Downloads for iTunes store in Japan reaches 1 million songs

Apple Computer Inc. said on Monday its new iTunes online music store in Japan sold over 1 million songs in its first four days, a strong start for the download service in the world's second-largest music market.

California-based Apple launched iTunes in Japan on Thursday, aiming to win over the country's music lovers with the market's largest library of over 1 million songs and prices that undercut the competition.

Apple has sold more than 500 million songs in 19 countries since it introduced iTunes in the United States over two years ago. The service has also been launched in Britain, France and other major European markets.

Japan, the 20th country, was the quickest to reach 1 million downloads. By doing so, Apple said it had doubled the average monthly total of all current online stores run by other companies in Japan combined.

Until Apple's entry, Japan's undisputed leader in online downloads was Mora, backed by Sony Corp. Other services included those run by Yahoo Japan Corp., Excite Japan Co. Ltd. and Oricon Inc.

"We've known that about (400,000 to 500,000 songs) per month is what all the other online music stores in Japan have been doing. The majority of that being Mora," Eddy Cue, Apple's vice president of applications, told Reuters in a phone interview.

"So the fact that we've already done two times that in the first four days is something that we are very, very pleased with."

While iTunes by itself is not a big money maker for Apple, the service has helped drive sales of its iPod portable music players because it offers iPod owners an easy way to download songs, store them on their PC and transfer them to the player, reports Reuters.

"iTunes has become Japan’s number one online music store," said Steve Jobs, Apple’s chief executive. "iTunes has sold twice as many songs in just four days as all the other online music services in Japan sell in one month."

Apple's decision under Mr Jobs to refocus on digital music has revived its fortunes, transforming it from a niche computing company to a mainstream music brand.

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. According to Apple, it now reaches 85 per cent of the global music market.

The Japanese version of iTunes has been tailored to feature local favourites including exclusive material from artists such a Def Tech, Crazy Ken Band, Chara, Little Creatures and Chie Ayado.

Apple has also chosen to compete on price, offering most of its tunes at around half the price of its competitors. However, Apple is yet to sign a deal with Sony, the Japanese music giant, which accounts for some of the country's most popular acts, informs Times Online.

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