We can all be big in Japan soon, thanks to Finest Sounds

Finnish-Estonian tour de force, Finest Sounds, has completed after a couple of years of travelling, networking and composing new export strategies. Boosting both Finnish and Estonian music and creative industries export to Japan, Finest Sounds worked as a first push towards opening doors, starting a new era for music export to the second biggest market in the world.

During the project different cross-sectoral collaboration models imported Japanese expertise into the Nordic field and vice versa. Knowledge about Japan’s market was offered in seminars as well as in individual mentoring and workshops for companies on developing their export strategy, connecting local entities with the right people working on the Japanese music and creative fields.

One of Music & Media’s key international themes last year was the Japanese market, and the event hosted both Finest Sounds related seminars and networking sessions. Around 30 Japanese guests attended either Music & Media or Tallinn Music Week, and in total about 150 Japanese contacts were introduced to Finnish and Estonian delegates.


Bringing together present and future pros

Finest Sounds concept was initiated back in 2015 by Tapio Korjus, a long term Finnish music professional and influencer. According to Korjus, Japan was an interesting target market as all foreign music is marginal there and breaking through doesn’t require prior success in the Anglo-American market. Nordic lifestyle, design and music are a great interest for the Japanese audience.

Finest Sounds was introduced to and quickly developed forward by Tampere University of Applied Sciences, TAMK. Along the way both Music Finland and Music Estonia, as well as Music & Media and Tallinn Music Week were natural actors to join the party.

– Finest Sounds is a part of EU’s Central Baltic Programme, and each project must involve at least two counties from the EU. Estonia was an easy choice as our co-operations have always been fruitful. Music & Media and Tallinn Music Week were perfect platforms for local music professionals to meet Japanese quests and experts, says Korjus.

TAMK Head of Degree Programme in Media and Arts Timo Kivikangas praises the project for it’s views on the unique Japanese market and rewarding collaborations between TAMK and other participating universities, HUMAK University of Applied Sciences in Finland and Baltic Film School at Tallinn University in Estonia.

– Finest Sounds allowed a large group of present and future professionals to learn a lot and network with new international contacts. This will without a doubt help many artists, companies and other professionals in terms of export in the future. The hopes we had for Finest Sounds were well reached and some of them exceeded, says Kivikangas.


Boost in collaborations

During 2017 and 2018 Finest Sounds organized a series of events and pitching sessions in Finland, Estonia and Japan, targeted for music and tech companies as well as artists. Finnish companies taking part in the sessions included for example Elements Music, Sugarhouse Publishing, Ranka, Vild, Stupido, Bafe’s Factory, Zen Master Oy, Fried Music, Saura Booking Agency, Nokia Technologies, Yousician, Visit Tampere, Tampere Hall and Moomin Museum. One of the themes was matching music with other brands, products and services from other sectors such as fashion or design.

In May 2018 an export trip to Japan took musicians, songwriters and other music professionals to meet the locals. Maija Kauhanen, Antti Paalanen, Tuuletar, Mokoma, Olli Hirvonen New Helsinki and Utopianisti were the Finnish artists showcasing in different jazz, world and metal showcases – some of them sold out!

In all the initiative engaged 28 Finnish artists (and 10 from Estonia), 35 Finnish music companies (15 from Estonia) and 18 other Finnish companies (14 from Estonia).

Finest Sounds engaged companies and artists towards exporting to Japan, expanding music networks globally. In doing so it also brought Finnish and Estonian scenes closer to each other. Both Music Finland and Music Estonia continue to seek opportunities to support exporting to Japan also in the future.

Both Tapio Korjus and Timo Kivikangas as well as Music Estonia’s director Virgo Sillamaa are very optimistic about the long term effects of Finest Sounds.

– We expect to get increased sales in Japan in the near future due to the meetings we’ve had and connections we’ve made, says Sillamaa.


Based on the discussions and meetings, even a Finest Sounds Guidebook of Japan was created. The guidebook is free for download here.


This blog is based on Virgo Sillamaa’s presentation at Tallinn Music Week 2019.

Photo: Jenna Ylikoski