Why are Japanese CDs so expensive? Because....

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by pig whisperer, Aug 22, 2005.

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  1. pig whisperer

    pig whisperer CD Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Tokyo, Japan
    Hi everyone,

    I'm new here and just want to say HI.

    I have been reading past threads and I've noticed that this question about expensive Japanese CDs coming up quite often.

    I've lived in Tokyo before and I can tell you one reason: everything in Japan is expensive. One big reason is that their distribution system is complicated and there are a lot of middle men adding their cost along the way. Everybody gets paid (low unemployment and a lot of 'dead wood' jobs) and they pay for that privilege. Also, the Japanese CDs have books, or information sheets, as well which the consumer pays for (and probably not at cost)

    When they produce the discs in Japan for the US market, I believe that a few of the add-on stages are left out of the equation.

    It's not just CDs. Let's talk about beer!! Domestic Japanese beer (kirin, sapporo, etc) is the same price as an imported premium beers from around the world (Heineken and Bud are popular). I was in Hong Kong and the Japanese beer was cheaper there than in Japan.

    OK, back to CDs. Japan is a great place to buy music. You can get discs from around the world. The majority of the CDs I bought were US versions because they were much cheaper (not all Japanese want to pay the extra money for their versions either). A few I bought, like some Moody Blues remasters, Moby Grapes debut (mono), Humble Pie, are from the UK. I had a German Are You Experienced, once. I only own a handful of Japanese discs which I bought, like Van Morrisons' Too Late To Stop Now, because they were either cheaper than other versions (happens sometimes) or I couldn't find an import version (Jesse Ed Davis' Ululu).

    Japanese versions aren't priced higher than it's US counter part because it is deemed by the Japanese they are superior. All Japanese discs have the same pricing points. You could pay the same for a Pink Floyd or a CD by a boy band (SMAP) or a disposable "everywhere girl" (like the name implies they are everywhere - all the trendy t.v shows and/or movies, music, commercials, magazines, bill boards, etc. I tell you, they make Jessica Simpson look like a recluse).

    Maybe things will change. When I first went in 1992, foreigners could NOT believe that a cup of coffee was $5..........
     
  2. Very interesting. I also heard that CD prices for domestic CDs in Japan are high because the industry allows renting of CDs, and somehow the royalty structure factors in lower sale volumes with high rental rates.

    I was amazed when I was London for work, a Coke was 1 pound out of a machine = $1.90. Yet a lot of CDs were 6.99 pounds = $13.25. So I got a couple. DVDs in Europe, particularly the UK, are very expensive compared to the US. Not just exchange. List is relatively high compared to CDs.

    I just laugh when you can get CDs from the BMG Music Club here for ~$4.20 each.
     
  3. pig whisperer

    pig whisperer CD Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Tokyo, Japan
    I'm not sure about CD rentals, but in the video stores they rent dvd/videos that are bought from the manufacture at very high prices 6 weeks, or so, in advance of the official public release.

    When I first went to Japan the price of an import (US) was over $20. Prices fell after that and now they are around $15. Prices for CDs here in Vancouver are very low. Between HMV, A & B Sound, Future Shop and Best Buy (forget the Virgin store downtown) there is a lot of competition. The Canadian Who's Next is always available between $5.99 and $9.99CDN. Funny, most of us don't know that there is anything special about this one - I guess because it was here all along! We assume that the remix/remaster is superior and, it turns out, the "good one" is found in the discount bins.
     
  4. innercircle

    innercircle Forum Resident

    Location:
    Monterrey, Mexico
    Wow! I wondering how's the stock in Japan, because we are believing that almost all the Japan editions are "limited editions" so it is true even in Japan? or you have most chance to get a tought one?
     
  5. pig whisperer

    pig whisperer CD Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Tokyo, Japan


    Are you refering to Who's Next? If so, I'm talking about the version that has the Steve Hoffman master which is available in CANADA. Nothing to do with Japan. If you mean something else please let me know. Thanks
     
  6. StyxCollector

    StyxCollector Man of Miracles

    When I was in Japan last fall, one of the only reasons Japan was expensive was that I spent so much damn money! :)

    With the exchange rate from Yen to Dollars, it was about the same as buying stuff here, except you get OBIs and extra tracks. The used stuff in Japan is amazing - all of the discs are in top notch condition, and I didn't find a used store I didn't like. Hello RecoFan and Disk Union!

    I can tell you that some CDs do dry up over there - I found virtually no Styx used CDs of older pressings. The limited in many cases is true. I didn't see many CDs that were OOP over there in the new stores. The Towers and HMVs mainly had in print items, but oh what a selection! The HMV in Shibuya (drool) is the best new CD store I've ever been to. Period. The selection of jazz especially was to die for.

    Anyway, just my $.02. I plan on going back hopefully next year - it's an amazing place to visit for reasons other than the CDs, but let me tell you, outside of the three Amoeba stores (and I've been to London, Leeds, Toronto, and many places around around the USA due to work), I have never found better record and CD shopping.
     
