Firms ramping up efforts to sell services via paid memberships, virtual performances on digital platforms

Zhao Xiaohan, a 20-year-old sophomore at Beijing Foreign Studies University, recently purchased two music platform memberships. The yearly subscription fee of 276 yuan ($42) allows Zhao to enjoy abundant music resources at QQ Music and NetEase Cloud Music-two major music streaming service providers.

“It just costs me 23 yuan on average per month, and I can listen to many Mandarin, Cantonese and English songs from my favorite singers such as Mayday, Jay Chou, Stefanie Sun and Eason Chan,” said Zhao, adding that she usually spends about an hour on the platforms each day.

Zhao said people around her are also willing to pay for memberships. Moreover, as a music enthusiast, last month she watched a livestreamed concert from Singaporean Mandopop singer Stefanie Sun on TME Live, a live performance brand under Tencent Music Entertainment Group.

“I planned to see her offline concerts this year, which mark the 20th anniversary of her debut. The online livestreamed performance is also a good choice as lots of offline performances have been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” she added.

Major Chinese online music platforms have ramped up efforts to sell services with paid memberships and offer online live performances during the pandemic period.

NetEase Cloud Music, an online music streaming service owned by Chinese internet company NetEase Inc, has launched several online livestreamed music concerts in an attempt to help musicians and the performing market overcome difficulties.

Yang Zhaoxuan, chief financial officer of NetEase, said they continued to see triple-digit revenue growth on a yearly basis for NetEase Cloud Music in the second quarter, with both membership and livestreaming striking new highs and securing a multiyear licensing agreement with Universal Music Group.

“We are very committed to bringing rich content to Chinese users by introducing exciting global music and incubating independent musicians,” Yang said, adding that the company rolled out numerous paid live shows for independent bands, giving them more options to stream online during this period.

For instance, marking their seventh anniversary, Chinese boy band TFBoys held an online paid concert on NetEase Cloud Music in August, attracting nearly 800,000 viewers online.

NetEase Cloud Music said the offline performance sites such as arenas and stadiums were shut down due to the pandemic. “We are willing to take the initiative to cover the expenses at venues and for photography along with visual and livestreaming teams for online performances,” Yang added.

Launched in 2013, NetEase Cloud Music has grown to become one of the most popular music streaming platforms in China with 160,000 independent musicians.

As the contagion increasingly comes under control in China, the combination of offline and online paid performances will be a healthy and reasonable business model during the post-pandemic era, it noted.

With the rise of Generation Z, young people are increasingly willing to pay for copyrighted music, and the post-1995 generation exhibits less objection to paying for digital music subscriptions.

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, the company said. Meanwhile, the emergence of new models such as online performances will promote the development of the paid-for music segment.

According to Statista, a German online data portal, China is a fertile market with about 750 million digital music users as of 2019. And the total is expected to rise by another 50 million in 2023.

“Compared with digital album consumption, users who buy exclusive membership services should be the main force for bolstering the music payment industry,” said Chen Xianjiang, founder of ReChord, a music information portal, adding that the proportion of users who are likely to purchase a monthly or yearly membership is rising.

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