Spotify Japan… Still

After years of false starts, Spotify may finally be coming to Japan – still.  

The Sweden-based music streaming service is “preparing for its Japanese debut” through a tie-up with local advertising giant Dentsu, with a “trial run [that] will start this summer at the soonest,” the Nikkei Asian Review reported.

The full service will be made available to the public by the fall, with a free version and a premium option that costs 980 yen ($9.57) a month. It’s the free version that has always been the sticking point for Spotify, as the Japanese music industry is inherently “hostile to the idea of distributing songs for free.”

So far, Spotify has made deals with Avex Group Holdings, Universal Music Japan and other large Japanese record labels. Sony Interactive Entertainment formed a partnership with Spotify in March 2015 for an international streaming version, but has so far resisted offering the service to Japanese users. Nikkei says it may do so when Spotify launches in Japan. Spotify has also promised to respect the wishes of individual Japanese artists, who tend to share their overlords’ distrust of streaming, so it remains to be seen how many top pop artists in Japan will join the service.

With all the delays, Spotify will “bump heads with several competitors,” says Nikkei. Avex already has its own music distribution services, while Line, Apple and Google Play have streaming services up and running. None, however, are making much money, owing to Japanese music fans’ “unfamiliarity with subscription streaming services,” so it remains to be seen how Spotify, the biggest streaming service in the world, will change the landscape.

In related news, Apple finally launched its music streaming service, Apple Music, in South Korea on Aug. 8, with individual subscriptions going for about $8 a month and family subscriptions for $12. As with other markets, users can sample the service for free for three months.

However, at the same time, Apple has removed its download service from the latest iTunes version to be released in South Korea, which means users can no longer purchase music through it. No explanation was given, but, as in Japan, the South Korean pop music market is notoriously insulated and licensing of K-pop properties difficult. Moreover, the biggest K-pop artists do not record for labels affiliated with international music companies but rather for independent labels.