The recent guest article, Mobile Music Best Practices from Japan and Korea, has resulted in some interesting comments on the web. It seems that the
long- wrong-held belief about Japan’s mobile success story is still being attributed to the “There are relatively few people in Japan with a home-based Internet connection, making the mobile Internet more attractive” syndrome. However, it’s clear according to the ITU that Japan’s Internet and PC adoption rates have been much the same as, or even better than, the adoption rates in European countries such as France, Germany and the UK since at least 2001. Another comment we saw regarding the Chaku-uta Full song downloads explained in the article said “it seems to me it may be being marketed (and more importantly used) more as a next-generation ring-tone service than as a true music service”.
This is incorrect. Today in Japan, marketing to encourage customers to upgrade and listen to full-track music on their new mobile devices is everywhere; in print, outdoor and on television commercials, we are seeing massive “i-pod-meets-mobile-phone” promotions. Hence the stereo headphones and J-pop artists making regular appearances to help push the product. Sure, people can use full songs as ring-tones as well (that’s a bonus), but that is not how Chaku-uta Full is be marketed or — more importantly — being used. (And you don’t have to take our word for it. Visit KDDI’s Ad Index site and surf around to watch their current selection of TV commercials.)
WWJ subscribers login for more cool links and a quick overview of another interesting mobile-music service model coming out of Korea.
The direct links to the ITU’s Internet indicators (Hosts, Users and Number of PCs) are here:
Direct links to 4 handset makers’ current marketing campaigns for music enabled handsets (in Japanese). Note that Kyocera’s site has a Windows Media Player version of their latest TV commercial for the W31k:
But what about actual mobile-music uptake on the street?
Sure, we see all manner of portable music players here, from the super-popular i-Pods to a wide range of domestic MP3 players. But, from looking around during our morning commute, we estimate somewhere around 30 percent of the mobile music players in use today cellys. Why not more? It’s still somewhat early in the music-capable handset replacement cycle, and the carriers’ drastic DRM policies, as now implemented, may forever cap mass adoption.
This ASP approach has become very popular in Korea. That model could become the next stage of mobile music in any global market (depending on the way royalties are handled). At least the fancy hardware is ready, willing and able.
As mentioned in South Korea Pushes Digital Music Ubiquity, November 15, 2004:
“iTunes+iPod” is currently defining the paid music market in the US and Europe, but Korea plans to supplant PC-based download models with cheap mobile services and new devices like portable satellite receivers. That will enable users to handle calls, video and audio content from a range of next generation mobile handsets.
With that technology backdrop in mind, new music services are emerging. SK Telekom, Korea’s largest mobile service provider, just launched a flat-rate music downloading service for 5,000 won ($4.50) a month. Called “MelOn”, the offering promises to let subscribers listen to music “whenever, wherever, on whatever devices they want.” The MelOn service provides unlimited music streams and music downloads, with easy access from a mobile and fixed-line network. After the subscription has expired, the DRM blocks access to the sound files.
Korea is clearly taking lessons from new portable subscription services like Napster To Go. But MelOn is heavily geared towards the mobile market, with Napster only dabbling in this arena so far.
– WWJ Editors
Related news (16 August) from Infoworld:
Music downloads via cell phones outpaced those to digital music players by a wide margin in Japan during the first six months of 2005, according to data released last week.
Cell-phone downloads including complete songs and ring-tone melodies totaled 108.9 million songs during the first half of the year and were worth JPY 13.6 billion (US$123 million as of June 30, the last day of the period), according to figures from the Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ).
In contrast, legal music downloads from the Internet to devices like portable music players totaled 2.2 million songs and were worth JPY 538.8 million during the same period, the RIAJ said.