Sony Music Breaks Through Japanese Online Music Barrier

After its corporate parent decided to join the Internet music transmission industry, rather than fight it, Sony Music’s Japanese group announced this week that it would become the first Japanese company to sell music online.

Sony Music Entertainment Japan said it would start selling single releases from some of its recording artists at prices ranging between $1.70 (US$) and $4.40 per song by as early as December. The company — which has inked international stars like Mariah Carey and Celine Dion to recording contracts — hasn’t yet decided on which compression protocol it will offer, but said the music would be CD-quality sound.

The company acknowledged that ignoring the prospects of selling music online could be a grave mistake for the music recording industry. A Sony spokesman expressed the concerns that remain embedded within the industry over copyright infringements, but said that the prospect for an explosion of Internet usage and advances in new technology for music distribution outweigh those concerns.

Sony’s announcement comes two months after many of the worlds largest music companies — including Sony and Universal — agreed on a set of security guidelines for selling music over the Internet.

The Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) brings together the recording industry and some manufacturers of the digital compression devices needed to download the music. The initiative’s standards blocks portable MP3 players from accepting illegally created music files. Not all manufacturers have signed on, however, and the issue is far from resolved.

Taking The High Road

The $40 billion-a-year recording industry has been lambasted for reacting far too slowly to the advent of digital compression music. Rather than heed the call years ago from far-seeing executives that the Internet would impact the industry, executives dug in their heels and repeated their mantra that the earth was flat.

As the public started to embrace MP3 technology — which essentially started as a format for musicians to present their music to a wider public — the recording industry began to recognize the threat. It became all too clear to the industry when Wall Street backed the new technology.

Sony and others are now hoping to climb aboard before the train leaves the next station. Clearly, the company’s deep pockets afford it the chance to make a few mistakes and emerge relatively unscathed.

Sony’s corporate parent is a $57 billion-a-year giant, with 177,000 employees worldwide and a piece of just about every media and entertainment-related business ever invented.

Sony bought CBS Records in 1988 and then reorganized the company into four groups in 1994: Sony Classical; Epic; Columbia and Relativity Entertainment Group.


  • HELP! I recieved a CD from a Japanese friend, It was recorded in Japan. It will NOT play on my CD player bought 11 years ago, but does play well in my car CD player of three years, but the kicker is it has a THREE hour playing time on my (I thought) standard CD player. PLUS it has unused disk space, which by guess, could have recorded another two hours. What compression is being used (not MP3) and regardless how can my American built car CD player read it?

  • I agree with Sony’s decision. Why let millions of cell phones go to waste. I think Japan has the biggest potential to fully exploit digital music distribution. By having the ability to utilize its vast Japanese distribution network, Sony can offer cell phone users a subscription type “Push Music Platform” that can set the standard for the industry. Lots of artist on are benefitting enormously from the digital revoloution. I think the industry is holding its breath in anticipation of what Sony may unleash.

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