「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら
「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら


Streaming services

By Patrick St. Michel


A couple years ago, I visited New York City for a week to see friends. I hadn't been back to the United States for quite some time, but for the most part everything appeared normal enough. Well, except for the way people listened to music. Everyone used Spotify, a music streaming service that seemingly had access to every song imaginable from a PC or smartphone.

This summer, music streaming services finally arrived in Japan in full force. Over the last few years, a few Japanese music labels tried to launch similar products, but they felt like weak Spotify imitations, featuring a small selection of songs. Yet recent months have seen the launch of Apple Music, Line Music and Awa (owned by Avex), which have improved on the Spotify experience in many ways.

And that's not the end of streaming entertainment options in Japan, as the immensely popular movie and TV streaming site Netflix debuted here earlier this month, joining Hulu in offering both foreign and domestic works to anyone with an Internet connection.

I genuinely thought streaming services would never arrive in Japan. When I arrived here in 2009, I was surprised how CDs remained the dominant format of music consumption. In the U.S., CDs reached their peak in 1999. Many Western media outlets had noticed Japan's ongoing infatuation with discs, noting how idol groups such as AKB48 or Morning Musume include tickets to special handshake events with physical copies of new singles.

I figured that if enough people were willing to shell out yen3,000 for albums, Japanese labels (and entertainment studios) would never embrace streaming services, where profits on their side are significantly less. Yet music sales have been declining every year since I first arrived, with more and more music fans moving away from physical purchases. When someone can hear their favorite song on YouTube, why pay so much money for a CD?

The new crop of streaming services in Japan cost way less — about yen1,000 a month for access to thousands upon thousands of songs (the first three months for Apple and Line services, though, are free). Despite the access, a lot of artists cannot be found on these platforms yet — especially popular Japanese artists from the '70s and '80s. But even so, the libraries available are massive — in a month, I've already heard great music I otherwise might have missed, and helped share songs I liked with friends.

It's an exciting development, and I'm thrilled to finally be on the same digital playing field as my U.S. friends. Even if having all this music available at once leaves me overwhelmed when I fire up my computer every day.



The Japan Times ST: September 11, 2015

The Japan Times ST 読者アンケート




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