX Media's stake on Peanuts Worldwide LLC.


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