Misa Watanabe is one of an elite group of music publishers who has been at the top of the industry for decades. In 1962, she founded Watanabe Music Publishing, which was the first company in Japan to offer full copyright administration services for every music title registered in the country. The publishing house has been pivotal in providing economic stability to Japan’s music publishers. She currently chairs the Watanabe Production Group, which today comprises 10 multimedia companies and two foundations. 

Watanabe will receive the 2018 ICMP Ralph Peer II Award for Outstanding Contribution to Global Music Publishing at Midem 2018. She agreed to respond to our questions on current changes in music publishing, and share how she sees today’s business.

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midemblog: You’ve had an award-winning career. What specifically does it mean to you to be honoured with the 2018 ICMP Ralph Peer II Award for Outstanding Contribution to Global Music Publishing?

Misa Watanabe: As someone who has enjoyed a lifetime working in music publishing, this is certainly the most prestigious honour I have received. It is an honour that offers a certain sense of validation for the many years I have participated in the music business, and I am completely overwhelmed to have those accomplishments be recognised, and to be selected for this honour, by the representatives of music publishers around the world. I am truly honoured and can only convey my deepest gratitude to all of those involved in selecting me for this most prestigious, and personally rewarding, award.

> With Watanabe Music Publishing and now Watanabe Production Group, you have strongly contributed to the development of music worldwide by giving global exposure to the Japanese music publishing sector and working with leading music catalogues like those of Queen, David Bowie or Deep Purple. What were the biggest changes in music publishing that you helped to bring about?

Having spent so many years being involved in the early stages of helping to establish the foundation of the music industry here in Japan, as well as helping to contribute to so many changes along the way, it is hard to narrow the choices down, but if I had to single out some of the most influential changes I would first point to helping to establish the Music Publishers Association of Japan (MPAJ). Through my work with the MPAJ we were able to enter into discussions with various organisations and societies around the world, and I believe those discussions, and the relationships that were formed as a result, helped to solidify and raise the status of music publishing companies. I would also single out my involvement with the Sanremo Music Festival and of course my long and deep relationship with Midem, as well as other internationally recognised events, which I believe helped to raise the profile of Japanese music and artists around the world. In the same way, my participation in the Expo ’70 World’s Fair Exposition in Osaka, and of course the Tokyo Music Festival, I believe helped to bring artists from around the world to Japan and create wonderful opportunities for their music to gain exposure in Japan, and develop the long term success of International music in Japan.


> What would be your number one piece of advice to someone looking to start out in music publishing today?

I feel the music business itself has become much more global, and markets are much more internationalised then they have even been before. The tremendous growth of digital and streaming is of course contributing to that globalisation and creating tremendous opportunities for music around the world. I believe there will always be change, and there will always be issues that publisher’s will need to deal with, but if there is one constant, it is that there will always be a need to create wonderful music and to deliver that music to people around the world. That is something that I truly feel will never change and, being as excited about the future as ever, I look forward to continuing to share that excitement with the artists, songwriters and producers, as well as all the new and exciting music, from around the world.



Misa Watanabe is the honouree of the 2018 ICMP Ralph Peer II Award for Outstanding Contribution to Global Music Publishing. The Award Ceremony will take place during a gala dinner, June 5, at Midem in Cannes.​

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James Martin is Head of Social Media for Midem organisers Reed MIDEM. This includes defining and rolling out Midem's social media strategy, editing midemblog, influencer outreach, developing Midem's fanbase of 75,000+ music professionals and more.

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