The Yamaha Corporation recently launched the Yamaha Entertainment Group (YEG), a one-stop boutique label and artist development initiative. Based in Nashville, TN, YEG is working directly with rising and established artists, and has built a new studio complex for both sound and video recording. The label will support artists from recording to publishing, licensing, branding, publicity and video. YEG has partnered with ADA (Alternative Distribution Alliance) for the marketing, promotion and distribution of the releases.
Isn’t this a risky time for anyone, even the world’s largest musical instrument manufacturing company, to launch such an ambitious effort? “This is a very focused initiative,” says Chris Gero, founder of Yamaha Entertainment Group. “For many years, Yamaha has helped to brand talent through endorsements, which work for both the artist and for us. We have a lot of experience in the development of artist careers.”
The roots of the Yamaha Corporation go back to 1887 when founder Torakusu Yamaha built his first reed organ. Since then, the company has become one of the most influential and successful international companies, not just for the keyboard instruments it is best known for, but for a series of innovations. From recording equipment to motorcycles, Yamaha has developed and successfully marketed an array of products. So why not work directly with artists to create careers?
Yamaha is already structured much like a label, with an international presence in the music business, an iconic name closely associated with all forms of popular music, long-standing relationships with major artists; concert, film and television ties, and existing artist relations departments.
Taking that one step further by building a dedicated recording and video facility in Franklin, TN, YEG is able to streamline many elements of the production process. Additionally, with the resources of the Alternative Distribution Alliance and utilizing the Yamaha Artist Relations divisions the Group oversees in New York, Los Angeles, Nashville and Indianapolis, YEG has assembled the components to create a powerful machine to address all phases of artist development and marketing.
Having some heavy hitters such as Elton John on your team doesn’t hurt, either. One of the first bands signed to Yamaha Entertainment Group is LEOGUN, a London-based band represented by Elton John’s management company, Rocket Entertainment Group. The band has released a single and an EP on the YEG label, with a full-length album in the works.
Not restricted to audio releases, YEG is producing a documentary on the making of the custom-designed Yamaha piano featured in Elton John’s Las Vegas show, Million Dollar Piano. Yamaha Entertainment Group is also producing the DVD release of the live show. Such video projects are planned to be an integral part of YEG, utilizing and expanding the existing in-house video production infrastructure.
Other artists closely involved with Yamaha Entertainment Group include Sarah McLachlan and Jon McLaughlin, who participated in the Group’s first sweepstakes and contests. Via the website, http://yamahaentertainmentgroup.com, ongoing contests and sweepstakes are offered for fans to win opportunities for meet-and-greets at live performances, autographed items, and to purchase one-of-a-kind products. A recent contest invited aspiring producers to remix the LEOGUN track “Let’s Be Friends” for a chance to win a trip to Nashville, to record (one song) at the Yamaha studio.
YEG plans to develop new talent in addition to enhancing its existing relationships with established artists. “We look at everything, and are actively seeking exceptional talent,” says Gero. “The best way to submit is through a manager directly to us.”
According to Gero, this initiative is about getting to the talent and creating careers. “Yamaha has a long history of involvement and support of artists and their careers. This is a critical time for music, but there is great opportunity for developing careers. There will always be an audience and a market for music, and we want to be in it.”