Distribution in Japan
In 2011, the flagship HMV store in Shibuya, Tokyo closed its doors forever as the vast majority of music consumers in Japan now purchase and listen to digital music via mobile devices and computers. In today's music business, distribution means getting your digital music products into the main download and streaming services in Japan, such as Spotify Japan, iTunes/Apple Music Japan , Amazon Japan, YouTube Music Japan, AWA, Line Music, etc.
According to the data published by the Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ), 64.5 billion YEN's worth (about US$580 million) in digital music sales were made in Japan in 2018.
As a foreign indie label or artist, you can easily get your music on Spotify Japan, iTunes/Apple Music Japan , Amazon Japan, YouTube Music Japan and other Japanese music platforms by using a digital distributor such as CDBaby, TuneCore, Distrokid, SongCast, etc. Of course you can use a Japanese digital distributor like the ones found here that can get your music to a few more Japanese music platforms, but it is not absolutely necessary as most Japanese people get their music from the top platforms aforementioned.
* In regards to distributors for foreign indie artists, we have found that CDBaby gets your music quicker to a wider selection of Japanese platforms such as Spotify Japan, LINE Music, AWA, kkbox, iTunes/Apple Music Japan, and Amazon Japan. It is up to you which distributor you choose. You can always ask which Japanese platforms each one distributes to before using them.
Release a "Japan Limited Edition" Digital Album or Single on Spotify, Apple Music, etc. Click here for to learn how
When submitting your "Japan Limited Edition" album to your digital distributor, you can use the original or a new album cover with Japanese text on it (see before/after example below). You can also add remixes, bonus tracks or rearrange the track listing for the "Japan Limited Edition".
If you have used CDBaby, Tunecore or another digital distributor, chances are your music is already available on the main Japanese platforms like Spotify, iTunes/Apple, Amazon, and YouTube Music.
If not, ask your digital distributor if they can add your music to them. Then make sure to add the links to your Japanese web/mobile site to start earning revenues from Japan. If you create a Japanese website at TopMusic.jp, they will search for your music at the main Japanese music platforms and add the links for you.
Of course there are other digital music platforms in Japan. If you really want your music available at all the digital music platforms in Japan, you can contract with a Japanese indie record label or use a Japanese digital music distributor. In either case, the label or distributor will take 30-50% of your sales and may also charge you other fees and taxes. For foreign indies, Spotify Japan, iTunes/Apple Music Japan, Amazon Japan, and YouTube Music Japan are sufficient.
The sales of CD's in Japan has decreased steadily year by year. Most Japanese music consumers under age 40 do not purchase CD's or own a CD player. Nowadays, it is not necessary for foreign artists/labels to contract with a Japanese record label or distributor to sell CD's in Japan. Music sales and listening are primarily digital and made online or via mobile carrier.
If you do have physical products such as CD's, vinyl records, and other merchandise such as T-shirts, you can sell them directly to Japanese consumers from your Japanese web/mobile site (or Bandcamp which has a Japanese language interface, or CDBaby which can get your CD into Amazon Japan).
* An obi strip is a paper sash (sleeve) that is wrapped around the CD packaging. See examples below.