Music Industry

A Good Question: Why Does Japan Have So Many Old-Fashioned Music Stores? Let’s Consult Charles Darwin.

It’s true. Record store culture in Japan is alive and well. But why when it’s failing in so many other parts of the world? Quartz takes a look.

For many people, the days of wandering into a store, browsing the shelves, and walking out with music stored on plastic are a distant memory. In Japan, however, the CD is still king.

Globally, 39% of all music sales are physical CDs and vinyl, but in Japan, the figure is double that. It helps make Japan the world’s second biggest music market, selling more than ¥254 billion ($2.44 billion) worth of music a year—most of it in the form of CDs.
Comparing physical music share between countries

Feeding that demand are 6,000 music stores, according to an estimate from the Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ). To put that in context, the US is the world’s largest music market in terms of revenue, but has about 1,900 old-fashioned music stores, according to Almighty Music Marketing. Germany, the third biggest market, has only around700 stores.

Japan’s odd consumer behavior is a prime example of the Galapagos syndrome, a business term that takes its name from Darwinian evolutionary theory. It explains how the country’s geography, history, and culture have come together to create a love for a technology that the rest of the world has all but forgotten.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38165 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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