Chat app Line, dominant in Japan and a few other countries around the world, has launched a music streaming service in its home country. Line Music is now available in Japan, offering a catalog of 1.5 million tracks from labels including Sony, Universal, and local giant Avex. The service is free for the first two months, but will cost ¥1,000 a month (about $8) for unlimited access, or ¥500 ($4) for 20 hours of streaming. Line plans to expand the catalog to 30 million tracks by next year.
Unlike the Line app itself, Line Music has a sleek, minimalist design, with no sign of the chaotic bears and bunnies that characterise the company's chat interface. It does, however, make it easy to share songs into Line conversations, letting you express your thoughts on Namie Amuro or Nickelback through the nascent medium of stickers.
Japan hasn't taken to streaming music at all so far
Japan hasn't taken to streaming music at all so far. Spotify, Rdio, Pandora, and other Western companies haven't entered the market — which is notoriously tricky from a rights standpoint — while the recent closure of Sony Music Unlimited removed one of the only options available. Recording Industry of Japan figures quoted by Reuters state that Japanese mobile streaming subscription revenue totaled just ¥5 million ($40,660) in 2014. Awa, another new music service owned by Avex, launched late last month.
Apple Music will be a major global competitor, but it's not clear when it will launch in Japan. Apple said this week that the service would launch in over 100 countries, and the company's Japanese website says it's "coming soon." But the launch of Line Music extends CEO Takeshi Idezawa's (above) strategy of touching every corner of your phone.
Although most of its revenue comes from in-app purchases in games and sales of sticker packs, Line has recently launched an Uber competitor called Line Taxi, a payment service called Line Pay, a food delivery app called Line Wow, and countless other services designed to make people use Line for as much of their smartphone's functionality as possible. If the company can change a country's music listening habits along the way, that'll just be a bonus.