Music Streaming Service Aims at Japan, Where CD Is Still King

As listeners around the world turn to streaming music, there has been one important holdout: Japan. More than 80 percent of the sales in the country are still on physical formats like CDs, and the industry in Japan has been resistant to allowing streaming services to take root.

According to an announcement, Line Music will have songs from Japanese record companies like Avex and King, as well as the major international labels like Universal, Sony and Warner. The service notes the involvement of Western acts like Taylor Swift and Sam Smith and omits perhaps the biggest Japanese pop act, the girl group AKB 48. But the company says it expects its catalog to grow to 30 million songs by next year, making it roughly as big as Western services like Spotify or Deezer.

Japan is the second-largest music market after the United States, with slightly less than $3 billion in sales last year, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, a trade group. Last year, the Japanese market fell 5.5 percent, with CD sales sliding and the country’s tiny digital market failing to take up the slack.

“Any new service launch in Japan is good news,” said Alice Enders, a media analyst with Enders Analysis in London who has studied the Japanese market.

The new Line service will charge 500 yen (about $4) a month for a basic plan that allows 20 hours of streaming each month, or twice that much for unlimited listening; discounts for students will make the service available for less than $2.50. Last month, Line unveiled a version in Thailand for as little as $2 a month.

One big advantage for Line Music is that it will be integrated with the Line messaging app, which lets users communicate by sending each other cartoon icons that are bigger and more expressive than conventional emoticons. Line Music users will be able to send one another music and playlists through the messenger app.

Line’s biggest market is Japan, but the company has said that as many as 560 million users have registered around the world. (Ms. Swift is one Western pop star who has taken note of the phenomenon, posting updates on the service and even offering a set of icons based on her face.)

Jun Masuda, the chief executive of Line Music, said in a statement that the company hoped it “can raise our users’ interest in music and revitalize the music industry in an effort to become the top music streaming service available.”

Spotify is not available in Japan, and Apple has not said yet whether Apple Music, its new streaming service, will be available there when it opens around the world at the end of June.

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