  7. Michael

    Michael I LOVE WIDE S-T-E-R-E-O!

    ...even back in my vinyl collecting days, I didn't mind spending the extra coin for certain Japanese pressings...today with the CD, I get pissed when they throw an extra song on for that expensive incentive....Aimee Mann's The Forgotten Arm comes to mind, I'd love to have this, but not at $40.00!
     
  8. pig whisperer

    pig whisperer CD Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Tokyo, Japan

    I lived a couple train stops from Shibuya. I can think of at least 6 CD stores I use to go to in that area. Some are probably gone now and, I'm sure, others have taken their place. And don't forget the people selling the cheap compilations on the streets or the temporary used record kiosks that appear from time to time.

    You can try on line shopping at HMV Japan on this English page:

    http://www.hmv.co.jp/index.asp?lang=en

    No used discs or anything rare, but it's nice to window shop.
     
  9. StyxCollector

    StyxCollector Man of Miracles

    There were a bunch of stores in Shibuya - I'm sure I shopped at some you went to.

    I've bought from the HMV website in the past; not cheap, but you can get what is in print in Japan.

    We didn't see the temp used kiosks or cheap compilations - where/when are they found?
     
  10. pig whisperer

    pig whisperer CD Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Tokyo, Japan

    One of the places the cheap compilations (I once picked up a Ray Charles hits disc with the usual songs, but it has a KILLER live version of Come Rain Or Come Shine) be found is along the diagonal street that runs from the crossing at the Hachiko exit (the statue if the dog) of Shibuya station, and near the crossing. If they are around that day they will be on the street with the foreigners who sell jewelry and guys hand out tissue advertising sex clubs, etc.. Sometimes people, or groups, rent out empty spaces and sell LPs. I once found one in the bottom of the Loft building (Wave cd store is upstairs in that building) near HMV. These places aren't always there. There are quite a few small stores hidden away in the upper floors of small, non-discript buildings.

    Also, check out the shopping street at the Takeshita-dori exit of Harajuku train station (next train stop from Shibya). The street is crowded with young Japanese boys and girls and sells trendy clothes and things. Half way up that street on the left side is/was a Beatles store (some rare stuff), a store selling the latest concert bootlegs, and, on the right side is an Elvis store with some very cool things.
     
  11. crimsoncing

    crimsoncing New Member

    Location:
    virginia beach
    This is a great thread to ask this dumb question...Why is a OBI strip so important? I now get them on russian Cds as well but they seem to be a big selling point!

    I do get some CDS from Japan but only in the used bin. Way back in the late 70s, Everyone was raving about the version of Queens greatest hit record from Japan. I sprang for it and the sounf was stuffy and lossy. It put me off of Japan imorted music for years!!!!!!!
     
  12. John Carsell

    John Carsell Forum Resident

    Location:
    Northwest Illinois
    From what I understand, the Japanese tax system is sturctured so that it is cost prohibitive for record companies to keep any sizable inventories on hand.

    Isn't it case where a thirty day supply of any given title is produced, then not pressed again until there is sufficient demand?
     
  13. reverber

    reverber Forum Resident

    Location:
    Lawrence KS, USA
    From the LP days when I lived in Okinawa and Yokosuka, I seem to remember being told that Japanese record companies tend to not let things go out of print. They will go "out of press" for a while, but there is usually a date scheduled for the next pressing.

    I still remember being impressed that the quality control extended to the point of me purchasing an album. The clerk would efore remove the album from its sleeve and inspect it, brushing away any dust with a carbon fiber brush before sending me on my way. I now kick myself for not buying more Japanese LPs and [black triangle] CDs when I lived there. A dollar was equal to about 250 Yen back then :(

    Cody
     
  14. innercircle

    innercircle Forum Resident

    Location:
    Monterrey, Mexico
    Yes sorry, I was refering to all music stock, Miles, Le Orme, Premiata Forneria, etc.....
     
  15. innercircle

    innercircle Forum Resident

    Location:
    Monterrey, Mexico
    I dunno but it's a very important thing to collectors, some sellers describe the conditions of the CD/LP, the cover and the OBI as a very important thing.,....
     
  16. pig whisperer

    pig whisperer CD Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Tokyo, Japan
    There will be different pressings, naturally, and the price may change when it is re-pressed, but that will be printed on the OBI. Things don't really go out of print there, as far as I know, you can always seem to find a copy of what you want.
     
  17. chargrove

    chargrove Single again.

    Location:
    Fort Worth, TX
    Having worked shows in the past, I can tell you that, to a collector, a Japanese release purchased in the US that is missing the OBI will bring around 50% of what it would with the OBI. I don't know what OBI's are, really, other than apparently a selling point for the Japanese market.
     
  18. Michael

    Michael I LOVE WIDE S-T-E-R-E-O!

