Now is the time to launch music services, it seems. Popular messaging app Line began testing music streaming when it began to test a $2 per month service in Thailand in May, and today it has introduced a fuller service in its native Japan.
Like Apple’s new service, Line Music does not have a free tier, instead it is dual priced. For 500 JPY (around $4) per month, users can enjoy 20 hours of music streaming from the service and its 1.5 million song catalogue. Those wanting unlimited access can pay 1,000 JPY (approximately $8) per month.
Students pay slightly less for each tier, 300 JPY ($2.50) and 600 JPY ($5) respectively, and Line is offering two months of free usage to early users.
Like the service in Thailand, Line Music customers can share tracks with friends inside chats or via their social network-like Timeline feature. The service also allows users to follow artists who are on Line — the service is popular among musicians — while artists can also provide track lists and playlists.
A Line representative told TechCrunch that the service will “expand step by step,” but for now the company has nothing to share on global launches. It did say, however, that it plans to introduce a web-based version to allow customers to listen from a PC.
Line, which has 205 million monthly active users — half of whom are located in Japan, Thailand and Taiwan — has been planning a music service for some time after partnering with two domestic labels in December 2014. Nonetheless, the launch of this new service is interesting for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, digital music has not yet been a success in Japan. Physical sales still dominate in the country — thanks to conservative record labels — so Spotify and others are not present in Japan. That means Line is having to pioneer this industry by itself — no easy task — however more than half of the population uses the service each month, which gives it the kind of distribution needed to at least have a shot at success.
In addition, this music service is part of Line’s push to diversify its revenue beyond games and stickers, and also to provide new services. It also offers a payments service, an Uber rival in Japan, and it is piloting a YouTube-like TV service and shopping feature, which it hopes will develop into a grocery-delivery service, in Southeast Asia.
Line Music isn’t its only venture into streaming, however. Last month, MixRadio, the music service Line acquired from Microsoft, finally became available for iOS and Android. Line confirmed, however, that the service will be run separately to Line Music.