Yuquan, a two-man band comprising Chen Yufan and Hu Haiquan, are one of the most popular pop music performers in China. They are famous not only for the hits they’ve written, but also their sharp business sense.
They have launched a new album and a mobile app today. While last year ‘s album release was on USB disk, this time there’s no physical container for the music. Instead, the album is pre-loaded on VOW, a Chinese music streaming headphone, and is also available for free streaming on Tencent’s QQ Music platform. The customized VOW headphones are a third more expensive than the standard set; these, and other products from stickers to concert tickets, are sold on the mobile app’s shopping channel.
Yuquan’s annual concert will live-streamed on LeTV’s video site in December, LeTV having held the first paid online concert for another Chinese musician earlier this year. Yuquan said theirs would have more online interactive activities before and during the show. Tickets will be sold at a discount through an e-ticketing app backed by Hu Haiquan, who is also a well-known tech investor.
The tech startups in which Hu has invested range from smart watch manufacturer to game developer. He believes that online games can be a good channel to promote digital music, having allowed a running game developed by WeChat use his image and one of the band’s song for free, hoping to persuade more games to use their songs.
The sixteen year-old band are no digital novices. When music piracy spiralled out of control in China around 2004, Yuquan established EQ, a music production company, to make original mobile ringtones, which was the only profitable digital music business in China back then. The company produced many popular ringtones at a relatively low cost, but the revenue share ratio from Chinese telecom operators, through which the ringtones are sold, was no more than 5%.
Another problem with the operator-dominated ringtone business was that operators said they didn’t know how to reach copyright holders even though they really wouldn’t mind paying them fees. Five years ago Hu submitted a proposal to China Mobile, the largest telecom operator and ringtone seller in China, suggesting it build a platform for all the participants of song production. You may not be surprised to learn that he hasn’t received a response from China Mobile, but Hu plans to build such a platform with his own team.
Editing by Mike Cormack (@bucketoftongues)