A Tale of Two Countries

Noriko Manabe

in The Oxford Handbook of Mobile Music Studies, Volume 1

Published in print April 2014 | ISBN: 9780195375725
Published online July 2014 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

A Tale of Two Countries

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In 2013, online radio reached 45% of the US population but only 13% of the Japanese population (Arbitron 2013; RIAJ 2013). Why had the development of online radio and music streaming followed divergent trajectories in these two countries? Based on interviews with media executives, consumer surveys, and strategic analysis, this chapter posits that differences in the conception of traditional radio and in business practices led to varying degrees of acceptance for online radio and music streaming in these countries. In the US, the rapid growth of the smartphone, coupled with a radio-listening culture centered on the radio as a passive music player, aided the growth of services such as Pandora and Slacker. As recounted by Pandora founder Tim Westergren and Slacker vice president Jonathan Sasse, these two services operated under different conceptions of online radio, which were reflected in their methods for building playlists and marketing. In Japan, the diffusion of smartphones lagged that in the US, as they were initially not so attractive for either cell phone carriers, who found feature phones more profitable, or consumers, who enjoyed high functionality on their feature phones. Radio was not as popular a medium as in the US, and music programs on radio were more focused on talk than in the US. The lack of statutory licenses for online radio and the reluctance of record companies to provide music to streaming services also hampered growth. The chapter is based on research in 2009–2010, with a postscript on conditions in 2013.

Keywords: online radio; streaming media; streaming music; internet and music; Japan; United States (US); music business; mobile music; smartphone; Pandora; Slacker; Mixi; Avex

Article.  19628 words. 

Subjects: Music ; Sound Studies

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