MMW-104 -- QR Codes and Music Promotion in Japan

J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
Commentary on Japan's music technology news

Issue No. 104
Wednesday October 4, 2006
Subscribers: 4,839 as of October 3, 2006

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++ FEATURE: QR Codes and Music Promotion in Japan

** Court Orders Japanese ISPs to Turn Over Addresses of
File Sharers
** KDDI Starts New Service for Selling Tickets via Mobile
** Nifty Launches 'MOOCS Mobile' for i-mode
** KDDI's FM Radio Handsets Top 10 Million
** HMV Japan to Start Online Music Store
** Toshiba Announces 811T Handset for Softbank Mobile

++ FEATURE: QR Codes and Music Promotion in Japan

When reading about a new artist (offline) in a music
magazine or newspaper, I often find myself wishing that I
could hear a sample of that artist's music as I read the
article or interview. With the proliferation of QR codes
and code-reading mobile phones in Japan, that wish is fast
becoming a reality, and the new combination of
Internet-enabled mobile phones with traditional print media
is changing the way music is marketed in Japan.

It seems that QR codes - two-dimensional matrix bar codes -
are showing up everywhere in Japan these days. Increasingly,
we're seeing the small square codes on business cards,
print ads, and web sites. By taking a photo of one of these
bar codes with your mobile phone, you are linked to a mobile
web site containing more information about the advertised
product, service or person. While they are not new, it seems
it is only recently that QR codes have really started to
catch on in a big way here, and they are still not widely
used outside of Japan.

Not surprisingly, QR codes are proving extremely useful in
music promotion and advertising. Many mastertone and
full-song mobile download sites have magazine tie-ups
in which a QR code is included in an article or
advertisement to provide a free song or listening sample.
Local indie bands include a code on their flyers linking
to their mobile sites. Several CDs here include codes that
link to 'extras' such as mastertones, videotones and
artist wallpaper. There are many potential uses, and it
seems new ones are being dreamed up each month.

One Japanese company has even started a QR-code service for
indies musicians to promote their music via mobile phones.
For JPY 40,000 (US$350.00), Tokyo-based Sunwish Inc. will
take an artist's CD and provide them with a 'sample listening'
mobile site (for all three major Japanese wireless operators)
along with its corresponding QR-code to place on flyers and
other print materials. The service is called 'QR-Clip',
named for the 45-second audio clips that are used for the
listening samples. The artist also receives reporting
software which lets them know how many times each song has
been downloaded, and how their site compares with others
in terms of accesses.

Use of QR codes for music promotion is not limited to indie
artists. Just walking through the Shibuya district of Tokyo
today, I passed a music club (Shibuya O-East) with a series
of large plain-looking posters plastered on the outside
wall at eye-level, each consisting of a single sentence in
Japanese at the top, and a big QR code in the center. As
passers-by stopped to photograph the codes from the street,
I moved in to get a better look at the posters. Turns out
they were part of a mobile download promotional campaign
from Napster Japan and Tower Records, and the sentences
were something to effect of:

1) A song for when you just can't keep that feeling inside
2) A song you want that special person to hear whom you've
just started dating in the last two weeks!
3) A song to help you get back on your feet again!
4) A song to recapture that time by the sea in the summer!

These posters provide an excellent example of the power of
advertising with QR-codes. To be effective, the ad only
needs to make you curious enough about the song to take a
picture of the code. In addition, the 'hook' to make you
take the picture can be easily targeted at a particular
demographic group. Going out on a limb here, I'll bet the
sentences above are probably aimed at females in their late
teens and early twenties. And they will likely find other
music marketed directly to them on the mobile site as they
go to download their free songs.

In any case, these QR codes are here to stay, and they are
having a noticeable impact on the way music is marketed and
promoted in Japan - Consider, when was the last time you
saw a group of people taking pictures of posters from the
street? We expect that use of these codes by artists, record
labels and music promoters will continue to increase rapidly
here, and it's only a matter of time before they start making
their way outside of Japan.


** Court Orders Japanese ISPs to Turn Over Addresses of File
In brief: Last week, the Tokyo District Court ordered three
major Internet Service Providers to release the names and
addresses of 19 people suspected of illegally uploading
music files through file sharing software. The court
order was the result of an action filed by 14 members
of the Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ).

** KDDI Starts New Service for Selling Tickets via Mobile
In brief: On October 5, KDDI will launch a new EZweb site
selling tickets for selling concert tickets. The new service,
called 'au Tickets' will be operated in conjunction with
Entertainment Plus, and will allow users to search for
concerts by artist name and venue name. Because of limits
on payment amounts, the au billing system cannot be used.
Users can instead make payment by credit card or at a
convenience store.

** Nifty Launches 'MOOCS Mobile' for i-mode
In brief: Nifty will launch a mobile version of its MOOCS
music distribution service called 'MOOCS Mobile' for i-mode
on November 6. While the MOOCS service distributes music
in SD-Audio format, MOOCS Mobile will distribute the songs
as streaming audio using an i-appli.

** KDDI's FM Radio Handsets Top 10 Million
In brief: KDDI announced last week that the number of au
subscribers with handsets containing an FM radio tuner has
passed 10 million. All of these handsets also support the
EZ FM appli, which displays 'Now Playing' information for
songs on Japan's major FM radio stations.

** HMV Japan to Start Online Music Store
In brief: On September 27, HMV Japan announced that it would
start its own online music store, 'HMV Digital' at the end
of October. It is not yet clear which labels will be
participating. The company also said that it has future
plans to offer video through the store.

** Toshiba Announces 811T Handset for Softbank Mobile
In brief: Toshiba announced that in late November, it will
begin selling a new 'music player' handset aimed at the
teenage market for Softbank Mobile (formerly Vodafone).
Like most recent handsets, the 811T supports chaku-uta
full and CD-ripping. It also has the music console on
the outside, so that the music player can be operated
while folded.

Written by: Steve Myers (steve at
Steve Myers is president and chief enthusiast of Theta Music
Technologies, which specializes in the development of
music-related software applications.
Edited by J at pan Inc editors: (editors at
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I am just getting into QR codes and seeing the potential of what can be achieved with this. The service I intend with QR Codes is about life streaming and Micro Business Cards.