Google Launches Streaming Service in Japan

Google launched a Japanese edition of its Google Play music service over the weekend in an attempt to push the digital platform in the world’s second-largest music market. With an estimated $2.6 billion in 2014 music sales, the Japan market is second only to the US, where $4.8 billion worth of music was sold last year. Unlike the US, however, Japanese music fans still covet the compact disc and other physical formats, with digital formats only accounting for about 20 percent of all sales last year. Google is just the latest to make a push to change the culture in Japan, as Apple and others have already launched streaming services there. The global leader in streaming, Spotify, has yet to launch a Japanese service, and several companies have shut down streaming products recently, including Sony.

The reasons that digital music has yet to catch on in Japan are multiple. Some insiders blame free online services such as YouTube, while others blame Japanese labels that put all their efforts promoting physical product through established retail outlets. Still others blame the uncertainty over royalty payments and licensing of digital music, which is an evolving issue no where near being resolved. Japan’s aversion to streaming is not specific to music, either, as e-books retailers have also struggled to succeed there. Netflix, the world’s leader in streaming television service, just launched in Japan this month, and has yet to announce how the launch is doing.

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