Tough Market for Streaming, Japan Gets Hi-Res Service From Sony Music

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"I’m not sure this service will be successful," remarks a Sony Music Entertainment Japan executive on "mora qualitas," a collaboration with Rhapsody.

Sony Music’s new Japanese high-resolution streaming service may face an uphill battle in a market that’s been slow to embrace streaming already, music executives tell Billboard.  The service -- a collaboration with Rhapsody International -- will augment Sony’s existing streaming service "mora" with a high resolution service and be called "mora qualitas."

Rhapsody International is providing its complete "Powered By Napster" platform including a unique set of systems, tools and APIs to allow Sony Music Entertainment Japan (SMEJ) to quickly launch and bring its on-demand service to market.

Mora qualitas will compete with Deezer’s high-res music streaming service that launched in Japan almost exactly a year ago. Sony’s service is priced at 1,980 yen (about $17.48) per month, while Deezer’s is slightly cheaper at 1,960 yen (about $17.30).

However, music streaming in Japan, the second largest music market in the world, has never taken off like is has in other major music markets. Currently streaming in Japan makes up approximately 10 percent of revenue for recorded music, according IFPI.

In a press release Shigeki Tanaka, senior vp of SMEJ expressed hope for the delivery method. "There is a lot of momentum happening in streaming and it's going to keep getting better for consumers and artists with the introduction of mora qualitas, our new global on-demand audio service." He added, "Napster's deep expertise in high resolution audio streaming and industry experience made them the clear choice to partner with us in launching Japan's new premier service."  

When questioned directly by Billboard, Tanaka acknowledged streaming was still a challenge in Japan and mora qualitas was part of the process. "I’m not sure this service will be successful. It’s our challenge," Tanaka commented. "However, since we have served the high resolution audio business for more than five years, we believe there is expectation of (our) customers."

He went on to express confidence that streaming will continue to grow in Japan.

An industry expert who preferred to remain anonymous told Billboard, "Deezer has not seen a breakthrough for high-end users for streaming. So mora qualitas will probably have the same problems and that is going to be the key factor. For now, I think it will not make a big impact until high resolution becomes the main issue."

Out of the gate, mora qualitas will only be available for Windows and Macintosh desktop users. Sony says other platforms will follow.