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Rhapsody and Sony Music Entertainment today announced a partnership to launch what they describe as the first on-demand, high-resolution streaming music service in Japan. Rhapsody International is providing its “Powered by Napster” platform including a set of systems, tools and APIs to allow SMEJ to quickly launch and bring its on-demand service to market. The service, called Moras Qualitas, is expected to launch early in 2019 and cost 1980 yen (around $17.50) per month, and offers users lossless FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) files at a standard of 24-bit/44.1-96khz (Hi-Resolution)/ 16-bit/44.1khz (CD quality).

Rhapsody was an early streaming service that enjoyed popularly in the early 2000s but has since been lapped by other companies, particularly Spotify. It acquired Napster — the illegal file-sharing service that introduced streaming to the world and almost singlehandedly up-ended the music industry at the turn of the millennium — in 2011 and relaunched its streaming service under that name in 2016, although its impact has been minimal.

Unlike most of the world’s larger economies, the Japanese music market has largely resisted streaming on a wide scale. While Japan has been the world’s second-largest music market (after the U.S.) for several years, streaming has yet to be widely embraced in the country; its industry remains based around physical product. According to the IFPI, in 2017 the country’s music revenue was 72% physical, compared with 30% for the rest of the world (Germany, another physical holdout and the third-largest global market, was second with 43%).

Spotify launched in Japan in 2016 but has seen little success in the territory. Rhapsody’s offer of high-resolution sound is presumably an effort to differentiate itself and increase appeal in the market.

“Our partnership with Sony Music Entertainment Japan offers the ultimate experience for audio enthusiasts in Japan as they no longer have to choose between a streaming service and high quality audio.  With mora qualitas, fans can now have both for the very first time,” said Brian Ringer, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Asia Pacific Region of Rhapsody. “We are committed to accelerating the growth of streaming on a global scale by helping new services like mora qualitas launch quickly as well as enhancing existing services.”

“There is a lot of momentum happening in streaming and it’s going to keep getting better for consumers and artists with the introduction of mora qualitas, our new global on-demand audio service,” said Shigeki Tanaka, Senior Vice President of Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) Inc. “Napster’s deep expertise in high resolution audio streaming and industry experience made them the clear choice to partner with us in launching Japan’s new premier service.”