An unsurprising decline in physical sales last year led to a 4.6-percent decline in recorded music revenue in Japan, the world’s second-largest recorded music market and one that remains reliant on the CD format.
Total revenues were ¥297.9 billion ($2.5 billion), according to Billboard’s analysis of last year’s digital revenues by the Recording Industry of Japan (RIAJ) and physical sales numbers released January. Total revenues have declined 39.8 percent over the last decade, although the rate of decline has slowed since 2010.
Physical sales dropped 6 percent to ¥254.2 billion ($2.1 billion) and represented 85.3 percent of total revenues. Audio formats accounted for 73.4 percent of physical sales while physical video accounted for 26.6 percent. Although CDs represented about 63 percent of all revenues, the number of CDs produced declined 9.7 percent to 170.4 million from 191 million in 2013 and 218 million in 2012.
Digital revenue grew 5 percent to ¥43.7 billion ($368 million). Streaming revenues jumped 188 percent to ¥7.8 billion ($66 million) but accounted for only 18 percent of digital revenues and 2.6 percent of total revenues. An 18.2-percent gain in Internet download revenue was more than offset by a 47.1-percent loss in mobile revenues.
(Notably, these numbers do not include performance royalties or synchronization licensing revenue.)
Japan is the rare digital market that’s late to both Internet downloads and streaming services. iTunes launched there in 2005, but never gained much traction. Sony Music Unlimited was the lone Western subscription service available in the country until Sony decided to pull out of the music streaming business last month.
Instead, the country’s digital revenues have been dominated by master ringtones, ringback tones and single-track mobile downloads. Master ringtones peaked in 2006. Ringback tones peaked in 2010. Now the two categories account for just 11.1 percent of digital revenues.
As noted above, CD revenues accounted for 63 percent of Japan’s recorded music revenue last year. To put that in perspective, U.S. recorded music trade revenues were equal parts physical and digital in 2010 and 61 percent physical in 2008.
Japan’s Recorded Music Value (in billions of yen)
2004 — 431.3
2005 — 422.2
2006 — 408.4
2007 — 391.1
2008 — 361.8
2009 — 316.5
2010 — 283.6
2011 — 281.9
2012 — 310.8
2013 — 270.5
2014 — 254.2