MMW-116 -- Mobile Music, A Look Back At 2007

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

Issue No. 116
Tuesday, December 13, 2007



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++ FEATURE: Mobile Music - A Look Back At 2007


** Rainbow Partners to offer music search engine with AMG database
** Amie Street Japan launches new music service with variable pricing
** Nifty to shut down music download service
** EMI Japan offers free Utada Hikaru chaku-uta
** Khronos Group releases new API for mobile sound

++ FEATURE: Mobile Music - A Look Back At 2007

Last week, the Japanese edition of Newsweek featured on its cover
a sword-swinging silhouetted samurai with iPod, underneath the
caption 'How Japan Lost Its Groove.' The feature story, "Why
Apple Isn't Japanese," takes a close look at the recent travails
of Sony and NTT DoCoMo, zooming in on the missed chances and
mis-steps made by these Japanese behemoths of mobile and music

Looking back on the past year, the theme of the Newsweek article
could just as well apply to Japan's mobile music content
providers, most of whom were pretty quiet throughout 2007. After
seven straight years of phenomenal growth, the companies that
pioneered ringtones and mobile music began slowing down last
year, and for the most part spent this past year in restructuring

Yamaha and Faith, the two main players in the Japanese domestic
market for mobile music content, have completely closed their
overseas operations for mobile content and dramatically scaled
back domestic production this year. Both companies - along with
other mobile content providers such as For-side, Vibe, and
Hudson, have thoroughly reorganized, reducing staff and slashing

Throughout the year, it seemed everyone in the mobile content
industry was asking the same question: What exactly do we do
now? Everybody knows they need to find and develop new ideas,
but nobody has a clue how to go about finding them. And with
just enough operating budget to maintain their existing services,
there's been little room for any kind of risk-taking or
innovation this year. Speaking with software developers in the
mobile content sector recently, there is a strong sense of
boredom and frustration with the timid approach taken by their

And so it is that Japan's mobile music market in 2007 has been
remarkable mainly for its failure to produce anything of interest
in the way of new services or innovations. In fact, probably the
biggest of the year in Japanese mobile music was the release of
the iPhone - in the US. NTT DoCoMo did receive some early
attention with the start of their 'Uta-houdai' all-you-can-eat
music subscription service, but the service has not been widely
promoted, and so far market reception has been lukewarm at best.

2007 was also the year that mobile piracy rose to the top of the
RIAJ's agenda. A study released early in the year found that 36%
of mobile music downloaders are using illegal sites offering free
mastertone and full-song downloads. The industry body is
currently lobbying government officials to pass a law that will
allow individuals to be prosecuted for downloading unlicensed
content. (Currently it is only an offense to upload unlicensed

Despite the mobile piracy issues and the overall downturn this
year, though, there is still reason to be optimistic about new
mobile music content in 2008. Many non-official 'off-portal'
mobile sites are starting to introduce a variety of new Flash
applications and Java applis. In particular, mobile sites for
music- and instrument-related magazines are looking to mobile
as a way to expand their content offerings. Here at Theta Music
Technologies, we are currently working on a few new mobile music
software projects that will be released in early 2008, and can
attest to the fact that there has been a lot of new activity in
just the past few months.

So, even though 2007 may have been 'the year of nothing' (to
paraphrase one industry insider) for mobile music in Japan,
next year will likely be one to watch.


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** Rainbow Partners to offer music search engine with AMG
In brief: Tokyo-based Rainbow Partners announced last week that
they are developing a new multilingual music search engine that
will use the AMG (All Media Guide) music database. The new
database/search engine is tentatively called 'WiSE', and is
expected to be licensed as an integrated solution to music
content providers and operators of EC sites for music.

** Amie Street Japan launches new music service with variable
In brief: On December 5, Amie Street Japan launched a new online
music service selling digital tracks from independent artists.
Each track in initially free of charge, and the price then goes
up automatically according to the download count. The maximum
price for a track is 200 yen (US$1.75). Artists can upload tracks
at no charge, and receive 60% of their total download revenue.

** Nifty to shut down music download service
In brief: Nifty Corp. announced last month that in early March
2008, it will shut down its MOOCS online music store. The MOOCS
site will reopen next March as a music and artist information
site, with no music downloads.

** EMI Japan offers free Utada Hikaru chaku-uta
In brief: EMI Japan announced last week that in celebration of
the 10th anniversary of Utada Hikaru's debut, the company will
offer free chaku-uta (mastertone) downloads of Utada's debut song
'Automatic' for four days, from December 7 to 10.

** Khronos Group releases new API for mobile sound
In brief: The Khronos Group, which developed the OpenGL standard
API for graphic applications and gaming, recently announced the
OpenSL ES Sound Language for mobile music devices. Khronos is
currently incorporating feedback from developers, and plans to
finalize the specification by the end of this year.
Hayden Porter's interview with Nathan Charles of Khronos Group

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.

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------Metropolis Magazine Valentine`s Glitterball-------

Glitterball is back!
Tokyo's favorite party makes its triumphant return on
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An institution for nearly a decade, the Metropolis-hosted
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Prize drawings, swag bags, and Tokyo's funnest crowd will make
the reborn Glitterball the highlight of the Tokyo social calendar.