If you’ve seen the Tower Records documentary All Things Must Pass, you’ll know that the film ends with the chain’s founder visiting Japan where Tower Records is still a thriving business. Actually, it’s not just Tower. The Japanese are still mad for their CDs. But why? Cuepoint takes a look.
Okay, so I’m borderline otaku. Maybe not the I-hate-everyone-but-Miku-chan kind, but I absolutely adore Japanese manga and anime. That said, I never understood why the average Japanese teenager-in-ink is the music technology equivalent of Amish. They’re still swapping CDs intankōbon-land! What gives?
So I did a little research and uncovered startling facts. Close to 85% of all music sold in Japan moves around on those circular, scratch-prone pieces of plastic that went out of style with Creed: the venerable compact disc. Insane! To boot, Japan is the world’s second largest music market.
Let this sink in for a while: the U.S., number one in global record sales, has 60% more people than Japan and a 30% market share. The latter, meanwhile, already corners over a fifth of the market, and the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) predicts Japan could eventually dethrone the longtime CD champ.
More astoundingly, imports made up a paltry 11% of Japan’s music revenue pie in 2015, meaning homegrown acts (notably the 127 miniskirted girls-strong group, AKB48) are raking in cash for record labels and publishers at rates far exceeding other top 10 markets.