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Line Music streaming service goes live in Japan

By | Published on Thursday 11 June 2015

Line Music

Messaging app Line’s streaming service has gone live in Japan, a week after the announcement that Universal Music Japan had taken a stake in the spin-off company.

Line Music, announced as a joint venture between Line and Japanese major labels Sony Music and Avex last year, will offer low cost streaming to consumers in Japan – where none of the major streaming services have yet been licensed. It will charge 500 yen (around £2.50) for 20 hours of streaming per month, or 1000 yen for unlimited access to it 1.5 million song catalogue.

Students receive discounted rates, and until August users will be given two months of free access. Although currently only available on mobile phones, a browser-based version of the software is expected next month.

On the whole, record labels have been very reticent to licence digital services in Japan, and have been particularly suspicious of streaming. However, with the previously buoyant CD market now seeing significant decline in the country, there has been some movement to find a solution. On streaming though, the labels reached an impasse, split between those that want to own and control digital services themselves and those that believed the time was right to allow Western services like Spotify into the market.

Universal Music and Warner Music have very much been of the latter position, which made the former’s decision to take a financial stake in Line Music last month surprising. One source suggested to CMU that this was a case of ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’, and that the mega-major simply wanted to get some financial return out of the streaming service before it ultimately failed.

However, in the past others have expressed concern that Line Music may ultimately serve to harm Spotify et al when they do arrive in Japan, teaching consumers so far little exposed to the idea of streaming music that it should be far cheaper than the prices the Western companies will want to charge. There is, of course, an argument that cheaper prices are required across the board anyway for streaming music to go mass market anywhere, but in Japan it places more pressure on Line Music to be a success.

In a statement, Line Music president Jun Matsuda said: “In the future, we will expand the amount of music and participating labels available in Line Music. We aim to enliven the music industry and increase interest in music, and to become the number one music distribution service”.

Japan is the second territory to be given access to Line Music of course, it having first been launched in Thailand last month. Line also has a digital music presence globally, after buying MixRadio from Nokia last year, bringing it to the Android and iOS operating systems last month.

Elsewhere in Japanese digital music news, there has been speculation this week about whether or not Apple’s new streaming service will make it to the country. Apple struggled to launch iTunes in Japan, having to make various concessions to the labels in order to do so and still lacking a considerable amount of local content. However, many noted the appearance of an Apple Music Japan Twitter account following the company’s big music announcement on Monday.

Access to Apple’s full streaming service in the country seems unlikely, at least for the time being, but updates from the Twitter account do suggest that Japan will be one of the 100 countries to gain access to the Beats 1 radio station at launch.