At the EMP Conference in Seattle this past weekend, Noriko Manabe of CUNY Graduate Center gave a really intriguing–if scarily dystopian–talk about the way things are heating up in the Japanese commercial market. Now, the iPod is a popular fetish object in much the same way as it is here, but iTunes Music Store Japan is not doing so well. This, she says, is partly because Sony Music Japan, the biggest Japanese label, refuses to do business with Apple, instead marketing their own proprietary music service called the Sony Mora. But downloading music onto your cell phone, and listening to it off of your cell phone (which I can’t imagine sounds very good under the best of circumstances), trumps them all.
The difference is that instead of downloading full songs, Manabe says, many people in Japan prefer to just download the choruses–30 seconds of the hit single.
This is different from a polyphonic ringtone; this is more akin to downloading a song onto your iPod. Some would argue that a lot of J-pop, which tops the charts in these downloads, is pretty much all chorus to begin with. But it fascinates me that this is the same country that produced the 50-CD Merzbox, Les Rallizes Denudes, Acid Mothers Temple, and Hanatarash… that 30-minute extended bliss-jams by major-label act (in Japan, at least) Boredoms could coexist with 30-second downloads of major-label choruses. I’m not against it, but I am bemused by it.