A recent reveal by Line Corporation that it would be launching Line Music as a feature on its messaging app made it clear that messaging apps could extend their competition beyond messaging and social networks to digital music as well. WeChat has already introduced related services. As these apps grow into multimedia portals with desktop access and extend their base internationally, they represent potentially viable competitors to everyone from Spotify to iTunes with a particular strength in mobile.
I previously took a look at the music marketing implications of messaging apps like Line, WeChat and WhatsApp. Since they represent cheaper communication options and take on aspects of private social networks, their rise seemed ultimately to suggest that advertising, branded content such as digital stickers and content sharing might be the primary entry points for music.
But Line's tease of a music service at a recent press conference and WeChat's addition of song recognition and downloads reveals that app makers are interested in offering music as part of the mix. In fact, pretty much anything that's happening with digital music that could be treated as a feature of a messaging app is fair game. Given that we're talking about hundreds of millions of users, many of them in Asia but growing worldwide, messaging apps could open up a whole new front in the digital music wars.
Line Music Expected in Fall
"He also revealed that Line Music will be rolled out soon, not a separate app but rather included in Line’s basic functions. Masuda said that you’ll be able to listen and share with friends too, although it will be curious to see how many music labels are on board with this when it launches. The service will not be just for Japan, but outside the country as well."
Details beyond that are slim though the service is said to be "in the final stages of development and will be ready for launch in Fall 2013." It will be available beyond Asia.
Back in January WeChat was expected to add streaming music with song recognition and lyrics. However, due to licensing issues, the feature was likely to appear only in China. I haven't found a complete update yet but apparently a song recognition feature that allows you to then buy a download of the song is now available in China. Perhaps a snippet is streamed prior to purchase.
Given that Shazam sells 500k songs a day, this is a potentially lucrative feature.
Messaging Apps as a Threat to Spotify and iTunes?
These are the early stages of messaging apps developing streaming music, music sharing, song recognition and download services as features. Given Line's base in Japan, WeChat's dominance in China and both companies' presence in other countries, they represent a serious threat to services that hope to dominate globally.
Messaging apps are also becoming media portals and while that means they're a potential threat to numerous businesses, they represent an opportunity for rights holders in music for everything from streaming to sales to digital "merch" such as stickers.
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Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch/@crowdfundingm) also blogs at Flux Research and Crowdfunding For Musicians. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.