China’s music streamers face a struggle to keep their users satisfied if they provide them with only songs, said the general manager of QQ Music.
Young and tech-savvy internet users make up the bulk of paid subscribers on music-streaming platforms in China. “The traditional way of consuming music is not enough to satisfy younger users. They are looking for more opportunities to engage with their idols, as well as the opportunity to become a create music themselves,” said GM Oscar Hu at TechCrunch Shenzhen 2019 on Monday.
Founded in 2008, QQ Music has built up a userbase of around 300 million, said Hu. The country’s online music market has undergone a rapid transformation in recent years, fueled by intensifying mobile internet penetration.
Up to just a few years ago, the streaming market was plagued by illegal file-sharing and unlicensed music downloads. The shift from pirates to paid-users has created a more favorable environment for companies to thrive, he said.
QQ Music, a music streaming service owned by New York-listed Tencent Music Entertainment Group, is one of a handful of major players to find success.
The industry has benefited tremendously from the improving environment for intellectual property (IP) protection—a stark contrast from a few years ago when several large record labels suffered due to piracy.
Users in different countries are similar in their move toward licensed music, as well as their listening and paying habits. But China is a leader in the development of pan-entertainment—a concept started by Tencent Entertainment referring to multi-level creative products developed from IP. In contrast, other overseas markets like Europe, the US, and Southeast Asia are more unitary, Hu noted.
Technology is playing a more significant role in the streaming business, from making music using digital tools to distributing records through digital channels.
Hu said that young people and music enthusiasts are making and putting their music out into the public domain, and it has created a drastic change in the industry over the past two years. “A lot of talented musicians now create music on their computer,” Hu said. “As copyright laws become more developed, supply and demand in music become less ambiguous.”
QQ Music has been using emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) for its song recognition tools. Hu noted that the company is using AI to suggest music to users across different demographics and age groups, though it remains a major challenge. One of the areas QQ Music is researching is the prediction of a correct target group for unreleased music.
The development of the music streaming business goes hand-in-hand with the development of network technology, said Hu.
“Next year, when 5G arrives,” Hu said, “the industry can leverage the more abundant bandwidth and reduced latency to link up different applications and people, and achieve a better immersive entertainment experience as well as engagement.”