• Kyodo


The annual output of CD albums in Japan sank below 100 million in 2018 for the first time on record, an industry group said Wednesday, as more people listen to music via online streaming services.

The nation’s CD album production, which totaled 88.65 million copies last year, peaked at 276.33 million in 2000, according to data released by the Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ). Production has been declining as popular domestic musicians have started delivering their music through streaming services.

The best-selling CD album in Japan to date is “First Love” by pop star Hikaru Utada, released in 1999 with some 7.67 million copies sold, followed by a greatest hits album released in 1998 by rock duo B’z that sold 5.14 million copies, according to music statistics firm Oricon Inc.

The RIAJ started compiling annual production data for 12-centimeter CD albums from 1999. Older data was based on the production of CD albums and singles combined.

Amid the declining trend that started in 2001, the output of CD albums, down 13 percent in 2018, has shrunk to less than one-third of the volume produced in 2000.

With the spread of smartphones, many people are turning to online music distribution services instead of listening to CDs. Downloads of albums, single tracks and music videos expanded 13 percent in 2018 from the previous year to ¥64.5 billion, increasing for the fifth straight year, according to the association.

A contributing factor in the rise of streaming services in Japan is pop stars joining the market, with Yumi Matsutoya and Yosui Inoue as well as rock band Mr. Children among those who have adopted the technology.

While most online music distribution services in the past have involved downloading music to portable devices, sales of streaming services in which content providers deliver music via a constant internet connection accounted for 54 percent of the distribution services in 2018, surpassing download sales for the first time. Many people pay fixed monthly fees to listen to music via streaming services, while some are offered tunes free-of-charge if they watch ads streamed on smartphone or PC screens.

Major streaming service providers include Sweden’s Spotify Technology SA and U.S. technology giants Apple Inc. and Google LLC. According to the International Federation of the Phonogram and Videogram Producers (IFPI), music streaming services became the largest revenue source for recorded music globally for the first time in 2017.

Music media like CDs and videos still accounted for 80 percent of total music sales in Japan in terms of value last year, the RIAJ said.

The association’s online nationwide survey released last month showed, however, that 65.9 percent of respondents used YouTube to listen to music, while 48.6 percent said they listened to CDs.

Takashi Usui, a music business analyst, said, “The spread of streaming services in Japan will accelerate if listeners’ new experiences bring excitement — such as an encounter with music they did not know before, or the rediscovery of older music.”

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