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Summary:

It’s the world’s number-two music market, but Japan is not yet replete with music subscription services. Spotify wants to change that, aiming to launch there in the new year, paidContent learns.

Spotify is gearing up for a crack at the Japanese market, in what could open up a lucrative Asian opportunity for the music service.

paidContent understands the outfit is speaking with record labels about opening up shop in Japan around January.

Spotify and some of its peers amongst the new wave of unlimited musi subscription services have already had feet on the ground for some time in places like Tokyo, Hong Kong and Beijing to explore new opportunities in Asia-Pacific.

Such services are moving in to new countries in a rapid grab for consumers. If, versus the already-popular MP3 download sector, the subscription segment is relatively new in the west, in Japan it is positively virginal. This summer, Sony’s Music Unlimited launched in its owner’s backyard as only the country’s first legal subscription music service.

It is thought Sony Music Entertainment and the local label Avex have been reluctant to license their music for subscription, preferring the downloads model. Ringtones also remain relatively more popular in Japan than elsewhere. If Sony Music Unlimited proves popular, however, it could convince owners of subscription’s viability.

Back in March, blogger Alex Cosentini wrote: “The top five largest music markets (in order) are the US, Japan, Germany, the UK and France. Spotify is in four of those countries with the exception of Japan.

“There is a lot of potential in Japan for Spotify. A launch in Japan can help them to expand into other Asian countries. If Spotify is to expand into Asia, Japan is where to start.”

Although Japan is a large music market, the large Chinese population could represent an even bigger opportunity. Today, China barely has a legal downloads market to speak of. If services like Spotify can enter alongside an improved intellectual property regime, they would leapfrog the hurdle of converting existing legal downloaders to subscribers, as they are facing in established markets, going straight in to signing up long-term subscribers from a populace of former pirates, for whom subscription may be their first taste of legal digital music.

Spotify gained early investment in 2009 from Hong Kong’s Li Ka-Shing Foundation, owner of Hutchison Whampoa. But, whilst many expected that to lead to its entry to China, it went only as far as bundling on handsets via 3, the network owned by Hutch, and in its INQ smartphones.

Twenty-three music services are licensed to deal in digital music in Japan, according to the Pro-music industry resource…

  1. Aniloco
  2. Beatport
  3. Best Hit J-Pop
  4. clubDAM
  5. Dwango
  6. Hudson
  7. ICJ
  8. iTunes Japan
  9. Lismo
  10. Listen Japan
  11. mora
  12. mu-mo
  13. Music Airport
  14. Music.jp
  15. Music Unlimited
  16. Musico
  17. Musing
  18. Naxos Music Library
  19. NTT DoCoMo Music Store
  20. Oricon ME
  21. Reco-Choku
  22. Yamaha Music Media Corporation
  23. YouTube
  1. Spotify should instead go to Korea. K-Pop is all the rage these days, all over Asia.

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    1. No way

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    2. Korea maybe the rage but the dealings here is the market so Japan is where they should start, in fact japan is the no.1 country who spend the most in music with the average of $24/person if im not wrong, korea wasn’t in the main charts others are mostly in european continents. Look at the iTunes, iTunes Japan is the most reliable iTunes in whole asia.

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  2. What about the biggest hurdle for Spotify launching a service in Japan – the licensing? Sony Music Japan (Japan’s biggest and most influential label) has not even licensed to iTunes and are ultra protective, if not obstructive to foreign services. Avex and the myriad of other labels and management companies in Japan (their neighbouring rights significantly complicate licensing) are equally as protective over their current $4 download. Finally most labels follow Sony’s lead, so if Sony do not license, the service will find it hard to launch with any key Japanese content and so gain any traction with consumers.

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