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HMV Japan Opens Web's Biggest Music Store

HMV Japan, an affiliate of the UK-based HMV Media Group, has launched what it calls "The Biggest Music Store on the Web."

The "renewed" HMV Japan Web site, which went online September 30, features a searchable database of more than 670,000 domestic and foreign music CDs and DVDs.

The company plans to add approximately 5,000 new titles to this online database each month.

"This will be the world's largest music online shop, dealing with a greater number of titles than CDNOW, which is world famous for music CD sales on the Internet," said HMV Japan president Paul Dezelsky.

The HMV Japan online store is in Japanese, with a single English-language page that summarizes current top-selling and upcoming "Japanese pops" and "event information."

"Regular order" titles, which are mainly those albums released by major domestic and foreign labels, account for between 50 and 60 percent of the online titles.

These correspond to the CDs sold at HMV's flagship megastore in Tokyo's Shibuya district, and can be delivered domestically within two to four days.

"Special order" titles include foreign label CDs that HMV Japan does not normally import as well as those issued by minor (independent) Japanese labels; delivery of these can take up to two weeks.

Payment can be made either by credit card or cash-on-delivery (with a COD surcharge of 300 yen (US$2.80) for orders of up to 10,000 yen (US$93.46)).

To promote the site's launch, HMV Japan is waiving domestic delivery charges through the end of October; thereafter, delivery within Japan will start at 380 yen (US$3.55) for up to 8 CDs.

Shipment to one of HMV Japan's 24 stores or to a neighborhood convenience store for customer pickup is being considered as a future option.

While HMV Japan's online prices are said to be the same as or, in some cases, slightly less than the prices charged at its stores, Japanese shoppers nevertheless will pay a premium for the convenience of shopping for foreign CDs online in Japanese.

US CDs purchased through the HMV Japan website typically carry a price double that for the same CDs purchased through the HMV Canada Web site.

For example, Sting's "Brand New Day" and the Beatles' "Yellow Submarine" songtrack CDs each list for 2,427 yen (US$22.68) on the hmv.co.jp Web site, while these titles are just US$10.85 and US$10.19, respectively, from Canadian-based hmv.com.

On the other hand, the HMV Japan price is over a dollar less than the price listed for each of these albums (2,548 yen; US$23.81) on the CDNow Japan Web site.

The HMV Japan online store provides Real Audio preview samples from about 20 percent of its (mainly foreign) CDs, courtesy of US-based Muze.

"HMV Japan would like to form an alliance with major record companies in Japan," said president Dezelsky, so that in the future the website can include online samples of popular Japanese artists as well.

The site also offers free MP3-format downloads of numerous "indie" recordings, in cooperation with leading US download service Audiogalaxy, as well as a chat room in which up to 30 registered users (selected by lottery) can chat online with visiting artists, and live broadcasts of events held at the HMV Japan's Shibuya store.