Interview: The Creators of ANiUTa

by Zac Bertschy,

On August 1st, the first official streaming service for anime music launched in the U.S.A. Known as ANiUTa, the app currently sports a selection of over 10,000 songs from idol and seiyuu-based hits to complete series soundtracks and video game music. The app's founders, legendary voice actor and head of the talent agency Aslead Company, Ryo Horikawa, and prolific music producer and president of Victor Entertainment's Flying Dog label, Shiro Sasaki, visited Crunchyroll Expo to discuss the creation of ANiUTa and what the future looks like for the only anisong streaming service on the market.

So how did ANiUTa first come about and what's the response been to it in Japan so far?

Sasaki: Japan is the only country in the world in which CDs still sell. Even so, the younger generation is no longer buying CDs. So to combat that, we came up with this, and people really enjoy it in Japan.

What prompted you to launch the service in America?

Sasaki: We'd like people all over the world to enjoy the service – we just decided to start with America.

For Mr. Horikawa, can you tell us a little about Aslead's relationship with ANiUTa with regard to producing specifically the English version of the application?

Horikawa: This is our first time working together. I offered to help them with the English language release, and it became clear we needed to work together more and more, not only to reach the audience in the US, but all over the world.

Did you ever see yourself getting into this line of work?

Horikawa: Never! First time. I like the service. It's great, and I'd love to deliver an original song on the service in the future!

What changes are you looking at implementing on the service now that you've had about a month of feedback from English users, and what has that feedback been like in general?

Sasaki: I haven't really promoted it that much yet, so there hasn't been much feedback so far. Starting this fall, I have a bunch of collaborations with companies in the US, and that's when I'm going to really start promoting it.

The English version's catalog is significantly smaller than the Japanese catalog. Any chance of a catalog expansion for the US soon?

Sasaki: Of course!

Do you curate the songs for the English version of the service, or is it basically anything you can get North American streaming rights to?

Sasaki: ANiUTa is a collection of ten different labels; right now the songs in the US catalog are only from two of those labels. From now on, we're going to work on getting the rest of those labels to stream their songs in the US.

Do you see yourself as competing with Spotify for the hearts of fans in the US?

Sasaki: Other services like Spotify are like a supermarket – they have everything. I wanted something that has a single focus – anime and game music. So everyone listening is getting exactly what they want. It's also much easier to search for songs!

How receptive were the Japanese labels to this idea when you first came to them with it? Digital rights have been difficult to negotiate among media companies in Japan; were they immediately receptive, or did you have to do some convincing?

Sasaki: Yeah, it was difficult, but we were thinking of expanding overseas to begin with, so we were prepared for that.

So if you had to pick a favorite song or two to be available on ANiUTa that isn't present yet, what would it be?

Sasaki: I've been working on Macross music this whole time, so I'd like that music to be available!


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