MMW-102 -- Label Mobile Introduces 'Rankings Appli' for Realtones

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M U S I C M E D I A W A T C H
Commentary on Japan's music technology news
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Issue No. 102
Thursday August 24, 2006
Tokyo

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CONTENTS

++ FEATURE: Label Mobile Introduces 'Rankings Appli' for
Realtones

++ NOTEWORTHY NEWS:
** NTT DoCoMo Issues Patch for MUSIC PORTER X Sound Problem
** Axel Mark Starts New Chaku-uta Full Service for Western Music
** Listen Japan Starts New Net Radio Program
** IIG Launches UK Dance Music Site for EZweb
** Index Updates Mobile J-Pop Site

++ FEATURE: Label Mobile Introduces 'Rankings Appli' for
Realtones

A few years ago, it was common to see all kinds of i-appli
(mobile Java applications for NTT DoCoMo i-mode phones) on
many i-mode ringtone sites in Japan. Almost all sites had a
'jukebox' type appli for trial listening, and several
services offered i-applis for karaoke, mixing and
rearranging ringtones. More recently, though, there has been
a decline in these applications as falling subscriber
numbers have made it difficult to justify development and
maintenance costs. The applis have also been noticeably
absent from most realtone sites.

Last week, Label Mobile became the first realtone
(chaku-uta) provider on NTT DoCoMo's official i-mode menu
to offer a 'music rankings program' in the form of an
i-appli. Label Mobile currently run six different services -
one each in the J-Pop, Rock, Club, Jazz/Classical,
TV/CM/Movies, and Anime/Game categories. On the top page of
all these mobile sites, there is now a prominent link to
download the new 'Rankings Appli'. Curious to check this
new chaku-uta appli out, we downloaded the program and gave
it a try on a Sharp's 901iC FOMA model.

There is no charge or subscription requirement in order to
download the appli. It's purpose is simply to drive people
to the download pages of the featured songs. The appli is
basically a streaming visual music player that plays only
one program - a series of still images and text which are
synced to clips of the the featured songs. The full program
is about four and half minutes in length, and is updated
weekly on Thursday.

The program is divided into two parts - one for domestic
music and rankings, the other for foreign music. First up
is a series of five 'featured' songs from different genres
by Japanese artists. This is followed by the 'Top 5'
Japanese pop songs. As each song plays, the appli displays
the jacket artwork, title/artist, and a sentence or two of
information about the song. The same sequence is then
repeated for foreign artists and the Top 5 foreign songs.
This week, the foreign rankings were for reggae.
Presumably, other genres will be ranked in subsequent weeks.

With slick, attractive graphics and a simple interface,
the appli (which was developed by Jig.jp), is very easy to
use. It's key feature, of course, is the button which takes
the user straight to the download page of the appropriate
Label Mobile site for whichever song is currently playing.
If you then decide you don't want to download the song
after all, you have to restart the appli, but it does allow
you to pick up where you left off in the program.

On the down side, there are several points during the program
where playback is paused while the appli downloads data. This
is a common problem with i-applis, and streaming applications
are notoriously difficult to develop for i-mode due to
carrier-imposed size limits on data transfers. Also, if you
are not on a flat-rate data plan (and most i-mode users still
are not), it can easily cost up to 8,000 yen (US$70) in packet
charges to view the full 4 minute and 30 second program.

Still, it is easy to see the potential of this appli for
driving download sales on the various Label Mobile sites.
In the zoo of Japanese mobile music, Label Mobile has always
been the 800-pound gorilla. The company is actually a joint
venture of all the major record labels here, and they have
cleverly pooled their resources to create mobile 'mega-stores'
with huge catalogs that outside competitors have not been
able to match. Over time, it is likely that this new
promotional tool will help the company further increase its
already massive share of both the chaku-uta market and the
nascent full-song download market on i-mode.

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++ NOTEWORTHY NEWS

** NTT DoCoMo Issues Patch for MUSIC PORTER X Sound Problem
In brief: On August 9, NTT DoCoMo acknowledged that there
was a software problem with some of its MUSIC PORTER X
handsets whereby the left and right stereo channels are
reversed. The problem is found in approximately 4,100 models
which were manufactured before July. The MUSIC PORTER X is a
FOMA handset made by Mitsubishi that was released last April.
NTT DoCoMo is offering a software patch to owners of the handset
which can be downloaded through the end of August.
Source:
http://www.nttdocomo.co.jp/info/notice/page/060809_00.html

** Axel Mark Starts New Chaku-uta Full Service for Western Music
In brief: On August 10, Axel Mark started a new full-song
download service (Chaku-uta Full) on KDDI's EZweb menu
portal called 'Best Hit Yougaku Full'. The new site has no
particular theme or genre focus, but offers a range of
western music that includes artists such as Ben E. King,
Gilbert O'Sullivan and Louis Armstrong.
Source:
http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20060811-00000025-zdn_m-sci

** Listen Japan Starts New Net Radio Program
In brief: On August 4, Listen Japan started a new free Internet
radio program called 'Listen Channel'. The new program will
primarily feature songs that are distributed on Listen Japan's
online music store, and will also include songs from artists
who appeared in recent events such as Fuji Rock Festival and
Summer Sonic 2006.
Source:
http://listen.jp/radio/

** IIG Launches UK Dance Music Site for EZweb
In brief: IIG opened a dance music distribution site called
'CLUB STYLE' for KDDI's EZweb menu. The site includes current
popular dance music and club music mainly from the U.K. IIG
has planned several promotional events to distribute songs
before their release on CD.
Source:
http://k-tai.impress.co.jp/cda/article/news_toppage/30571.html

** Index Updates Mobile J-Pop Site
In brief: Index recently updated its J-Pop ringtone site,
changing the name of the service from 'Eraberu J-POP' to
'Sokuho Music Search'. In addition to ringtones, the site
now distributes mastertones (chaku-uta) and artist
information. The service is available on i-mode, EZweb and
Vodafone live. Index also announced plans to add
concert ticket information, Flash screen images,
and a Deco-mail service for i-mode.
Source:
http://k-tai.impress.co.jp/cda/article/news_toppage/30544.html

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STAFF
Written by: Steve Myers (steve@thetamusic.com)
Steve Myers is president and chief enthusiast of Theta Music
Technologies, which specializes in the development of
music-related software applications.
Edited by J@pan Inc editors: (editors@japaninc.com)
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