    ...tell that to the bidders on ebay, I've never seen a bargain like that, especially with the rare stuff...OBI or not.:)
     
  19. pig whisperer

    pig whisperer CD Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Tokyo, Japan

    I'm not sure what the government involvement is, but it would be cost prohibitive for a record to pay for stocks of extra CDs to be stored in a warehouse as rental space is at a premium - they would also have to pay people to transport the CDs to and from the warehouse, staff to work at the place, overhead, etc.... Its easier, and more EFFICIENT (this is Japan, now) to press things as you need them.

    As I state at the beginning of this thread EVERYTHING is expensive in Japan and the distribution system doesn't help. I could buy some cups and plates at a mom & pop store (small family run businesses are everywhere on the local "shopping streets") for $4, for example, but if I go to on of the big department stores the SAME items will be 2,3, 4 times the price - it just depends how many processes (middle men) it went though. CDs and DVDs have a starting price one the obi so it is usually what they sell for - sometimes even for less.

    If you work in Japan and earn a wage, prices are more in line, but only a bit better. The only thing I can think of that is cheaper (as a % of wages) are cars - the government makes it difficult for people to keep their cars for over 10 years - it's better to get a new one at that time. There are not many 'junkers' on those streets.
     
  20. pig whisperer

    pig whisperer CD Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Tokyo, Japan
    The obi is the strip of paper that is found on the left side of the CD. It is basically a mini liner note. It tells a bit about the artist or the music, has the base price on the CD and, under that, the price with tax.

    Why is it so important? I dunno. To the Japanese it just gives them information about the release. To collectors........

    I know some people who keep it tucked in with the CD. I find they get in the way so I usually throw mine away (gasp!). I guess I won't be selling mine on eBay.
     
  21. StyxCollector

    StyxCollector Man of Miracles

    I prefer my Japanese CDs to have OBIs, new or used. In certain cases where I know it's way OOP and/or the only way it was pressed on CD, I'll overlook that but won't pay as much money still. The OBI does make it more collectible, especially if it's a matching OBI.
     
  22. innercircle

    innercircle Forum Resident

    Location:
    Monterrey, Mexico
    Really? Did you left some contacts there? I mean there are two Cd's that I cannot find:
    Miles Davis-Walkin
    Le Orme- Uomo Di Pezza
    Both on Paper Sleeve editions....I'd been asking even to Forum Members there, and nothing!
     
  23. pig whisperer

    pig whisperer CD Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Tokyo, Japan
    I don't really have any contacts there that could go out searching. For something like paper sleve editions of discs I could be wrong - perhaps they could go out of print.

    The only way to really find out is to have someone talk to the employees at the stores or do the leg work and go the all the CD stores and see what surprises are in the bin. Have you tried the HMV Japan site? I know it only scratches the surface, but it's the only site I know that has an English version.
     
  24. World of Genesis

    World of Genesis Active Member

    Location:
    USA
    I recall an interview a long time ago with a rock musician (can't recall which one), and the discussion was around why they add extra tracks to Japanese discs. The comment was made that U.S. discs are so much cheaper that the Japanese music industry needed to be able to offer something that the imports from the US and Europe could not - namely added tracks. This was intended to keep at least some of the Japanese music buying population spending yen on Japanese pressings (to save the industry). That doesn't explain why the cost is so high, but at least that tells you why the Japanese get Tour Editions, added tracks, etc. when they often don't appear elsewhere.

    As for the whole Obi strip issue. I agree with StyxCollector. If I see a rare, out of print title with an Obi strip, I get far more excited, as a collector, than if I find it without one. Then again, if the disc is extremely rare, not having the obi would not stop me from buying it. That being said, there have been more than one or two occasions where I settled for a copy without the obi and later found it with the obi intact, and rebought the disc - just for a little piece of paper. Funny, if you think about it. :help:

    Dave
     
  25. pig whisperer

    pig whisperer CD Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Tokyo, Japan
    It is definatly an incentive for the Japanese to buy domestic. The new Bon Jovi CD will probably have a bonus track. But, it will still cost as much as the Japanese Sgt. Pepper that doesn't have any extras.

    Perhaps I explained it poorly at the start by explaining what was happening in the country that may explain why the prices are high. Let me try this, I'll use the US as an example:

    Japanese CDs aren't more expensive because they are deemed to be superior to US releases. A terrible CD by the worst, most disposable, J-Pop star will still sell for the same price as the Japanese Sgt. Pepper (not much discount on Beatles CDs - they LOVE their Beatles).
    It's just that EVERYTHING is more expensive in Japan. Compare prices between Japan and the US for ALL goods. Now compare prices between the US and Mexico....

    In this case the US is like Mexico when comparing prices with Japan. Japanese earn more money, but their cost of living is also higher. Ever been to Mexico (lovely country) and people thought you were a 'rich American'? Some people don't realize that the US cost of living is high and that tourists had to save hard for that trip. But, Mexico is STILL cheaper than a vacation to other US cities (air fare, hotel, etc...)

    I hope I did a better job illustrating the point I was trying to make about Japanese CDs being more expensive: prices all over the world can't be the same. Now, CD prices for desireable Japanese first pressing is another story.... :ed:
     
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