An open letter to Recochoku.jp

To whom it may concern:

You just created another reason why the world of music piracy continues to thrive.

I have been a faithful user of your services. I have paid what is due, even though you sell your songs for twice the amount iTunes charges (case in point: S$1.48 vs. JPY250).

I still bought songs from your website, because you offered music that iTunes Singapore would not.

I signed up as a registered user. I gave you legitimate credit card information. And for at least one year, I bought from you. I was a faithful customer.

And then recently, for some reason, your music became unavailable for purchase outside Japan. You offered no explanation, merely redirecting me to your page on terms and conditions.

I read the whole thing, sir. The whole damn thing. I don’t even read these things in English. That’s how much I wanted an explanation.

Did it offer any reasons why you decided to restrict your sales within Japan only? No. Instead, your lawyers decided to word it in the most typical Japanese way possible, and in a single line.

「本サービスは、日本国内においてのみ利用できるものとします。」

“The services (on this website) are available for use within Japan.”

I don’t know what changed your mind. I don’t know why the record labels feel the need to keep their music within Japan. Just as I don’t understand why your competitor – iTunes Japan – does the same.

Perhaps it’s time that your industry seriously review your distribution policies again. A local market with 127 million surely cannot possibly compete with the potential revenue derived from a region in Southeast Asia that’s five times larger than yours. And I haven’t even included the extra 30 million from Hong Kong and Taiwan.

These consumers are young, energetic, and most certainly not poor. The Anime Festival Asia in Singapore looms ahead later this month, and people have paid hundreds of dollars to attend its highlight, a 3-day concert called ANISONG, waiting to watch artistes like Aimer, BACK-ON, and KANA-BOON.

Finally, you are cutting access to some really wonderful discoveries. If not for you, I would not have discovered Yonezu Kenshi, Fujiwara Sakura, and the Pelican Fanclub. There are artistes that truly deserve a wider audience.

Perhaps you may not be the right platform to direct such anguish. You may redirect me to the parties that are placing these restrictions – i.e. the record label companies – and you may be right. But you are the window for feedback. You are the public-facing service provider. Hence, you are a rare outlet, and with that, we share our concerns.

And here’s a final reason why you should retract your sale restrictions. You need us.

As of 2014, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry revealed that your music sales within Japan is declining. Revenue from digital-music sales sank 23%, while physical music sales slid 13%. Overall, your entire music market shrank nearly 17% to 312.1 billion yen ($3.07 billion).

Sure, global sales may have slid as well, but only by 3.9% during the same period. Without you, they would’ve only edged down by 0.1%. That means the cause of the overall decline, Japan, is you.

As much as your local market appreciates physical sales – and don’t get me wrong, I’ll buy a physical copy if the music is that good – digital is the way to go. It is simple, fuss free,  and easy to access. The only boundaries we face are the legal ones.

I will respect your decision to focus on your local market. But I do not accept it. It will be a matter of time before the doors will open again. Until those options present themselves, I’ll get my music for free elsewhere.

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