In the world’s second-largest economy the music business is definitely not left behind. China has quickly turned around its music business practices in the last few years and started to reveal its potential to the world. In last year’s Global Music Report (IFPI, 2018), China was ranked for the first time among the top ten countries generating the greatest incomes. That year has also seen the rise of technology giant Tencent, acquiring several companies and striking exclusive distribution deals with Sony Music or Warner Music. Even though we do not hear so much about Chinese talents in the western world, things are moving fast around here. So what makes the Chinese market a land full of untapped opportunities for westerners?
An extensive market
Just because China happens to be the world’s most populous country doesn’t make it an interesting market for the music business without its online user base of 650 million people. The three most popular music streaming apps used by Chinese people today are QQ Music, Kugou Music, and Kuwo Music. These apps are all operated by Tencent and have gathered more than 800 million active users in the second quarter of 2018. This is almost 3 times the number of active users of Spotify and Apple Music combined.
Besides, Chinese people seem to be opened to western artists as Billy Koh, founder of Chinese-based music company Amusic Rights Management stated in IFPI Global Music Report 2018: “In China, if you have a really good song with a strong hook, fans don’t care about the genre.”
China is finally solving its music piracy issues
In the last few years, the Chinese government and giant tech companies have gathered their efforts in order to address the copyright issues and find new ways of making money. For instance, in 2015 the government undertook an anti-piracy campaign “Sword Net” calling Chinese music services to take down their catalogs of unlicensed songs.
However, the offer of online free streaming services supported by advertising has been a compelling solution to decrease piracy. As more than 90% of Chinese people now use their phones to access to the internet, it has turned to be far more convenient to have legitimate apps and download the tracks directly without having to use a computer.
Only a very small proportion of Chinese are paying for a subscription but hopefully, the apps are generating revenues thanks to their exclusive features.
The enhanced user experience on Chinese digital music platforms
Chinese music apps have unlocked the social aspect of music by adding brand-new features. Not only do they allow fans to comment on the songs, but they strengthen the artists’ relationship with their fans by allowing them to access to live streaming, concerts and other exclusive offers. To go further, thanks to micro-payment means, these apps even let users give the artists virtual tips and send virtual gifts to other users.
These few advanced features show how Chinese digital music services are quite ingenious driving people to spend more time on these apps and above all bringing some extra revenues for the companies.
What’s more, an essential feature of their apps is the music playback. It might be more adapted to the Chinese audience though as karaoke is part of their lifestyle.
China is looking to hit the west with its local artists
Just like South Korean “K-pop” broke through the western market with successful bands such as BTS which became largely mainstream selling out US stadiums in minutes, Chinese “C-Pop” is also making waves. Last year, Mando-pop star Lay Zhang has ranked 21 on the US billboards 200 charts with his single “Namanana” both in Chinese and English.
In 2019 Pop music obviously speaks any language, so why not Chinese?
In order to succeed Chinese record companies are looking to collaborate with British, European and American producers to make their sounds more appealing to westerners.
However, due to a lack of financial need on the Chinese side, the effort seems to be kind of reduced. Not to mention the accessibility issues to global networks due to censorship. In 2019 if artists cannot connect with their fans through social networks it’s no use to try.