China’s digital music market rapidly expanding

Major online music platforms have stepped up efforts to launch paid membership services and offer online live performances.


A passenger uses a smartphone on a subway in Shanghai in October. [Photo/CHINA DAILY]

January 3, 2022

China’s digital music market has witnessed steady growth along with the popularization of the mobile internet and relentless official efforts to combat piracy, and Generation Z consumers-born between the mid-1990s and the early 2010s-are increasingly willing to pay for copyrighted online music, experts said.

Revenue of China’s digital music market is expected to hit 42.89 billion yuan ($6.7 billion) in 2021, compared with 35.73 billion yuan in 2020, said iiMedia Research. The number of digital music app users is expected to rise from 618 million in 2020 to 645 million in 2021, data for which is yet to be finalized.

Major online music platforms have stepped up efforts to launch paid membership services and offer online live performances amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tencent Music Entertainment Group, a major online music and audio entertainment platform, has increased investment in the production of high-quality music and allocated more resources to support and cultivate indie musicians and original music through its Tencent Musician Platform, said Cussion Pang, executive chairman of TME.

The company said its online music services delivered healthy growth driven by strong momentum in subscriptions in the third quarter, as paying users for its online music services reached 71.2 million over the period, up 37.7 percent year-on-year.

Revenue from music subscriptions stood at 1.90 billion yuan from July to September, representing a 30.2 percent year-on-year growth.

“To better serve our users, we are strengthening our platform’s capability to offer music lovers a place with more video-based content, to share their passion for music within our community and have a more socially engaging experience,” said Ross Liang, CEO of TME.

“We continue to embrace and collaborate with the broader Tencent ecosystem through multiple cross-platform partnerships with WeChat, Tencent Games and Tencent Video,” Liang said.

TME now operates popular and innovative music apps, including QQ Music, Kugou Music, Kuwo Music and WeSing.

China’s online music market is booming along with the popularization of smartphones and the government’s persistent efforts to boost the growth of copyrighted music and combat piracy, said Wang Liying, a senior analyst from market consultancy iResearch.

“More and more Chinese netizens have the awareness and ability to pay for music content,” Wang said, adding that major music platforms are beefing up efforts to offer more copyrighted music and integrate more social entertainment functions to enhance user stickiness and experience.

These platforms should continue to provide high-quality music content and make full use of various technologies, such as 3D, virtual reality and augmented reality to enhance the quality of online livestreaming performances, Wang added.

Cloud Village Inc, the music streaming arm of Chinese internet company NetEase Inc, said it generated most of its revenue from subscriptions, advertising and when users buy virtual items on its platforms. The company debuted and raised $421 million via its IPO on the Hong Kong stock exchange on Dec 2.

According to the prospectus filed by Cloud Village, its monthly active users of online music services grew to 184.5 million in the first half, while monthly paying users of online music services reached 27.52 million, up over 93 percent year-on-year.

The company has also rolled out numerous paid live shows for independent bands, giving them more options to stream online during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, with the arrival of the 5G era, music consumption scenarios for users will be more diversified as memberships, paid albums, songs and livestreaming are becoming the main forms of payment, it said.

Experts said the young generation can afford the expense of digital music content, as expenditure on digital songs or albums is much less than purchasing physical records in the past. They also showed fewer objections to paying for subscription services.

Zhang Yi, CEO and principal analyst of iiMedia Research, said online music performances have ushered in new development opportunities amid the pandemic. As the application scenarios of the online music industry and 5G mobile phone users continue to expand, users of digital music apps are expected to further grow.

Zhang called for more efforts to further understand users’ paying habits and accelerate the application of 5G, artificial intelligence, internet of things and other cutting-edge technologies, in an attempt to bolster the development of the online music industry.

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