A-Pop Castle 2016

01.02.2016 – 04.02.2016

A-Pop Castle attendees in Rovaniemi


A-Pop Castle 2016 was a success.

A-Pop Castle, Music Finland’s songwriting workshop which focuses on Asian markets took place last week in Rukatunturi, Kuusamo. It was attended by a total of 25 professionals from Japan, Korea and Taiwan. The group included artists, songwriters, record labels A&R workers, music publishers and managers. There were also two dozen songwriters, producers and publishers from Finland, who were selected based on their applications.

The writers represented four different publishing companies: Elements Music, HMC Publishing, Sugar House Publishing and Warner / Chappell Music Finland. The main Asian partners in the event were YG Entertainment and JYP Entertainment, both major Korean record labels, as well as Japanese record giants King Records and Universal Music Japan.

Taiwanese singer Waa Wei (right), with musicians Nisse Nybäck and Alex Ni (Taiwan).

New teams collaborated each day 

Each day the songwriters and producers gathered in new songwriting groups. The seven groups worked on the leads given to them by Asian record label executives, with the aim to make new songs for Asian artists.

”The whole experience of being able to work with inspiring, talented, good hearted Finnish producers was life-changing. I felt like this is what I love to do”, praised Sony Music Japan's Mayu Wakisaka.

Finnish songwriter Teemu Lillrank says that the participants were excellent.

 "Each session had a good feeling. The Asians brought their expertise and musicality."

Besides the three-day writing and production workshop, the companies' representatives networked with each other. Finnish publishing companies presented their writers’ music catalogue to Asian buyers. After A-Pop Castle ended, the publising companies continue to pitch the songs written there to record companies and artists in Asia.

The A-Pop Castle group in the wintery Ruka.

Winter sports and exotic sights

Between working on music, the group also had time to enjoy Kuusamo’s nature. The event was held in February, when winter is at its best in Lapland. The beauty of Finnish winter and touristic know-how gained visibility during the week on the participants’ social media channels. The program included river floating for business people and downhill sledging for songwriters.

"The location was peaceful and quiet and the accommodations were delightful," said Jane Kim from JYP Entertainment.

The last day of A-Pop Castle culminated in a dinner and listening party of all 21 completed tracks completed on the workshop. Songs ranged from R&B styled K-pop (Korean pop) to electronic J-pop songs written for the Japanese market. The evening was crowned by the northern lights in the sky, which the majority of participants had never seen before. 

"”I’m very glad that I got to meet a lots of amazing Finnish songwriters in this camp. And they’re great people! I’ve really enjoyed some winter activities such as skiing and river floating arranged by Music Finland. I’d like to attend again if Music Finland sets up another camp here”, says Yasuhiro Suzuki from Japan's Sony Music Publishing.

Songwriter Mikko Tamminen with Japanese artist Sayaka Shionoya and King Records’ A&R. 

There’s a high demand for Finnish songs in the Asian market

A Pop Castle was first organized in 2013 and has now been held three times. Asia was selected as the target area for Finnish song export, because the music market is in constant demand for new songs and Nordic writers are well respected there.

"Japan is the world's second largest music market, right after the USA. Korea also belongs to world's ten largest music markets. In addition, Korean artists are very popular through Asia", says Sami Häikiö, Music Finland's Head of International.

A recent report by Music Finland shows that songs by Finnish songwriters have been published on all continents (story in Finnish). The biggest market areas for Finnish writers are Europe and Asia, and the top countries are Germany, the United States and Japan. 

A-Pop Castle was sponsored by the Ministry of Education and Culture, the Finnish Music Foundation (MES) as well as all participating music companies. The main partners were Finnair and Genelec. Other partners were Ruka, Vallila and Makia. 

More photos of A-Pop Castle, you can find at Music Finland's Facebook page and Instagram page.

The third edition of A-Pop Castle will take place from February 1 to 4, 2016 in the Finnish winter wonderland of Lapland. 

The co-writing camp will bring together top songwriters from Finland with writers, publishers and record labels from Korea, Taiwan and Japan, all in all about 50 music professionals. This year, the songwriters will look for inspiration in the northern lights and snowy landscape of Lapland.

The previous co-writing camps have produced a number of successful songs and sparked cooperations. Among the songs written at the camp were "Journey", performed by the Taiwanese star Jolin Tsai and used as a Swarovski campaign theme song, "Rise" by TVXQ as well as "Somebody", which South Korean star Lee Hyori included on her hit album Monochrome. The camp set off successful cooperations as the Taiwanese singer-songwriter Joanna Wang met Pessi Levanto at A-Pop Castle who later produced Joanna’s album Midnight Cinema that received 3 nominations in the 2015 Golden Melody Awards. Furthermore, last year four songs were found for Ayaka Hirahara’s album Prayer from connections made at A-Pop Castle.

A-Pop Castle has had the honour to host labels such as Avex, Universal Music Japan, Woollim, JYP Entertainment, Starship Entertainment, DSP Media, Sony Music Taiwan and many major publishers from Korea, Japan and Taiwan.

Asia has long been an important market for Finnish music exports and Finns have helped write hits for EXO, ArashiA-Lin, Jolin Tsai, KAT-TUN, SHINee and Rainie Yang, among others. All this is just the beginning. Asia will continue to be a high priority for the Finnish music industry for years to come.

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