Music downloads in Japan doubled in the October-December quarter compared to the previous three months, according to data released Feb. 24 by local labels body the Recording Industry Assn. of Japan.

Music downloads in Japan doubled in the October-December quarter compared to the previous three months, according to data released Feb. 24 by local labels body the Recording Industry Assn. of Japan. Mobile downloads, meanwhile, grew marginally while remaining the territory's most popular digital distribution medium by a huge margin.

The number of PC-based download sales by the association's 41 member companies in the fourth quarter of 2005 totaled 5 million, up 121% over the July-September period, for a wholesale value of ¥870.4 million ($7.4 million), an increase of 99%.

The launch of the Japanese version of Apple Computer's iTunes Music Store in August 2005 is believed to be the main factor behind the strong growth in the PC-downloads category.

The RIAJ defines the category as comprising singles, albums, mini-albums and "other related content" sold over wired networks, with albums and mini-albums counting as single units regardless of the number of tracks they contain.

The association says that although the data doesn't differentiate between sales of single tracks and albums, singles account for the overwhelming majority of download sales.

Mobile-based downloads totaled 77.4 million in the October-December quarter, up 7% from the previous period, for a wholesale value of ¥9.6 billion ($81.3 million), an increase of 5%. The RIAJ defines this category as comprising sales over wireless networks of full single tracks, ring tones, master ring tones and other related content, regardless of whether those sales were made on a per-track basis or by subscription.

Mobile downloads during the fourth quarter thus accounted for 94% of all downloads on a volume basis and 91.4% in terms of value.

Including data from digital delivery media other than PCs and mobile phones, digital downloads of music in the fourth quarter totaled 82.4 million, up 11% from the third quarter, for a wholesale value of ¥10.5 billion ($89 million), an increase of 10%.

The RIAJ has been collating quarterly digital-sales data since January 2005, but only started releasing it in August.

PC-based downloads totaled 9.5 million for all of calendar 2005, for a wholesale value of ¥1.8 billion ($15.7 million), while a total of 258.4 million mobile downloads were sold last year, for a wholesale value of ¥32.3 billion ($275 million). Including other media, downloads for 2005 totaled 267.9 million, for a wholesale value of ¥34.3 billion ($291.4 million).

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