Throughout 2014, we’ve been writing about the growth of Japanese social app Line, often through its use by artists like Paul McCartney, Katy Perry and Taylor Swift, whose profiles have millions of followers.
However, yesterday Line confirmed its full move into digital music with the announcement of Line Music. Headquartered in Tokyo, it’ll be a streaming music service that’s a joint venture with music firms Sony Music and Avex Digital, who’ll have 40% and 20% stakes respectively.
“Line Music Corporation, backed by the three companies of this partnership, is currently in the process of holding concrete discussions on how to best capitalise on the appealing content and experience developing music services possessed by both ADG and SME, as well as the global user base and experience developing and operating smartphone services boasted by Line, in order to provide opportunities for users to be exposed to new music, and to further develop and accelerate the expansion of the music industry as a whole by creating all new ways of enjoying music in the smartphone era,” explained the announcement.
More details will follow, although the partners announced that Line Music’s capital reserves are 480m Yen (around $4m), which isn’t much if it’s planning a “global” rollout, or even if it’s just going to launch in Japan. Licensing talks with Universal should be fun, too, if 60% of Line Music is already owned by Sony and Avex.
Even just the Japanese launch would be significant, though: Japan has proved a tough market for foreign streaming services to launch in, although Sony’s Music Unlimited is available there.
Japan is the last major music market to remain relatively streaming-free, although Spotify and its rivals are circling, with Apple – which has a thriving iPhone business in Japan – also likely to make the country a priority in 2015 as it relaunches Beats Music.
More generally, though, a social app like Line getting properly into music should be welcomed, albeit cautiously. The company claims 170m active users for its app, which has already expanded beyond messaging to games and (soon) mobile payments. Yet previous examples – mobile social games network DeNa’s Groovy app, for example – have shown that even a huge network users isn’t a guaranteed platform for streaming success. Even so, with Spotify partnering with Tango and thought to be in talks with Snapchat, 2015 may see some fruitful experiments in bringing music and messaging together.