‘Big In Japan’ has been a long-running catchphrase for European artists who have wanted to find fame in the Pacific island, but the phrase isn’t completely tongue-in-cheek, as for a long time the country has been one of the largest music markets in the world. In 2014, IFPI ranked it second after the US, grossing a total income of $2,627.9 million.
While there was a 4.6% decrease in recorded music revenue in 2015, physical sales still dominate the country, equating to 78% of total music sales in the same year. Meanwhile digital sales rose ever so slightly to generate $191.8m. However, compared to revenue from physical sales many labels are negative about streaming platforms in the region. One of the reasons that physical sales have remained so strong is that digital piracy is a criminal offence in Japan, as oppose to just a civil one like in European countries, and as one representative of a Japanese label said at a panel on the Asian music market in 2015 that we attended, there just isn’t much of a culture of theft in Japan, and rental businesses are still a going concern.
One area where the Japanese industry is leading the way is performance rights. This ties in with the upwards trend of sync revenue in the country: that side of the industry grew 33.5% in 2015. A brand new government-funded plan to build a singular national rights database covering music, films, animation and other Japanese-made intellectual property is in development for the end of the year – continuing the trend for governments and companies to look at ways of simplifying copyright in the digital age.
One of the biggest festivals in the country is Ultra Japan, an EDM behemoth. Meanwhile block.fm gains lots of attention as the country’s dance radio station. Music in TV is extremely limited, apart from CDTV which tends to showcase J-Pop artists.
Much like in South Korea and Indonesia, hip-hop culture is becoming the major alternative youth movement, taking heavy influence from the US trap scene.