You probably have one of these apps on your phone: Spotify, Apple music, or Amazon music. Today Music is often consumed digitally, and Japan is no exception as the second largest music industry in the world. Nonetheless, it is still common for people to buy or rent physical CDs in the country.
Although in most countries the sales of CDs has steadily declined since the advent of digital streaming, it was reported by Forbes in 2014 that over 80% of the total music sale in Japan were CDs. However, in the past four years , digital streaming has become more popular in Japan , as music streaming services like Spotify, Apple music, and even LINE music, developed by the same company who made the commonly used chat tool in Japan, “LINE”. were launched. Despite this, it is right to say that the Japanese music industry is still reliant on CDs.
So why in Japan are CDs still a thing in 2018? One reason may be because of the protectionist stance of the Japanese music industry towards digital streaming, and effective marketing strategies to sell CDs, from giving out free goods and tickets to signing events. Some even say that people buy CDs because the act of collecting something is enjoyable in itself. Regardless of the reasons it seems that the abundance of CDs is what is holding back thousands of artists from becoming recognized.
As digital streaming services like Spotify and music platforms such as SoundCloud and even YouTube became popular as media for consuming music, indie and amateur artists that aren’t signed with record labels were able to gain access to many audiences through them. There are even terms like ‘SoundCloud rappers’ referring to rappers that put their singles and albums on SoundCloud. There is also a music genre called ‘bedroom pop’ typically referring to lo-fi pop music recorded at home, or literally in the artist’s bedroom. Some of them have even worked hard enough to gain millions of followers and get a contract with a record label.
Of course, most people in Japan have Internet access too, and the indie/amateur artists can use web platforms to grab the spotlight. Although some artists have been successful with this, its seems that they often struggle to win over the CD dependent audience.
However, t;he CD culture in Japan is not the major issue. CDs offer something that digital files of recorded music cannot, like the small booklet, the plastic case and more importantly the feeling of possessing a physical CD of your favourite artist. Those are things that can’t be obtained through music streaming. Nevertheless, maybe it is time for people to move on and let the unheard artists to become heardso that they may too be exposed to millions of artists around the world.
McIntyre, H. (2014). 85 Percent of Music Sales in Japan are CDs. Retrieved August 19, 2018, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/hughmcintyre/2014/09/21/85-percent-of-music-sales-in-japan-are-cds/#74cec5d6acc5
written by Sion Lee