Saturday, November 8, 2014


I found this article on the state of the music industry in Japan interesting...

From New York Times Online-read the whole article HERE

Around the world, the music business has shifted toward downloads and streaming. But in Japan, the compact disc is still king.

On a drizzly Sunday afternoon recently, Tower Records’ nine-level flagship store here was packed with customers.

Japan may be one of the world’s perennial early adopters of new technologies, but its continuing attachment to the CD puts it sharply at odds with the rest of the global music industry. 

While CD sales are falling worldwide, including in Japan, they still account for about 85 percent of sales here, compared with as little as 20 percent in some countries, like Sweden, where online streaming is dominant.

“Japan is utterly, totally unique,” said Lucian Grainge, the chairman of the Universal Music Group, the world’s largest music conglomerate.

That uniqueness has the rest of the music business worried. Despite its robust CD market, sales in Japan — the world’s second-largest music market, after the United States — have been sliding for a decade, and last year they dropped 17 percent, dragging worldwide results down 3.9 percent.

Digital sales — rising in every other top market — are quickly eroding in Japan, going from almost $1 billion in 2009 to just $400 million last year, according to the Recording Industry Association of Japan.

Turning Japan around has become a priority for the global music business, which has struggled to regain its footing after losing about half its value since 2000, when digital technology began to disrupt the album-based business model.

But accomplishing change has been difficult, according to analysts and music executives in Japan and the West, in part because of a protectionist business climate in Japan that still views the digital business with suspicion.

Streaming music services like Spotify, widely seen as the industry’s best new hope for new revenue, have stalled in efforts to enter Japan. 

Peculiarities of Japan’s business climate have shaped its attachment to the CD, but cultural factors may also be at play, like Japanese consumers’ love for collectible goods. 

Tower Records closed its 89 American outlets in 2006, but the Japanese branch of the chain — controlled by NTT DoCoMo, Japan’s largest phone carrier — still has 85 outlets, doing $500 million in business a year.

In the United States, digital sales have long since overtaken physical ones. But CDs still account for 41 percent of the $15 billion recorded music market worldwide, and, in addition to Japan, some big markets like Germany remain reliant on CD sales. That attachment worries some analysts, who contend that if those countries do not embrace online music, an inevitable decline in CD sales will further damage the industry.


  1. Oh, no, they say he's got to go.

    Godzill-A-Go-Go to Tower Records
    and buy some compact discs.

    That ought to shake 'em up in Tokyo.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

    1. I'm thinking I need to move there-I'd fit right in!

  2. I had all my CDs loaded to my computer and can't find where they are located now. I'm thinking of stealing my son's iPod.

    1. My worry is always what happens when the computer goes bad (and it will).

      I am in the process of uploading my collection to Amazon's Cloud ($25/yr for up to 250,000 songs) and at the same time storing a copy locally on a 4TB drive (one of the "My Cloud" devices). And I have no plans to get rid of the actual CD's.

  3. Meanwhile, the last time I went to hunt for a CD for my mom for her birthday, most stores have cut their CD section down to one single, tiny, 10 foot wide by 5 foot tall rack. And instead of new releases that rack has such random things like Britney Spears' first album or "The Best of KISS."

    I've got nothing against CDs, but I can understand it. I mean, I just got a new smartphone that I put a 32 GB flash card into. Onto that flash card I loaded a grand total of 119 albums from my computer (about 25 GB of music). If there was a feasible way to play 119 CDs on one device I would, because I like having the physical case, and the album art that comes with it, or having it signed, etc, but I also like being able to have all of my songs easily categorized on one device. And for me, that will always win out.

    1. I understand that convenience Bryan-if you look at my preceding comment, one of the reasons I picked the Amazon storage option was the ability to stream my entire collection through my phone.

      Surprising, Amazon seemed a little more user-friendly than Apple for this service, and I was already a long-time Amazon customer. Their recent addition of a streaming service to their Prime package was added bonus.

      Due to the difference in our ages, and the fact that you are married, it is probably likely that you do not have a stereo system in your home (I actually have three, due to having brothers who gave me components when their wives found a better use for that space in the house).

      The fidelity of the CD is (no exaggeration) ten times better than the files on your smartphone. Since many people who came of age in the 80's and later have not been big on stereo components, they do not know what they are missing....but it is being missed.

      All that said, the fidelity issue will be solved-for America, streaming is going to be the future-so even the need to put 25GB of music on your phone will not be necessary.

      Sony did used to make a 100 disc CD you could find a used one!

      Also, I forget where in CO you live, but there are plenty of independent record stores in the Denver area that would have a deep selection, but you are right. I had a bigger selection than the local Best Buy or Target ten years ago.

      Now I'd be willing to make a wager on my collection versus the inventory of the average Tower Records store in their prime (unique titles, not necessarily quantity)

      But there may be an indie store near you, and they can use the business. And there is always Amazon or CD Universe online.


  4. I still buy CDs - and I hope I will always be able to! I do download music for free, but only if the artist has it up for free (e.g. I mostly go through for my downloads, where the artists control what music goes up for free). But I will always prefer a CD, if I hear an album and love it. And I refuse to buy from iTunes, which doesn't let me play songs I have previously bought from them (thankfully only a small handful).

    1. Trisha-

      Considering the demographic I believe you fall into, you may be the exception. But as a musician, your desire for the better fidelity you get from the uncompressed CD recording is not a surprise.

      It also sounds like you may have encounted what I did with iTunes-I lost a computer to a virsu and had about 50 songs purchased from them. They made it clear they had no obligation to do anything for me, but gave me back the 20 or so they still carried.

      One of the reasons I chose Amazon's service for my streaming-since I buy most of my CD's from them, they made it easy, and while I know a couple of readers have some customer service issues with them, they have been great to me (although since I spend a fortune with them each year, I sort of expect it).

  5. Oh, I forgot to mention that I always buy the CD and then rip it straight to my computer. Most of the time I'm not actually listening to CDs, but to the ripped mp3s I got from the CD I bought. But I love having my huge CD collection on display.

    1. What's funny is, my collection is really not on display-it's in a spare bedroom and I'm pretty much the only person who sees it.

      I don't let the cat in there, which seems to piss him off.

      But I love being able to virtually listen to anything I am in the mood for.

      Although, one of the reasons I acknowledge the benefits of the streaming services is that they also provide that benefit, and their premium subscription is far less than I spend on recorded music.

      But I like having the collection, too.

  6. Perhaps they should stop looking at the deal as an American would, with his emphasis on convenience and such, and try to figure out what it is in the JAPANESE mind that is stalling things.

    1. The do touch on part of it CW-that the Japanese like to collect things.

      If Japan is anything like Korea, they are also very protective of their economy and are resistant to foreign businesses.

      The "global economy" that corporations speak of to justify outsourcing American jobs is one-sided...