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June 27, 2012

The iTunes Store Makes Its Way East

Michael Harper for

Americans are well-acquainted with Apple´s iTunes Music Store. Ever since it´s 2003 launch, it´s become not only a large part of our lexicon, but it´s changed the way many of us view the music industry.

In younger days, I´d waste hours hanging out at my local music store, perusing CDs I couldn´t afford and talking to people much cooler than myself.

Now, I honestly can´t remember the last time I bought a piece of physical media, vinyl LPs not withstanding. In fact, and this is true, I just purchased an album on iTunes before I started this piece after hearing a song on Spotify. I didn´t have to remind myself to look for it the next time I was at the big box chain. Indeed, It´s hard to imagine a first-world life without the iTunes Music Store.

Now, 12 Asian countries will soon know the joy of instant music downloads as Apple is launching the online marketplace to countries such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines.

Apple has been spending a lot of time in the Asian countries as their Mac and iOS business has been booming in the East. As millions have been scooping up these devices, they´ve been able to download specific apps from App Stores built specifically for their individual country.

In order to buy songs or movies, these users would have to have a credit card or gift card registered in a country with an official iTunes store. For example, a music fan in Hong Kong could download songs from the iTunes store if they had an American iTunes gift card. Copyright and licensing restrictions being what they are, Apple had to implement these kinds of measures in these countries.

The iTunes Store will also be storming its way into Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Vietnam.

In addition to launching the store in 12 new locations, Apple is also hailing its selection of international and local music: Artists such as Jay Chou, Girls Generation and Andy Lau for the local set and The Beatles, Adele and Yo Yo Ma for the international music lovers.

According to the Wall Street Journal, albums will be similarly priced in Singapore as they are in the States.

The average album in Singapore will cost between 9.98 and 12.98 in local currency, or $7.80 to $10.15 American. Many songs will sell for 1.28 local, or $1 American.

Notably excluded from this new expansion are China and India. Apple´s international growth has perhaps been best seen in China.

China also has nearly twice as many internet users than America. These connected Chinese aren´t as keen on buying digital music as Americans, however, as the digital music revenue in China is only 1% of what it is in the States.

Music piracy is, after all, a big deal in China. According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, (IFPI) the piracy rate in China is an overwhelming 99%. A number like that is likely to make Tim Cook and music execs drool, should iTunes ever launch there.

As for why Apple didn´t shine their iTunes glow upon China and India, a spokesperson gave the typical Apple response, telling the Associated Press, "We're always working to bring the iTunes Store to more customers around the world, as conditions permit."

Other Music executives are also looking forward to a turn around in legal music sales, thanks to iTunes. Jasper Donat is the president of Hong Kong´s Music Matters, a group of music executives from the Asia-Pacific region. He told the Associated Press, "We know that people will pay for content if they are able to access good services.”

"Having promoted the Asian music industry around the world for nearly eight years, we are genuinely excited about today's iTunes announcement and look forward to welcoming more digital entertainment platforms and services to the region soon."