Can a Music Streaming Service Succeed with CD-Obsessed Fans in Japan?

A new music streaming service is trying to succeed where others have failed by trying to convince Japanese music fans to make the switch to digital. Line, a Japanese Internet and telecom firm, debuted its Line Music service this week. The service offers unlimited access to the company’s collection of 1.5 million songs for just 1,000 yen, or $8 per month. The company is offering a free two-month trial for users that sign up before the paid service rolls out. The company also plans on offering a half-price plan that would limit users to 20 hours of streaming per month, and hopes to increase its catalog to 30 million songs by the end of 2016. The success of the streaming service will ultimately depend on whether the company can convince fans in the world’s second largest music market to move away from CDs, which are still clearly king in Japan.

The Japanese music market is second only to the US, with $2.6 billion in revenue compared to the US market’s $4.8 billion. But whereas some 70 percent of US music revenue comes from digital sales, almost 80 percent of music revenue in Japan comes from physical sales, mostly in the form of the compact disc. Convincing Japanese teenagers to spend their money on digital music will be difficult, although the popularity of Line’s messaging app among Japanese youth will certainly help. The launch comes just weeks ahead of another streaming launch in Japan, as Apple prepares to take its recently launched service worldwide.

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