It’s not unusual for a Chinese Internet company as big as Netease to launch a music product — big names including Tencent, Baidu, Sina and Alibaba have had digital music businesses. What makes it slightly different with Netease is William Ding, founder and CEO, once said that he’d found a music label shortly after his company got listed on the NASDAQ in 2000. He tagged himself as a music fan that fancy most genres but rock music.

Spotify isn’t good enough.

it’s not that Mr. Ding is unaware of so many music services out there on domestic and international markets. “There are products by Baidu, Tencent and others, but those are not what I want. Why don’t you create music software with social features enabling music sharing with more people? People said that Spotify was capable of it. But I don’t think it’s very easy to use after having played with it for a while”, he said.

Netease Cloud Music, officially launched yesterday, focuses on playlist sharing. To interact with others, users can import contacts from mobile address book, social networks, or add new friends with its location-aware features. A few musicians and influencers are invited to the platform to share their playlists — It is said more will be on board. It also includes features like Shazam-style music identification.

A beta version was released on App Store in late January. An Android version was added later. More versions for tablets and the Web will be rolled out.

The service hasn’t featured any ads or offer any paid services. The company said the first thing is to obtain users. That’s true. It is reported that it only gained 45 thousand registered users in the first month after launch — Chinese users have too many choices and so far don’t see how extraordinary Netease’s is from others.

Mr. Ding cannot be satisfied with building a Spotify clone. He expects to have playlists of DJs’ or even audio books onto it. He also wants it to be a platform to help independent musicians to publish music instead of depending on music labels — more than a few people had dreamed of and tried to build.

To become the biggest mobile music community and open platform.

William Ding hasn’t built a music company. Now his company, with a news portal, gaming business and a plenty of Internet services, booked US$ 1.3 billion in revenue in 2012. The majority of the total revenues, 89%, was generated by online games either developed in-house or licensed from Blizzard. Ding showed at the launch event of the music service — he hasn’t showed up at such an event for a long time.

He didn’t enter the market when most existing digital music services tried hard to figure out business models, and paid royalties and at the same time got sued for copyright infringement from time to time. Mr. Ding said he didn’t come to the idea of building a product for exploring and sharing music until two to three years ago — after Steve Jobs redefined smartphone and 3G became available.

Finally the idea of building such a service was raised in early last year and the company started developing from last July. To build the service, Ding convinced former employee, Whang Lei who was at iQiyi’s music service then, to come back to take charge of it.

Tracey Xiang

Tracey Xiang is Beijing, China-based tech writer. Reach her at

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