Japan Physical Shipments Buck Trend, Rise

In 2012, physical shipments in Japan bucked world trends, rising in a year-on-year comparison with 2011, according to figures just released by the Record Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ). It was Japan's first year-on-year rise since 1998 and is a reminder of how resilient the Japanese physical market is.

Total audio physical shipments jumped to 218 million units, up 9% in a year-on-year comparison with 2011 for a value of 227.7 billion yen ($2.5 billion), up 8% from 2011, according to RIAJ. The market is once again buoyed by sales of domestic product, particularly the smash success of the 91-member girl group AKB48. Total domestic repertoire audio shipments came in at 180.2 million units, up 13% from 2011, for a value of 192.2 billion yen ($ 2.1 billion), up 11% from 2011.

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Despite this great news for the physical market overall in Japan, international repertoire audio shipments slipped to 37.8 million units, for a 4% slide compared to 2011, according to RIAJ. The value came in at 35.5 billion yen ($390 million), down 9% from 2011. This continues international repertoire's extended, 8-plus year losing streak in Japan.

For the overall market, total audio and video musical shipments came in at 342.4 million units, up 8% from 2011, for a value of 423.7 billion yen ($4.66 billion), up 5% from 2011, according to RIAJ. This rise demonstrates the entire audio/visual music market is extremely healthy, but also underscores the fact that the rise in shipments of audio recordings outstripped video, emphasizing the strength of the audio market.

AKB48 has carried the market, re-igniting the million-selling single and leading teens back to record stores. The gigantic girl unit lit up the sales charts in Japan in 2012 and it picked up the RIAJ's Gold Disc Award for Best Artist and all five Gold Disc Awards for Best Singles, an unusual coup. The awards are based strictly on sales.