Deezer is launching its hi-res ‘HiFi’ tier in Japan this month, working with local partners Onkyo, Pioneer Marketing and Yamaha.

Deezer HiFi will offer FLAC-quality streaming in Japan with a catalogue of more than 36m songs, according to its announcement. A three-month free trial will be offered to people signing up with devices bought from its hardware partners.

These customers will also be able to stream from their smartphones, but at regular quality rather than hi-res. Once the free trial ends, the service will cost ¥1,960 a month ($17.40).

The launch has been an open secret in Japan, with panelists at the Tokyo Dance Music Event (TDME) conference last week discussing Deezer’s imminent entry into the market.

During one session,  Tetsutaro Ono, director of Awa (Japan’s fifth largest streaming service), said that Deezer would be the tenth streaming service to launch in Japan, joining Spotify, Apple Music, Line Music, Google Play Music, Awa, Recochoku, KKBox, Rakuten and Amazon Prime Music there.

During the panel, Ono said that he is confident the Japanese streaming market could grow to ¥50bn (around $443m), but that the challenge is to get consumer adoption.

Awa’s unique selling point is that it allows people to listen to listen to up to 90 seconds of music tracks on-demand for free. Spotify, the only other service in Japan with a free tier, does not allow on-demand listening on its free tier.

In other ways, the profile of the Japanese streaming services is quite similar to the US. Around 30% of listeners convert to a premium subscription at the present time.

The panel also discussed how a number of popular artist’s music is still withheld from streaming services in Japan, but Ono suggested that we will see some licensing deals in 2018 that will start chipping away at this obstacle to consumer adoption.

“Next year we have something surprising: artists you wouldn’t expect. So the market is going to change as well,” he said. Deezer will be hoping to benefit from some of these trends too.

Japan was the second largest recorded-music market in the world in 2016 according to the IFPI, generating $2.75bn of revenues, but only $204.6m of them came from streaming.

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