MMW-67 -- The Changing Face of Mobile Music in Japan, Part 3

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

Issue No. 67
Friday December 3, 2004



++ FEATURE: The Changing Face of Mobile Music in Japan, Part 3

** 'Mobile Music in Japan - Japan's Reality is our Future'
by Jan Michael Hess
** 'Pocket-size Powerhouses'
by Hayden Porter

** Next Series of i-mode 3G phones to have 3D Sound
** Yamaha Releases Free Mac Version of SMAF Authoring Tool
** Konami Releases BREW Version of Drum Mania

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++ FEATURE: The Changing Face of Mobile Music in Japan, Part 3

Having seen in parts 1 & 2 of this feature how providers of instrumental
MIDI-based ringtones in Japan were able to sustain a nearly five-year run
of unbelievably high sales, we turn now to examine the state of Japanese
realtones* (or chaku-uta, as they're known here).

*A quick aside:
Do we call them 'realtones', 'mastertones', 'songtones', 'truetones', '
musictones', 'real music tracks' 'ringtunes', 'songclips' or (my personal
favorite) 'pieces of songs'? At a recent panel discussion at the Mobile
Music Conference in Miami, it seemed there was little agreement among players
in the US mobile market as to which term should be the 'industry standard'.
Because we've been using 'realtone' in parts 1 & 2, we'll continue to call
them 'realtones' here.

The latest development in the Japanese market for realtones is the launch last
month of KDDI's full-track realtone download service, called 'Chaku-uta Full'.
Available on four new handsets to flat-rate subscribers of au's high-speed WIN
3G service, Chaku-uta full started with an initial catalog of 10,000 songs,
priced at 200-300 yen (US$1.94 - $2.91).

The files are encoded in AAC+ format, and range from about 1 to 2MB in size.
These songs take about 30-40 seconds to download on average. Up to 28 songs
can be stored on the handset, and another 80 more can fit on a mini SD card.

Like most ringtone providers, the record labels have set up several different
sites that offer overlapping content. The same song might be found on an artist
site, a label site, a site devoted to a particular musical genre, or on Label
Mobile's 'master' site. Unlike with ringtones, however, the bulk of the revenue
from a song download will nearly always go to the record label holding the
master rights for the song.

At present, the vast majority of realtones are downloaded from a service run
by Label Mobile, which was founded as a joint venture between five record
companies, and has since expanded to include eleven labels as shareholders.
Masakatsu Ueda, who was a director at Avex Network, recently turned over the CEO
position to Yukio Hata, formerly with Sony Music Entertainment, and it is rumored
that the Label Mobile CEO job will be rotated each year among executives from
the participating record labels.

Because of this close cooperation between the Japanese record companies, Label
Mobile has been able to offer a large selection of songs, while in effect locking
out most would-be competitors. Although there have been several licensing
arrangements made between Japanese record companies and other content providers,
these providers are only minor players in the realtone market. Most record labels
are hesitant to license songs to other content providers, because they can earn
a much higher share by selling the songs via their own sites or through
Label Mobile's service.

Too much cooperation among erstwhile competitors carries its own set of problems,
though, as Label Mobile discovered last August when it became the target of a
collusion probe by the Japanese equivalent of the Fair Trade Commission. Officials
from the government body searched the offices of Label Mobile and several of the
associated record companies, and questioned key executives. It remains to be seen
what - if anything - will come of it all, but it's possible that the companies
under investigation may be a bit more willing consider license proposals
now from 'outside' providers.

Next in Part 4 (the final installment): Beyond realtones

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** 'Mobile Music Japan - Japan's Reality is our Future'
by Jan Michael Hess

Jan Michael Hess, who together with Daniel Scuka organizes and hosts the
popular Mobile Intelligence Tour in Tokyo, has written an excellent article on
the mobile music services that have been driving rapid 3G migration in Japan.
Hess also offers insights as to why mobile music has been so successful here,
and compares the approaches taken by the three carriers in migrating their
customers to 3G.

Article URL:

The Mobile Intelligence Tour:

** 'Pocket-size Powerhouses'
by Hayden Porter

In this informative and well-researched article, Hayden Porter of
explores the use of PDA applications in music education, with particular focus
on apps for the Palm OS. Several programs are profiled - with screenshots -
including apps for ear training, music theory and MIDI sequencing.

Article URL:


** Next Series of i-mode 3G phones to have 3D Sound
In brief: At a recent press conference, NTT DoCoMo announced that its upcoming
901i series of FOMA 3G handsets will all come with twin stereo speakers and
surround-type 3D sound capability. In addition, the file size limit for
realtone (chaku-uta) and video clip (chaku-motion) content will be increased
from 300KB to 500KB.

** Yamaha Releases Free Mac Version of SMAF Authoring Tool
In brief: Yamaha Corp. announced this week that it is now offering a version of
its 'Sound Decorator' SMAF authoring software for the Macintosh. The application
can be downloaded free of charge from Yamaha's web site, and supports the MA-2,
MA-3 and MA-5 formats.
Source (Japanese only):

** Konami Releases BREW Version of Drum Mania
In brief: Konami Online announced last week that it had launced a BREW appli
version of its popular music game 'Drum Mania', in which players try to tap out
rhythms for popular songs. The game is offered on the company's 'KonamiNet DX
site for EZWeb, and costs 315 yen (US$3.06)
to download, plus 52 yen (US$0.50) for each song.
Source (Japanese only):

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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 editor: (


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