MMW-48 -- Melody Call: The Japanese Debut of "Ringback Tones"

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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 the week's music technology news
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Issue No. 48
Tuesday, September 9, 2003
Tokyo

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CONTENTS
++ FEATURE: Melody Call: The Japanese Debut of "Ringback Tones"

++ NOTEWORTHY NEWS:
** Taito and Nokia Develop Mobile Karaoke Application
** Sony Announces Online Music Service
** RIAA Offers "Amnesty" to File Swappers

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================================================

++ FEATURE: Melody Call: The Japanese Debut of "Ringback" Tones

More than five years after the first ringtones appeared on phones
here, music-related services continue to dominate the Japanese market
for mobile contents. According to DoCoMo, ringtones still comprise
about 40 percent of the carrier's revenues for fee-based contents,
bringing in yearly sales of roughly 50 billion yen ($427 million). At
the same time, KDDI's "chaku-uta" service for downloading short
MP3-like song clips has also become a huge hit since its December
launch. In July, KDDI announced that more than 10 million chaku-uta
clips had been downloaded during the first six months of service,
despite the fact that there are only about 2 million people who own
handsets that can even play chaku-uta! Furthermore, the number of
downloads currently appears to be increasing at a rate of about 3
million per month.

It should therefore come as no surprise that DoCoMo, looking for the
next big thing in mobile contents, has recently introduced a new
mobile music offering of its own. Dubbed "Melody Call," the service
features the "ringback" tone, a songclip of your choosing that plays
not on your own phone, but in the receiver of the person who is
calling you while they wait for you to answer. The Melody Call service
launched officially on September 1 and is now receiving a huge amount
of attention in the Japanese media. Having witnessed the spectacular
success of first ringtones and now chaku-uta, expectations are running
high for DoCoMo's new offering, and the general consensus is that
Melody Call is likely to be a hit.

Available to users of DoCoMo's Mova and Foma handsets, the Melody Call
service offers two options: the "Basic Course" for 100 yen ($0.85) per
month, and the "Enjoy Course" for 200 yen ($1.70) per month. The Basic
Course offers a selection of only 20 classical music tones and voice
recordings, while users of the Enjoy Course can choose from over 3,000
popular songs and voice content. Users of both services choose three
tones, each of which can be assigned to a maximum of 10 callers. When
one of these callers dials the number of the user, the set tone plays
on the caller's phone until the user answers. Ringback tones cannot be
assigned to FOMA video calls, and the caller's phone must also be set
to display its phone number. Users can subscribe to the service
directly from their handsets through the i-mode menu.

While DoCoMo's service is the first to feature ringback tones in
Japan, the concept is actually not a new one. The first ringback tone
service launched in South Korea in May 2002 and is now supported by
all three of the major Korean carriers as well as carriers in Hong
Kong. By April of this year, the Korean ringback tone services alone
had over 8 million users. Although many in the industry have predicted
similar success for the Melody Call service, others have pointed out
that DoCoMo faces a tougher road than its Korean counterparts. Whereas
the Korean service works across all of the major carriers, Melody Call
currently excludes J-Phone and KDDI users. In addition, the process of
securing the rights for popular songs can be more difficult in Japan,
especially for the actual clips of original songs.

Despite these obstacles, DoCoMo has high expectations for the Melody
Call service and appears to be investing quite a bit in advertising
and promotion of the service. No doubt the company is encouraged by
the proven success of ringback tones in Korea and Hong Kong. Also, in
contrast to the situation with ringtones, DoCoMo stands to collect not
only packet fees from Melody Call, but all of the content subscription
revenue as well. And if the past is any indication, that's a pretty
good position to be in.

-- Steve Myers

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=================================================

++ NOTEWORTHY NEWS

** Taito and Nokia Develop Mobile Karaoke Application

In brief: Taito and Nokia recently announced that they will be jointly
developing a mobile karaoke application for the GSM-compatible Nokia
3300 handset targeted at the Asian market. The application will use
Taito's "Sequential Display Object Format" (SDOF), and karaoke
contents will be jointly distributed online by the two companies. The
service will be launched initially in China, Hong Kong, Singapore,
Taiwan and other parts of Asia where Taito and Nokia see potential for
mobile karaoke services.

Source:
http://neasia.nikkeibp.com/wcs/leaf?CID=onair/asabt/news/264926

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=================================================

** Sony Announces Online Music Service

In brief: Sony announced last week that the company will be launching
its own digital music service in spring 2004. Like Apple Computer's
popular iTunes service, Sony's new offering is expected to integrate
music sales with the company's hardware and copy protection
technologies. In particular, Sony's consumer electronics division is
likely to make devices optimized to work with the music service.
Representing a joint effort between Sony Music, Sony Pictures, Sony
Electronics and Sony Corp. of America, the new service will launch
first in Japan, then in the US and Europe.

Source:
http://news.com.com/2100-1027-5071475.html

Link:
"Sony Tries to Revive Troubled Aiwa Brand" from March 2003
http://www.japaninc.net/article.php?articleID=1032

=================== EVENT ===================
GARTNER'S SYMPOSIUM/ITXPO 2003
Date: Nov. 19-21, 2003
Location: Le Meridien Grand Pacific (Odaiba, Tokyo)

Business today is all about reducing time, increasing speed, and
improving profits. Technology is the enabler.
Keeping up - and looking ahead - is your challenge and our strength.
Join over 2500 senior IT decision makers to hear Gartner's leading
global and Japanese analyst address technology issues that will
have the biggest impact on your enterprise over the next year.

View complete Symposium information at:
http://www.gartner.co.jp/symposium/eng/

SAVE 20% for delegates who register by August 29.
================================================

** RIAA Offers "Amnesty" to File Swappers

In brief: Many publications reported last week that the Recording
Industry Association of America will be starting an amnesty program
that would pardon some individuals involved in the online sharing of
copyrighted music files. According to the reports, this "amnesty"
would be extended only to those not currently under subpoena or
involved in lawsuits and would exclude commercial file swappers. To
receive the pardon, an individual would be required at minimum to vow
to erase all copyrighted music from their computers, destroy any
illegally obtained copyrighted materials and promise not to engage in
any further illegal file-sharing activities.

Source:
http://news.com.com/2100-1027-5071880.html

Links:
"File-Swappers Download 75 Million Music Files" from August 2002
http://www.japaninc.net/article.php?articleID=859

"P2P: The Japanese Angle" from April 2001
http://www.japaninc.net/article.php?articleID=112

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View complete Seminar information at:
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Registration fee: FREE of charge
=================================================
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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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