MMW-82 -- Japanese Labels Keeping Quiet About iTunes

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

Issue No. 82
Wednesday, July 27, 2005



++ FEATURE: Japanese Labels Keeping Quiet About iTunes

** Yamaha Starts New Podcasting Service for Musicians
** Excite Music Offers New Song Ahead of Single Release
** DoCoMo's Ringback Tone Service Reaches 5 Million Subscribers
** Label Mobile Releases Tool for Searching Chaku-uta from PC
** Taito Adds Flash-based Lyrics Service

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++ FEATURE: Japanese Labels Keeping Quiet About iTunes

For several weeks now, rumors have been circulating that Apple
will launch its Japanese iTunes Music Store in early August.
This has created quite a stir in the press here, with much
speculation about pricing, catalog size, and questions as to
which record labels will be involved. For its part, Apple Japan
has not said anything official except to reiterate its intention
to start the service "by the end of this year."

So far, only one major Japanese label - Avex - has made an official
announcement of participation. Sony Music Entertainment has said it
is in negotiations with Apple, but no specific terms of agreement
have been reached. Toshiba EMI and other labels are also rumored to
be in talks with Apple, but are declining to say anything concrete
about their involvement.

In early June, Avex announced that it would offer both singles and
albums on the service, and that some songs would be offered exclusively
on iTunes. However, even Avex has declined to comment on the artists
and number of songs that will be available. Likewise, regarding pricing
and the launch date, Avex has said it expects that to be decided by Apple.

It was reported a few weeks ago that Apple has just established a new
company in Tokyo called iTunes K.K., a wholly-owned subsidiary of
Cupertino-based Apple Computer, that will handle operation of the iTunes
store. This company will be headed by Edward Cue, currently vice president
in charge of applications at Apple. Beyond this, however, not much is known
about the new entity. Even executives at Apple Japan have been quoted as
saying they "don't know the details" regarding the new iTunes company.

So basically we are still left with a bunch of questions. Foremost among
these are:

1. The per-song price (currently 170-220 yen on most services)
2. The number of songs and breadth of catalog
3. Copy-control measures

The last point has reportedly been a sticky one, with both the RIAJ and
JASRAC saying they expect iTunes to uphold the same level of copy
protection required of other Japanese online music providers.

And of course, we are curious to see if the iTunes store will actually launch
in August or not. It is likely that this will depend on the results of
negotiations with the other major labels. Even though iTunes could
conceivably launch with just Avex, it will more likely wait until a broader
range of Japanese artists is represented.

Stay tuned...

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** Yamaha Starts New Podcasting Service for Musicians
In brief: On July 7, Yamaha started a new podcasting service for
registered members of its 'Players Okoku' online community.
'Players Okoku' is a site where members can freely post their own
compositions and performances and download the works of others.
The new service allows iPod users to download the most recently
published song on the site.

** Excite Music Offers New Song Ahead of Single Release
In brief: On July 21, Excite Music began offering a new song by
the popular J-Pop band 'Road of Major' on its PC download service
nearly a week before the release of the single. The song was also
offered as chaku-uta on Excite's i-mode and Vodafone music services.

** DoCoMo's Ringback Tone Service Reaches 5 Million Subscribers
In brief: NTT DoCoMo announced on July 7 that it's service for
ringback tones, called 'Melody Call,' recently surpassed 5 million
subscribers. The service began in September 2003. Although it took
9 months for Melody Call to reach 1 million subscribers, the service
has been gaining momentum recently, hitting the 3 million mark in
February and 4 million in April.

** Label Mobile Releases Tool for Searching Chaku-uta from PC
In brief: On July 21, Label Mobile began distributing a software
tool for searching its catalog of chaku-uta and chaku-mero from
a PC. Called "Reco-choku Iroiro Bar," the software is being offered
free of charge, but distribution is limited to only the first

** Taito Adds Flash-based Lyrics Service
In brief: Last week, Taito added a lyrics service to its "Kyukyoku
EZMelody" portal site on EZWeb. The new service is called "Flash
Music" and uses Flash (called "chaku-flash" on EZWeb) to display
the lyrics in synch with the song.

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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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