MMW-111 -- Mobage Town Opens New Corner For Music Creators

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J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
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. 111
Thursday 10 May, 2007
Tokyo

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CONTENTS

-- FEATURE: Mobage Town Opens New Corner For Music Creators

-- EVENT: Knock Knock - The Future of Music

-- NOTEWORTHY NEWS:
- Label Mobile starts new mobile gift service
- Napster, NTT DoCoMo to start full-song OTA subscription service
- Sony releases new audio recorder with 250GB hard disk
- Reco-chaku channel gets makeover
- Panasonic releases new FOMA model with WMV support

-- FEATURE: Mobage Town Opens New Corner For Music Creators

As we reported a few months ago in MMW #108, the recent
trend for Japanese mobile content providers has been to set
up new services off the main menu 'decks' of the wireless
carriers. These off-portal sites are not subject to any
approval process, restrictions or oversight by the carriers,
but the content provider must generate his own traffic and
handle his own billing. So far there have been a few major
success stories (Yamaha's 'Gorgonzola', Oricon's 'Oricon
Style'), and an endless stream of imitators, but the
undisputed 800-lb gorilla of this space is a service called
'Mobage Town', run by Tokyo-based DeNA Corporation.

Mobage Town is a combination virtual world/game/SNS where
players each have their own avatar, apartment and money
(known as 'moba-gold' or 'moba G'). Games can be played
free of charge, but players must acquire moba-gold to buy
clothes for their avatar or furniture for their apartment.
The service is cleverly tied to mobile shopping sites, so
that moba-gold is awarded for product purchases on affiliate
sites in addition to the usual methods - introducing friends,
clicking on ads, signing up for affiliate services, and so
forth. Most of the games are simple time-killers made in
Flash with just a one-button control and attractive animation.

DeNA have effectively combined all the addictive features
of Second Life and MySpace with an impressive catalog of
games perfectly suited to cell phones. With simple concepts
and quick completion times, these games are ideal for mobile
phone users who have a few minutes of free time on their
hands. Following a massive publicity campaign over the past
few months, Mobage Town now boasts over 4.5 million
registered users.

So what does any of this have to do with music?

For starters, Mobage Town was one of the first off-portal
sites to tie up with a big mobile music service - Muomo,
run by Avex. Mobage Town users receive a good bit of moba-
gold if they subscribe to Avex's service, and then pick up
a little more for each full-song OTA download.

More interestingly, though, on May 2 DeNA opened a 'music
creator's corner' on the service. Mobage Town members can
now submit their original music to DeNA, which then makes
it available to all other members of the service. The music
corner follows a similar offering started last month for
fiction writers.

Although the press release announced the official launch of
the music corner on May 2, it was still listed as a beta
release when we checked it out on opening day. By 4PM, the
corner had over 1,500 songs, spread across 13 genres. In
addition to the usual rankings and search features, members
are shown the highest ranking artist from their (real-life)
home prefecture and encouraged to support their hometown
artists.

Along with each song, participating artists can submit a
jacket photo. Using the 'jacket search' feature, members
are shown a random selection of these photos which link
to their respective song pages. Songs are streamed to the
handset (they can't be saved), and members can register to
become fans of artists they like. Artists receive points
based on their fan count and the number of times a song is
played. Like Mixi - Japan's most popular SNS - all Mobage
member movement is tracked with 'footprints', so artists
can see a list of exactly who visited their pages on any
particular day.

And what about the submission process?

Curious to see how this worked, we registered to become a
'creator'. On Mobage Town, even ordinary member registration
is fairly involved, but to be a creator you must go a step
further and provide your mailing address, phone number, and
other selected personal details. You are warned not to provide
any false information (violators face 'expulsion from the
creator community'), and most important, all works submitted
must be original and not registered with JASRAC or other
copyright agencies.

Once all this is done, you can start adding songs. Each
creator is allowed up to 5 songs per page, and each song
can have its own jacket artwork and description. To make a
song publicly accessible, you must send the audio data as an
email attachment to DeNA. Audio files can be sent in any of
the common formats: .3gp, .3g2, .mp3, .m4a, .wav, .mov, .amr.
Conversion to other necessary formats is handled by DeNA.
Each audio file can be up to 5MB in size, while jacket
files (.jpg, .gif, .png) can be up to 2MB. The email and
attached files can be sent from either the phone or a PC.

Tracking the corner for music creators on its first day,
new songs were showing up at a rate of about one every two
minutes or so. It will be interesting to see how this pace
progresses. A random sampling of the songs produced the
expected wide range in musical and production quality, but
it seemed the songs bubbling up to the top of the 'Mobage
charts' were generally more professional and better produced.

Also on the list of things to watch - How successful will
the service be at filtering out copyrighted or otherwise
unsuitable material? While user-generated mobile music
content has been a hot topic for discussion in Japan
recently, most services have steered clear of this area,
in no small part due to the cost and sheer (human) effort
involved in checking and filtering user submissions, not to
mention the file conversion work required for different
carriers and handset models. DeNA is the first company to
attempt all this on a large scale for mobile music, and
you can bet the major record labels and other music content
companies will all be paying close attention to their progress.

-- EVENT: Knock Knock - The Future of Music
All industries go digital, here's what happens to the first:
Knock Knock - The Future of Music - May 31 Arhus Denmark
www.innovationlab.dk/futureofmusic

-- NOTEWORTHY NEWS

- Label Mobile starts new mobile gift service
In brief: Label Mobile has added a new service on their
i-mode sites allowing users to send music content to other
i-mode users as a gift. On download pages for chaku-uta,
chaku-uta full, and video clips, a 'present' button has been
added. If a user clicks on 'present', he will be first be
billed for the purchase, then receives a download URL
(valid for seven days) which can be sent to a friend.
Source:
http://recochoku.jp/press/070423/

- Napster, NTT DoCoMo to start full-song OTA subscription
service
In brief: On April 23, Napster Japan announced plans to
start a full-song over-the-air subscription service for
the latest NTT DoCoMo handsets. The new offering will be
Japan's first 'all-you-can-eat' subscription service for
mobile phones. Initially, the service will have a catalog
of 300,000 songs and will be available on NTT DoCoMo's 904i
series handsets, scheduled for release later this year.
Source:
http://it.nikkei.co.jp/mobile/news/service_contents.aspx?n=NN001Y892%202...

- Sony releases new audio recorder with 250GB hard disk
In brief: Sony announced last week it is set to release a
new digital audio recorder on May 21. The new device, called
NAC-HD1, will features a 250GB HDD, a CD player, and AM/FM
tuner. It supports recording and playback of audio data in
PCM, MP3 and ATRAC3 formats. The devices will be priced at
JPY110,000 (US$915).
Source:
http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20070424-00000016-bcn-sci

- Reco-chaku channel gets makeover
In brief: Label Mobile announced the renewal of its 'Reco-
chaku channel' station for NTT DoCoMo's i-Channel service.
Reco-chaku channel offers rankings and other information for
chaku-uta (mastertones) and chaku-motion (videotones) meant
to drive traffic to their mobile download services. The
renewed service features new weekly rankings for chaku-uta
full (full-song OTA downloads).
Source:
http://recochoku.jp/press/070420/index.html

- Panasonic releases new FOMA model with WMV support
In brief: On April 12, Panasonic Mobile began selling a new
FOMA handset for NTT DoCoMo's i-mode service. The P903iX
HIGH-SPEED features Windows Media Video with video playback
of up to 30fps. The new handset also boasts network speeds
of up to 3.6Mbps, SD-audio and Bluetooth support.
Source:
http://www.rbbtoday.com/news/20070412/40765.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.

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