Between Spotify, Beats Music, Google Play Music and several others, the competition between on-demand music streaming services is getting intense in the U.S. But in Japan there is only one: Sony’s Music Unlimited.
Since Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) launched Music Unlimited in Japan in 2012, the country has been one of its best markets for the music-streaming service. The Tokyo-based electronics company is hoping to see its market share increase after it releases the PlayStation 4 videogame console in Japan on Feb. 22.
If Western numbers are any indication, Sony shouldn’t have any problem.
Sony launched the PS4 in the U.S. and Europe in November and sold more than 4.2 million units in the first few weeks. The device has helped drive the Music Unlimited service. In December, 29 percent of all Music Unlimited tracks were streamed on a PS4, and that number increased to 38 percent in January.
Michael Aragon, the vice president and general manager of global digital video and music at Sony Network Entertainment, said this is thanks to Music Unlimited being integrated into the PS4’s hardware. Users can stream music, change tracks and adjust volume during gameplay; a feature Aragon said was the most-requested feature from users.
Overall, the amount active users, paid users and amount of tracks streamed by Music Unlimited all increasing by 50 percent in Western nations. The PS4 launch actually pushed Japan from the second largest market for Music Unlimited down to third.
However, Japan is still leading when it comes to converting users from the free trial version to paid subscribers. Japan also has the highest engagement with Music Unlimited across mobile devices, and Japan uses Music Unlimited on multiple devices more than anywhere else. Japanese users also listen play more tracks per month on average than anywhere else.
Some of it might have to do with Music Unlimited being the only streaming service available in Japan, where the music industry is still very conservative.
“Local labels are reluctant about [streaming], and CDs are still a big part of the business,” Aragon told International Business Times, who said Sony’s connection with the local Japanese recording industry has allowed them to bring the service to Japan. “We treat is as a very local and domestic market.”
In addition to algorithms that recommend new music, Music Unlimited also employs an editorial team that can curate playlists tailored to a Japanese audience.
“You can’t take the human element out of this stuff and understand the cultural relevance that happens every day,” Aragon said.
Looking forward, Sony said it wants to take the lessons it has learned in Japan and apply them to Western markets. In addition to focusing on localization and human-curated playlists, Sony is looking to deliver more features that utilize the integration with the PS4, such recommendations tailored to gaming audiences and the ability for gamers to share music with each other.