Going mobile : the mobile Internet, ringtones, and the music market in Japan

This chapter chronicles the development of the mobile internet and cell-phone music in Japan, taking into account the role of telecommunications infrastructure and strategy in encouraging diffusion, the differing and evolving strategies of record companies, and the impact on the listening and purchasing habits of consumers. As among the global leaders of cellular phone technologies, Japanese carriers have often implemented consumer applications several years ahead of North America and Europe. Ringtones and the mobile internet were prime examples, where Japan was ahead of North America by about three years. The history of ringtones from push-button melodies to single track downloads is recounted, describing the role of polyphonic ringtones and chaku-uta (sampled ringtones, or ringtunes/mastertones) in stimulating growth in mobile internet usage and the adoption of 3G (broadband mobile internet). The chapter explains how chaku-uta changed the behavior of consumers and how record companies and portal operators responded with different strategies regarding availability of product, distribution, and pricing. Using a combination of analysis of business strategies and interviews with corporate executives and users, the chapter provides an assessment of how the new technology influenced what music was heard, how it was heard, how it was marketed, and who profited from music sales. The findings reflect on the impact of corporate strategy and technological infrastructure, alongside cultural circumstances, on consumer behavior.