Sami Häikiö, Head of International team of Music Finland, talked to EARS about how Finnish music is making its way to Asia. Especially to Japan.

Where does Finnish music export aim geographically?

When living in Finland and working with music, you have to think big and that means globally. For many years the focus in Europe has been Germany, also the UK. Outside of Europe, the United States of course holds a big market for music but at the moment I see potential in Asia’s music center, Japan.

Success music export, how is it done?

It’s all about charming! Whether you’re abroad showcasing at festivals, networking at trade shows or bringing international guests to hear Finnish music at it’s origin, the main thing is to let people go home with good vibes. Sometimes the best thing to do is to have managers and festival bookers come to Finland: it’s different to see a local band playing to their cheering fans than to present the same talent to only a handful of people in Tokyo.

We’re doing publicity and PR on our own but also with local PR companies as we believe they know their audience best. The biggest thing that can go wrong is being somewhere at the wrong time. Doing your research and feeling the hype is the basis for all great things to happen.

What kind of collaboration projects have you done in Asia?

We do projects as Music Finland but also as Nomex – a pan-Nordic platform owned by the music export offices in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. In November, we are doing the Hokuo Music Fest, which showcases Nordic indie and electronic music in Tokyo. Individually, all the countries are too small to organize this sort of event but together combining artists, bands and producers from five Nordic countries, we have a strong mix. In addition to Hokuo, we are organising a showcase and networking event, Finland Fest, presenting Finnish heavy metal in Tokyo.

In Japan, Finnish music has received an enthusiastic welcome. One of our collaborations is an co-write-workshop Asian Pop Castle, where Finnish and Asian songwriters get together to create new songs for Asian markets. Music Finland invites record label delegates, writers and publishers from South Korea, Taiwan and Japan to participate the fun. This collaboration has been very successful and many songs with Finnish origin have been played by Asian artists. From the overall response, I could say that there is a Nordic boom going on in Asia, and that’s awesome! However, it’s still not enough to go to Japan every two years to maintain the presence, it needs to be a long-term investment.

Which Asian country interests you the most at the moment in the field of music?

Japan has the world’s second largest market for music but clearly South Korea is another hotspot at the moment. The Korean music industry has grown rapidly during the past couple of years. South Korean artists are popular in the rest of Asia, also in Europe and slowly reaching the States too. There’s a lot to learn from the Korean way of doing music: the investment to quality is unbelievable.

When writing songs to Asian markets what is essential to know about musical preferences?

Japanese pop, known as J-pop, is very different from the European style; you need to think cute and silly, in a good way! Korean pop takes more influences from R’n’B and the choreography to the song is important. In Taiwan, melancholic ballads are in.

What kind of significance do international networking events have in the field of music?

Huge! You can learn from other professionals and get new, important contacts. When talking about networking events, EARS is exceptional; in Asia there’s not many events gathering together all the professionals in creative fields, there’s one in Japan but it’s all Japanese. For Europeans it’s easier to meet Asia in Helsinki, and the manageable size of EARS is also a big plus. Sometimes it’s hard to find the right people and get the feeling of cohesion in big trade shows.

How would you compare European and Asian music listeners?

In Asia, musical preferences are even more regional than in Europe: the percentage of listening to local music in Finland compared to foreign music is 60% to 40%. The same numbers in Japan are 90% and 10%. So the market for international music in Asia is comparatively smaller than in Europe and the small portion of 10% is highly competitive.

Last but not least, what is your favourite song at the moment?
Lately, I’ve been listening to “Loser” from Big Bang, Korean R’n’B with great production!


EARS – Europe-Asia Roundtable Sessions is a platform focusing on creative industry collaboration between Europe and Asia. The next EARS event will be held in Helsinki, August 27-30, showcasing the latest developments from the fields of design, music, performing arts, literature, marketing and media.

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