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Google streaming service goes live in Japan

By | Published on Monday 7 September 2015


Google launched its streaming music service in Japan on Friday, making it an early entrant into a market where streaming, and indeed digital music at large really, is yet to gain momentum.

As previously reported, the Japanese record industry has been slow to adapt to digital, with even iTunes having to agree to a different pricing structure in the country in order to get licensed. Resistance was motivated by, and for a time helped to maintain, a very strong CD market, but physical product sales are now in decline in Japan too, and with digital services there so far behind, the wider recorded music business has started to struggle.

Until recently very few streaming services were available in Japan, and those that did operate – like the now defunct Sony Music Unlimited and Taiwanese streaming set-up KKBOX – had significant functionality limitations compared to Spotify-type platforms. However, in the last few months new services offering a little more functionality have started to appear: first via the record industry’s joint venture with messaging app Line, and then Apple Music.

And now Google. Its streaming service in Japan will seemingly mirror its set-up elsewhere, though interestingly the monthly subscription rate seems set to be cheaper, reportedly just over £5 a month, with a discount for early adopters. Following Line Music’s also low price point, this is an interesting trend in a market where downloads were generally more expensive than the rest of the world.

One thing that links the streaming services that are live in Japan though, is that, beyond free trials, there is no freemium level, which could be the sticking point that is still preventing the big players elsewhere – and especially Spotify – from entering this market.

Which means that, whereas Google’s streaming set-up has never seemed to gain much momentum elsewhere, and Apple Music, despite the hype and moderately pleasing sign-up figures, is still very much playing catch-up, in Japan both are early to market and could gain more traction as a result.