Music streaming is a difficult space to dominate: people refuse to pay for it and incur little personal penalty by switching between providers. But what if there is a music streaming service with a voice, that understands what the trends are and give you exactly what you want to hear?

Powered by an editorial team, heaps of data, and curated recommendations, Tencent’s JOOX was the most downloaded music streaming app in Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia in the first 10 months of 2016. JOOX now accounts for more than 50% of all music streaming app downloads in those markets, according to a McKinsey report, beating out both global and local players.

“We have editorial teams on the ground to identify not only what’s trending now, but also what’s cool,” Poshu Yeung, General Manager of International Business at Tencent told us.

JOOX recommends playlists based on current socio-political events. Recently, they curated playlists based on hot topics and local happenings; for example, a Bob Dylan playlist was created when the singer won the Nobel Prize in Literature. They have also created playlists for popular music awards ceremonies such as 2016 Mnet Asian Music Awards and a Christmas playlist during the holiay season.

“Our people on the ground are critical to this process – it’s not just a matter of algorithms and big data,” Mr. Yeung added.

JOOX realizes the importance of making use of data to curate music, however. Data from JOOX users’ everyday music choices across languages, geographies, and genres gives them intelligence as well.

“Being part of Tencent enables us to tap into some of the best data scientists and AI programmers in the world,” Mr. Yeung told us. “However, we believe, in music particularly, tastes evolve in unpredictable ways, so we think there will be an important continuing role to be played by our teams on the ground.”

Another localization strategy that JOOX uses in the Southeast Asian market is cooperating with leading brands such as Coca-Cola, Coach, Hong Kong Express Airlines, and Prudential. They offer customized interfaces and premium subscriptions to their customers and fans, among other tailored services. JOOX is also rolling out V-Station, a streaming video element to its service, from producing original content to streaming promotional events live.

The team is building JOOX based on both advertising and subscription revenue streams. While many Asian markets are somewhat behind more developed markets in terms of premium subscription rates, Mr. Yeung says that they are already seeing signs that consumers – particularly at the high end of the market, who our advertisers often value the most – are very much prepared to pay a nominal amount for the value that a premium subscription provides.

With JOOX’s lyric cards, users can save lyrics and share them on social media. (Image credit: Tencent)

While JOOX is also the brainchild of Tencent, it operates quite separately from WeChat, although the services do work together. Mr. Yeung says that they have made it very easy for JOOX users to share songs on WeChat Moments or directly with their WeChat friends, but ultimately, they’re focused on serving the JOOX consumer, rather than pushing WeChat to the Southeast Asia market.

This strategy goes the same for JOOX’s entry to China market.

“China is very well served by our sister service, QQ Music. JOOX, on the other hand, will expand internationally, although it’s too soon to make specific announcements at this time,” Mr. Yeung remarked.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Eva Yoo is Shanghai-based tech writer. Reach her at