Line launches paid music streaming service in Japan

The messaging app is available from US$2.43 per month for students

Screenshots from Line Music, a music streaming service launched in Japan on June 11, 2015, that will feature domestic and foreign artists.

Screenshots from Line Music, a music streaming service launched in Japan on June 11, 2015, that will feature domestic and foreign artists.

Japanese messaging app Line is bolstering its dominance in Japan with a paid on-demand music streaming service featuring an initial catalog of over 1.5 million songs.

Line Music is an app and a Tokyo subsidiary that began streaming music in Japan by domestic and foreign artists on Thursday.

The catalog covers music from about 30 labels and publishers, including Sony Music Entertainment Japan, in genres including classical, dance music and J-pop, or Japanese pop. Line plans to expand the catalog to 5 million songs this year, and aims for over 30 million in 2016.

Those on iOS and Android platforms will get to try the service for free for two months, after which they'll be charged ¥1,000 (US$8.11) per month for unlimited access, or ¥500 for 20 hours. There's also a plan for students from ¥300. A browser version of the service will begin in July so users can access it via PC.

Songs can be sent to and played on the Line messaging app and shared with friends. Users without a Line Music subscription can listen to 30 seconds of a song and share it with others.

The launch follows Line's debut last month of Line Music Thailand, which offers unlimited access for 60 Thai baht ($1.78) per month. The Japanese service also comes days after the announcement of Apple Music, which Apple is offering at $9.99 per month, with a six-member family subscription running $14.99 per month.

Known for its cartoonish emoticon characters, also called stickers, Line was launched in the months after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated northern Japan and enjoyed skyrocketing growth.

It now claims over 200 million monthly active users, about 17 billion messages exchanged every day and the top share for messaging apps in Japan, Thailand and Taiwan. There are 13 countries where it has more than 10 million users.

The subsidiary of South Korean Internet portal Naver has diversified into offering a ride-hailing service in Japan, going up against Uber and Hailo. While Line's new streaming service shows that it wants to bolster its base as it eyes further expansion overseas, it faces massive competition in North America from the likes of WhatsApp.

"Stickers and emoji are very popular in the U.S. and we are leveraging that position," Line CEO Takeshi Idezawa said last month, just a few weeks after taking charge of the company. "Our biggest strategy is to look at the trends of individual markets and localize to meet those trends," he said.

Tim Hornyak covers Japan and emerging technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Tim on Twitter at @robotopia.

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