Compact Discs Still Dominate in Japan, Though Streaming Continues to Bubble Up

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The red-light district in Tokyo's Shinjuku, often called the 'Sleepless Town'.

As the streaming industry takes its time, Japan continues to love what it can hold.

The Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ) has released its half-year figures for 2016, and the results are predictable.

Digital revenues -- including streaming, album and track sales, music video and mobile ringtone sales -- totaled $255 million in the first half of the year. In the previous six-month period (the combined third and fourth quarters of 2015) the digital industry had a value of $236.7 million.

Japan has long adored the compact disc -- including 3" and 5" singles, rarely seen stateside -- a predilection partly sustained by the country's strong preference for local repertoire and love of limited, collectible releases. However, the writing is on the wall regarding streaming's ascendence, and Japan will be no exception, though it clearly continues to be an uphill climb for this "new" digital industry.

Indeed: $991 million was spent on CDs so far this year -- the highest-selling format in the country. Just $7.1 million was spent on vinyl. In total, the physical market -- including audio and video sales -- so far this year is said to have generated $1.9 billion in revenue. 

Line Music, a subsidiary of South Korean web giant Naver, was technically the first "full-feature" streaming service in the country. Sony previously had operated its expensive -- $14.50 per month -- Music Unlimited service. Music Unlimited was shut down earlier this year, replaced by the Spotify-powered PlayStation Music in early 2015, which is not available in Japan. Apple Music launched in the country later that year, and Spotify is expected a full rollout relatively soon.