Apple iTunes faces battle in Japan

Nokia’s ‘Comes With Music’ may already have generated its first fan-site, but questions remain on the future for mobile music services – surely the usability factor doesn’t yet match desktop alternatives, such as iTunes?

Apple does offer the iTunes Store for WiFi, and has before been rumoured to hold plans for its very own mobile music service, though this may prove less successful if aimed at iPhone users alone. As an incremental addition, iTunes for WiFi offers something like a mobile experience.

That no one beyond Nokia appears yet to be aiming to offer a full package (hot potato) mobile music service, incumbents must surely be mulling the latest figures to come out of Japan.

In a lengthy press release today it was announced that IODA, “the global leader in digital distribution, marketing, and technology solutions for the independent music and film industry, today announced a worldwide partnership with BounDEE, Japan’s largest distributor of independent music.”

Wade through to the third paragraph and you may spot the meat of this piece, “Digital music for mobile devices comprises 91 percent of the digital music market in Japan (IFPI).” And while big in Japan means one thing in music, in the consumer electronics sector this traditionally represents a glimpse at tomorrow. Though, be warned, this isn’t a verified statistic – we’d be interested to note verification of this.

With that in mind we recall a recent tale in which we learned iTunes is dominant in Japan’s digital music landscape, so it’s indeed a puzzle.

Updated to add: The most recent announcement from the trade association representing Japan’s music labels is available here, it’s the mid-2008 report

With thoughts on social networks and music discovery with their potential effect on music sales, it may be time for a well-placed quote, so I won’t let you down, skip it, if you like, it is really only there for colour:

“Music fans in Japan are passionate about music discovery and are hungryfor increased exposure to independent artists from around the world,” said Hideaki Shimizu, CEO of BounDEE. “We look forward to leveraging the strength of IODA’s music catalog to expose Japanese fans to more variety.Our relationships in the mobile market will also help IODA’s labels get access to the number one way digital music is consumed in Japan.”

Last month, a beta release of Brooklyn, New York-based IODA artist Chairlift to select digital retailers in Japan saw its track “Bruises” become a top five download on Label Mobile’s international chart. Which is nice for an iPod ad act…(spurious video, almost there though).

Speaking of which, Kay Quartararo, founder of Kanine Records, Chairlift’s label said, “The impact of being in Apple’s iPod nano commercial has been amazing for Chairlift.”

“To make the most of the fan interest generated around the world we worked with IODA to make the song available in as many places and in as many countries as possible. Within one week of approving the release to Japan the ‘Bruises’ track was live on the biggest digital mobile retailer in Japan and hit top five on the chart. It’s just another reminder of the power of digital for the independent artist.”

The battle for mobile music won’t be held in the UK. This market is being developed to become receptive to such alternatives. In Japan, however, we’ll see some glimpse of mobile music’s future. And right now the biggest name in digital music hasn’t come out to play.

Back to the music, of course, and the two-way partnership between BounDEE and IODA has the side-benefit of bringing more of the literally oodles of independently-released music coming out of Japan out of Japan.

“We see the potential to impact the global independent music scene by bringing the cutting-edge music coming out of Japan to a worldwide audience,” IODA said.

The unanswered question must be: Will what seems to be the world’s biggest music retailer, Apple, move to take a position in the mobile music market, and are incumbents in that market ready to respond if the company does?

3 thoughts on “Apple iTunes faces battle in Japan

  1. TS

    It is, unfortunately, a meaningless statistic as ringtones (not big in Japan… HUGE in Japan) are no doubt counted in that 91% digital music figure. Until you can separate those out from singles sales, you really don’t know what you’ve got….

  2. Jonny Post author

    Yeah, I’m attempting to dig out information to clarify the 91 per cent claim at the moment, I’ll publish an update as when and if the info reaches me.

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