BESIDES Luddites and hipsters? (I’m borrowing here from the stage patter of the young folk duo the Milk Carton Kids.) Turns out, Japanese people still buy CDs. A country famous for loving technology and novelty are moving into the future by acting like it’s the past. From a New York Times story:
Japan may be one of the world’s perennial early adopters of new technologies, but its continuing attachment to the CD puts it sharply at odds with the rest of the global music industry. While CD sales are falling worldwide, including in Japan, they still account for about 85 percent of sales here, compared with as little as 20 percent in some countries, like Sweden, where online streaming is dominant.
And amazingly, as a tribute to the collector/High Fidelity culture that still exists in Japan:
Tower Records closed its 89 American outlets in 2006, but the Japanese branch of the chain — controlled by NTT DoCoMo, Japan’s largest phone carrier — still has 85 outlets, doing $500 million in business a year.
For musicians — who make substantially more money from CD and vinyl sales of their work than downloads or streams — this is good news. But the larger trends continue to be worrisome.
In the United States, digital sales have long since overtaken physical ones. But CDs still account for 41 percent of the $15 billion recorded music market worldwide, and, in addition to Japan, some big markets like Germany remain reliant on CD sales. That attachment worries some analysts, who contend that if those countries do not embrace online music, an inevitable decline in CD sales will further damage the industry.
Update: Some data just came out — I don’t know how to link to it — showing that people over 35 buy a lot of CDs and downloads, despite the music industry gearing itself as it has for decades, to teenagers.