The Music Industry in Japan – Why do Japanese still consume physical music?

As an Asian student, I would like to grasp this opportunity to introduce some interesting phenomenon about the music industry in Asia, mainly Japan, Hong Kong, China and Korea. The first industry I am going to talk about is the Japanese music industry.

According to the 2014 IFPI statistics, Japanese music industry is still the second largest music industry in the world, accounting for US$2,628 million. Interestingly, 78% of the industry revenue comes from the physical album sales. Under the global trend of digitalization, record labels still rely heavily on CD sales as their main source of revenue. However, why Japanese consumers still stick to buy CDs instead of streaming or downloading music?

  1. Japanese purchase albums not mainly for the CD, but for the “souvenirs” inside the album

When Japanese fans purchase an album, they do not mainly buy for the CD itself, but also other souvenirs attached to it. For example, if you buy an album of AKB48, a famous Japanese idol girl group with 140 members, you will find there are a “handshaking ticket”, “voting ticket” and the photos of their idols tied in with the album.


In order to shake hand with their beloved idols, a lot of die-heart fans will purchase a large amount of CDs to get as many “handshaking tickets” as possible. Also, every year, AKB48 organizes a competition to select the most famous member. The winning member will have more chances to perform and have a better career prospect. In order to vote for their favorite member, fans will also purchase lots of CDs to get the “voting tickets”. With a lot of physical souvenirs attached in an album, it is very difficult to ask a Japanese consumer shift to consume digital music.

  1. The number of albums bought reflects the loyalty to their idols

Another reason for Japanese fans to buy albums is to show their support to their favorite idols. There is a “collection” culture among Japanese. Usually when a Japanese idol releases a new album, they will release various versions for the same album, such as normal, deluxe, etc. Therefore, fans will buy all of the versions of the same album in order to collect the whole series. Most importantly, in some of the subcultures, the number of CDs that a person bought reflects his own loyalty to the idols. With the motivations to collect and to show off in front of their peers, Japanese fans are willing to spend a lot of money to buy physical albums.


A Japanese fan purchased boxes of albums

The above are my own observations in the Japanese music industry. I think some of their operation models are pretty successful and can definitely create the incentives for consumers to buy physical albums. Do you all think other music industry can also adopt the above strategies in order to boost the sales of physical music?

One thought on “The Music Industry in Japan – Why do Japanese still consume physical music?

  1. Pingback: The Music Industry in Japan – The “Miracle” (キセキ) in the declining Japanese Music Industry | Global Music Tribune

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