MMW-101 -- The Long Tail in Japanese Mobile Music

J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
Commentary on Japan's music technology news
Issue No. 101
Wednesday July 26, 2006
++ FEATURE: The Long Tail in Japanese Mobile Music
** New Bluetooth Headset from Jabra
** J-WAVE Moves Into ISP Business
** Front Media Starts New Mobile Music Ranking Program
** Rakuten and MRI Issue Report on Mobile Music Player Preferences
** Axel Mark Extends Affiliate Program to Cover Chaku-uta Full

++ FEATURE: The Long Tail in Japanese Mobile Music
In his new book 'The Long Tail: Why The Future of Business
is Selling Less of More,' Wired Magazine's Editor-in-Chief
Chris Anderson puts forth the theory that our economy is
moving away from an emphasis on big 'hits' (mainstream
products) and toward a massive number of smaller niches.
The book takes its name from the shape of a demand curve
with a large bulge at the 'head,' representing best-selling
products, and a long, extended tail at the end, where you
find the niche products.

In the world of online music, for example, it is now easy
to find a huge variety of tracks that are not played on the
radio and not available in most brick-and-mortar stores.
What's interesting is that the combined sales of all these
niche tracks often adds up to more than the 'hits' at the
head of the curve. In short, there is now a huge potential
business opportunity for selling back catalog and music
from all kinds of niche genres. This has been made possible
by the fact that it costs so much less to distribute digital
files than physical CDs.

Reading descriptions of 'Long Tail' business models such
as those employed by Amazon, Google and Netflix, I couldn't
help but think of Japan's mobile music market and wonder if
the Long Tail theory is at work here too. In particular,
KDDI has enjoyed spectacular success in selling mastertones
and full-song downloads to mobile phones. It is probably no
coincidence that its service model has always emphasized
the key 'Long Tail' points spelled out by Anderson in his
original article from which his book evolved:

1. Make everything available.
2. Cut the price in half, then lower it.
3. Help me find it.

Consider the first point: One of the remarkable things
about KDDI is that they have welcomed all kinds of niche
music sites operated by third-party aggregators onto
their EZWeb menu portal. You can find sites devoted to
Cuban music, brass band music, Korean pop, Hawaiian
instrumentals and much more. No niche is too narrow,
and many of the sites at the far end of the 'tail' are
run by small companies who are deeply knowledgeable about
their particular genre. Because operating costs are
relatively low, it is possible for many small companies
to offer their products on the same (menu) page as the
major labels. The end result is a huge variety of musical
selection that dwarfs the offerings of its competitors NTT
DoCoMo and Vodafone (now Softbank).

While pricing still seems a bit high (a full song download
typically costs close to US$3.00), KDDI was still the
first carrier in Japan to introduce flat-rate pricing for
data packets, without which full-song downloads would be
prohibitively expensive for most consumers. This was a
pretty aggressive move for the carrier, as packet charges
had previously been a fairly big revenue generator. By
introducing flat-rate plans, it created a strain on their
network but made large downloads economically feasible for
more users.

KDDI has also made it easy to find genres, artists and
songs. Each individual site has its own search functions,
and there are also 'menu-wide' searches available for all
songs and artists offered on KDDI's menu. Through a recent
partnership, they have also made Google the primary engine
for searching all KDDI content.

And, of course, KDDI has made sure to keep its big 'head'
(of the curve, I mean). It is still the mega-hit J-Pop that
is most prominently displayed, and the massive Label Mobile
site (run by a cooperative joint venture of major record
labels) still accounts for the vast majority of music
downloads. Anderson stresses that 'hit' content, while
smaller, will still be important. A successful service
must have both the big head and the long tail, and it must
be easy to find anything along the curve.

The original 'Long Tail' article from Wired Magazine:
Chris Anderson's 'Long Tail' blog:

** New Bluetooth Headset from Jabra
In brief: Last month, Jabra released a new Bluetooth-enabled
headset for mobile phones in Japan. The BT325s contains an
automatic switching feature that puts the headset into
'hands free' talk mode when the user receives a phone call
while listening to the music player. When the phone call
is finished, the headset is switched back to music player
mode. The new headset retails at JPY17,800 (US$150).

** J-WAVE Moves Into ISP Business
In brief: On July 24, FM radio station J-WAVE announced that
it would begin offering Internet connectivity service in
August. The station has established a subsidiary called J-WAVEi,
which will be the actual ISP, and the name of the service is
J-WAVE@NET. The station will primarily target listeners in
their 20's and 30's, and is aiming to sign up 10,000 subscribers
for the service in the first year.

** Front Media Starts New Mobile Music Ranking Program
In brief: Front Media, a Tokyo-based mobile content provider,
announced the start of a new music ranking program on its mobile
site. The new program, called 'Ranking Click,' will compile
rankings of songs and music videos based on how many times
they are sampled. Users can freely sample music videos on the
program, which are about 16 seconds in length. Longer samples
will be made available for the songs that rise to the top of
the ranking charts.

** Rakuten and MRI Issue Report on Mobile Music Player Preferences
In brief: Rakuten and Mitsubishi Research Institute have jointly
published the results of a recent survey on mobile music usage
trends. The survey found that 9.2% of mobile phone users have
used their phones for full song music playback in the last three
months. However, 23.9% of those surveyed prefer to use a dedicated
digital music player such as the iPod, and 11.7% use an MD player.

** Axel Mark Extends Affiliate Program to Cover Chaku-uta Full
In brief: Axel Mark, which runs the 'Best Hit J-Pop Full' full-song
mobile download service, announced last week that it has recently
expanded its 'Keitai Max' affiliate program to cover full-song
downloads on Japan's three major wireless carriers. Under the
program, affiliates use their own blogs and mail magazines to
promote songs from the 'Best Hit J-Pop Full' site. For each
download that originates from an affiliate site, the affiliate
is paid 10 yen (US$0.09).
Subscribers: 4,833
Written by: Steve Myers (
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: (
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