TOKYO - In just four days, 1 million songs have been downloaded at Apple's new iTunes Music Store in Japan, the fastest pace for the service's launch in any of the 20 nations it's now available, including the U.S., a senior executive said Monday.
"We're extremely happy with the results," Eddy Cue, Apple Computer Inc. vice president of applications, said in a telephone interview from Cupertino, Calif., where Apple is based. "We think we've got a huge success."
Apple, whose iPod portable music player is a big hit in Japan, started its music download service here last Thursday, and has already become the No. 1 online music store in the country. The American version of the service took a week to sell 1 million song downloads, Cue said.
But he acknowledged more work was needed to sign additional record companies for the Japanese service, which now has 15 Japanese labels.
Apple has not signed a deal with Sony Corp.'s music division, which has some of the most popular Japanese singers and bands under its label. Cue refused to comment on how talks with Sony Music Entertainment are going but said he hoped Sony will join soon.
Sony and Apple have become major rivals in pushing competeing music technologies. Sony, which has focused on CD and mini-disk products, initially tried to push a more proprietary digital music format, and has fallen behind Apple and its iPod, which stores music on a hard drive in the more widespread MP3 format.
The popularity of iTunes in Japan has dealt another blow to Sony because it has already surpassed the number of downloads Sony's affliated online music store gets in a month - about 450,000.
By offering its service for lower prices, Apple is undercutting many online music services now available in Japan. Most iTunes songs, which include international and Japanese artists, cost 150 yen, or $1.35, each, and only 10 percent of the songs cost 200 yen ($1.80).
Japanese are accustomed to paying twice that much although the rates are slightly more than the 99 cents charged at iTunes in the U.S.
Although the dual-price system in Japan has set off some speculation that Apple may start charging different prices elsewhere, Cue denied there were any plans to change the rate policy in the U.S.
Both the top song and top album bought at Japan's iTunes are works by Japanese artists, and most of the music being bought is Japanese, Cue said.
The iTunes service accounts for 82 percent of all legally downloaded music in the United States. Apple has sold 21.8 million iPods worldwide since it went on sale in October 2001, and more than 500 million songs through its iTunes Music Store.
"We've had the No. 1 digital music player in Japan. And now we can say we have the No. 1 online music store in Japan," said Cue.
The iTunes music store is now available in 20 nations, including Japan, reaching 85 percent of the global music market, according to Apple.