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Why Japan's Love Of CDs At Odds With Rest of Global Music Industry

Why does Japan hangs onto the CD while other countries move into the digital realm?

Anne Parsons
Why Japan's Love Of CDs At Odds With Rest of Global Music Industry© 2017 Stuart Rankin - Flickr

Japan has always danced to the beat of its own drum. Yet, it is incredible in many ways that while the rest of the world has been making the swift and powerful transition to downloading and streaming music for years now, Japan is hanging on to the CD.

Japan, never one to shy away from other forms of new technology, has remained steadfastly attached to the compact disc. While in other parts of the world CD sales have been dwindling, they still account for 85 percent of music sales in Japan, according to a report in the New York Times. To compare, CDs account for only 20 percent of sales in Sweden.

“Japan is utterly, totally unique.”

The global music industry see Japan is a wild card. “Japan is utterly, totally unique,” the chairman of the Universal Music Group, Lucian Grainge told the Times.

However, CD sales are still dropping off in Japan to some extent - last year sales dropped by 17 percent. The fear is that if Japan don’t follow suit with other countries and begin adopting more digital methods of acquiring music, music sales will decline over all. This is especially relevant considering Japan is the second-largest music market in the world, after USA.

So it is in the best interests of the music industry to encourage Japan to adapt. The streaming service Spotify has been in talks with music companies in Japan for almost two years, negotiating licensing.  

Others point to cultural differences as a mitigating factor. Japanese people are interested in collectibles, and special edition CDs fall into this category.

It will be interesting once Spotify finish negotiations to see how Japan will respond.

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