Line, the Japanese messaging app with 205 million active users, is continuing its push into entertainment services after it began testing a standalone $2 per month music streaming app.
Line Music is being trialled in Thailand, where Line has carried out a series of other pilots related to its shift into value-added services. The app is available for iOS and Android and is integrated into the chat app to allow users to share songs with Line friends, or post to their timeline inside the app.
Line declined to say how many tracks the new service has. The company has signed licensing deals with a number of music labels in Thailand, including RS Music, so the Line Music catalog is likely to be in the hundreds of thousands at this point. But, rather than challenging Spotify and co, this is an initiative to see whether Line’s most devoted users will pay up for entertainment — Thailand, with over 30 million registered Line users, is the company’s second-largest market behind its native Japan.
Initially, Line is offering Music users one month of free access to the service, after which the $2 per month fee will kick in. The company is hoping that the promise of exclusive content from Thai artists — and tracks from overseas acts — will convince users to stump up for the service. That’s no sure thing, since music streaming remains nascent in Southeast Asia, with Deezer the only international service present in Thailand.
Line declined to say whether it will expand the service into other markets, but it does appear to have global aspirations for a music streaming service. In December of last year, Line partnered with two Japanese labels to create a music-streaming business, but so far Thailand is the first market where it has introduced such a service.
Thailand has also served as the test bed for a number of other initiatives, including a YouTube-like TV service — which has since expanded into Taiwan, Line’s third-largest market based on users — and a shopping feature, which the company hopes will develop into a grocery-delivery service.
Diversifying Revenue And Services
Line makes more than half of its revenue from in-app purchases from titles on its connected games platform, but the company is diversifying its business to avoid relying on the often-fickle nature of gaming.
The Japanese company isn’t alone in making that move. China’s top messaging app, WeChat, operates e-commerce and other commercial business in addition to games. The same applies to Kakao Talk, Korea’s top messaging app, which includes payment service and taxi-hailing services.
Line also offers payments worldwide and a service rivaling Uber in Japan, but the company is testing initiatives that could unlock new revenue from overseas markets — like Thailand and Taiwan — where it is almost certainly making less money per user than in its native Japan. These services may also increase engagement from users by providing more than just chat.
The timing of Line Music’s launch is interesting since the service surfaced one day after MixRadio, the music service Line acquired from Microsoft, finally launched for iOS and Android devices. Line confirmed to us that the two services are being run independently of each other.
Line was last year tipped to pursue a joint U.S.-Japan listing, although that plan appeared to be scrapped. The company confirmed in April that it had renewed its IPO license, though it didn’t commit to anything beyond that. This week, however, Bloomberg reported that a dual listing is again on the cards for September time.
“There are ongoing discussions among our management, and an IPO is one option among many, but we have yet to reach a final decision,” a spokesperson for Line told us. Either way, generating increased revenue from outside of Japan could massively boost the company’s valuation and appeal to investors.