In November 2018, Avex and LDH JAPAN (referred to as LDH below) announced that they have joined forces to start a new company that will specialize in live concert merchandise. The name of this new company is HI&max, and is gathering quite the attention as it is their first joint company. How will this content holder tag team affect the live entertainment market that has been seeing continual growth in recent years? To find out, we sat down with the CEO/President of HI&max, Satoshi Arisaka (Avex rep.) and CEO/Vice President of HI&max, Taishi Noda (LDH rep.).
A long time coming.
The organic bond that
Avex and LDH were after.
When people hear that this is the first joint venture between Avex and LDH, a common and genuine reaction is to think “it’s really their first?” Considering the fact that LDH artists release their music through the Avex label and how Avex Chairman Matsuura and LDH President HIRO are old acquaintances, it’s not hard to see why.
“This project actual began around April, May of last year,” explains Arisaka. “I hadn’t yet met Noda-san and our president Kuroiwa was still deciding on the details of the presentation we would give LDH. It was around June that I met Noda-san for the first time.”
“Some people,” says Noda, “might happen to know that our presidents, Matsuura and HIRO, were school mates back in high school, albeit different grades. They’ve been wondering some time about how they could work together and be more helpful to each other, not as a label and a production company, but a different kind of relationship. Then they realized that they were both thinking of starting a company for handling artist’s paraphernalia and other goods relating to entertainment, and HI&max is what they came up with.”
Arisaka added, “Matsuura and HIRO had apparently wanted to do something together for a long time now. Maybe this project isn’t what they had in mind that whole time, but I also had known personally that we ought to make a new way of selling merchandise at venues. So when I first heard about this project, I thought ‘Matsuura’s thinking of the same stuff we knew we had to work on, now’s the time.”
Avex celebrated their thirtieth year anniversary last year while LDH celebrated their fifteenth. It has been a long time coming for HI&max to appear and happens with great timing on this anniversary year. “As for the people’s reactions, it seems that people could be misunderstanding things a bit,” Noda jokingly said. “When the news first came out announcing our start, some people took it as ‘Avex and LDH have merged!’ Companies that do joint ventures have a way of being a bit misunderstood by the world. When we started we didn’t even have ten employees.”
Updating the “how”
in enjoying concerts.
Becoming a company
that can be completely
trusted to handle
everything at concert venues.
While Arisaka looks over the entire merchandise process at Avex from product development all the way to sales, Noda is a top administrator at LDH overseeing accounting and legal and general affairs. With completely different experience and knowhow on top of dealing with their first joint venture, they were uncertain of what to do in the beginning.
“There was this very obscure feeling of uneasiness at first,” shared Arisaka. “It wasn’t business at a project level like either of us were used to; we would be doing all business projects together.”
Noda added, “I think that by starting HI&max, we seriously benefit from having a single common goal which allows us to share understanding and be on the same page for many aspects.”
As for the project starting in Spring of last year while the announcement was made in November, Arisaka says, “Even though there were many things that weren’t moving along schedule, there was pressure to be speedy, so we didn’t want to push the announcement back to this year, we wanted to keep things rolling.”
Noda adds, “Our arena tour THE RAMPAGE from EXILE TRIBE starts this year in February so we wanted to make that our first project.”
“HI&max will take care of all the goods and merchandise at the venues,” says Arisaka. “We are already doing trials to see the best way to go about creating things from scratch and once that is finished we will go over the parts we need to improve and get ready for February.”
Up until now both companies had been outsourcing their merchandise sale staff for live venues, but now HI&max will be taking care of that as well. They plan to update product development and sales methods while making the best out of their individual experience and material content.
Noda explains, “HI&max will place the most importance on using the content we have to create a totally new space and atmosphere than what we have created for live venues up until now. We’ll also take on merchandise projects from artists outside of LDH and Avex so that one day people in the industry will say, ‘when it comes to Merch, go to HI&max’.”
Arisaka adds, “There is always a demand to create a feeling of oneness at concerts, for Avex artists and for LDH ones as well, as we learned from LDH’s new ideas for venues during their LDH LAND events. And this isn’t only in regards to the concert hall itself, but the entirety, including the few hours before the doors open. We want to make a fun space for all eventgoers to enjoy.”
“One more goal,” explains Noda, “is to become a company that creates a new form of entertainment by supporting those interested in the entertainment industry but not as performers themselves. For example there are lots of young people who come to us wanting to be involved in our programs, like the dance program EXPG for LDH, and Avex Artist Academy at Avex.”
“Really! Mad+Pure” and
“Love, Dream, Happiness.”
Offering new values
As it is still a new beginning, HI&max is still pondering over how to make the best use of their knowledge and content. However, there is undoubtedly merit in the joint venture so we asked both representatives what they think of the other and what their strengths are.
“I think it’s Avex’s history and results,” says Noda, “as well as the feeling of ease and assurance they portray with their rich team of specialists. They’ve helped us tremendously in the business side of things. We’ve been a company for fifteen years and we’re finally coming together after much trial and error. Avex is twice as far ahead of us so we really learn a lot from them.”
Arisaka had the following to say about LDH. “As I said earlier I think LDH’s strength is in their feeling of oneness or unity. I really felt that everyone knew and understood what it was that HIRO is thinking, not only the people directly around him but the people working on scene; they’re all on the same page. I think that also increases the speed and responsiveness to their work. Now that Avex has grown so big, I think we need a part of that as well, so there is a lot of things we should learn from LDH through HI&max.”
“We are sure to run into some difficulties in the beginning since we come from completely different environments and cultures,” says Noda, “but working together we’ll learn about the strengths and weaknesses in the other’s operations and go back and inform our respective teams about how ‘they’ do it. I’d say the biggest merit is taking the good things from each other and using that to help our other preexisting projects.”
Learn from each other and utilize strengths. When two of the top runners of the entertainment industry choose to do so, it’s hard not to call that a reliable relationship. At the same time, the principles and philosophies at the core of each of the companies is sure to support HI&max during its future endeavors.
“I really love what our company stands for,” says Noda from LDH, “which is represented in our name, ‘Love, Dream, Happiness.’ Ultimately, we are announcing something pretty grandiose up front, like when we exchange business cards with someone. I think that making defining statements is really important. To me, Avex’s tag line, ‘Really! Mad+Pure’ is not so much different from our Love, Dream, Happiness. We’re top companies with a mutual relationship that didn’t just happen overnight, so even though we choose different words, I really think we speak the same essential principles.”
Arisaka responded saying, “The simpler things are, the easier they are to convey. Messages with answers that don’t come out that easily give you the opportunity to ponder. I think philosophies or ideologies become like a sign, a guide when you have a hard time coming up with answers for certain things throughout your day. I want to do work that makes people go ‘Really!?’ and I want to show that to the world.”
After HI&max, we may see more and more of Avex and LDH working together in various places. One could also argue that that depends on how this project turns out. The two have set sail carrying a massive load of expectation and anticipation and whether they arrive at their destination will depend on the modest stance of learning through acceptance of the strength and charm of fellow companies while absorbing and implementing fiercely.
Avex Entertainment Inc.
Platform Business Merchandise
LDH JAPAN Inc.