4 Key Takeaways from Influencers in Chinese Music Business

Updated: Sep 22, 2020

With reference from the 27th Golden Melody Awards Festival's "Marketing Strategies & Trends in the Digital Era" panel, here's a comprehensive summary on today's challenges and tomorrow's trends.

The Golden Melody Awards’ Festival organizing team recently released the full video of all it’s panel discussions for music industry professionals. Panel participants were top professionals in the Asian music scene. Below is a summary of key takeaways from the one titled "Marketing Strategies & Trends in the Digital Era". Dennis Yang, Executive VP, KKTV was the moderator and others involved were: Danny Tuan, New Media & Business Development Manager at Rock Records, Tan Chee Meng, Director of APAC Label Relations at Spotify, Syaheed MSBI, Head of Trade Marketing & General Manager at Believe Digital and Andy Ng, General Manager of QQ Music.

1. Making new from old: With reference to KKBOX’s statistics in Taiwan, it was noted in 2004, top 10% songs accounted for 48% of plays. In 2008, the play number rose 22% (approx. 70%) with the top 10% songs of that year. More recently in 2015, this number continued to rise from 70% to 87%. Top 10% songs consists of mainstream pop music and while it’s clear listeners are hugely influenced by chart-topping hits over the years, it’s also worth noting the play percentage is growing at a slightly decreased rate as shown from the graph below.

Graph on Play Number for Top 10% songs on KKBOX

What does that mean for the older repertoire? Does that mean classics and evergreen tunes are now over the hill? Not necessarily so. Danny from Rock Records, which has one of the oldest repertoire since 1980, mentioned some of the experiments done recently. (a) 滾石30演唱會 or Rock 30 concert: Concert to celebrate Rock Records’ 30th anniversary (b) 滾石愛情故事 or Rock Records in Love: Stories about 20 select classics made into a TV show that starting airing on PTS and various channels and online platforms in Taiwan and other countries with large Chinese speaking communities. (c) 中央車站 or Rock House: Live concert venue set up in Guangzhou, giving artists an alternative stage for live performance. What Rock Records did was to re-package their music content and create relevance to the audience, both old and new.

2. Greater opportunities for artists’ big breaks: The artist example mentioned by Syaheed of Believe Digital was Linying, a Singaporean artist known for EDM. The budding singer-songwriter started out singing anonymously in EDM tracks and later worked with Believe Digital to identify her objectives, after noticing some traction of her works in Europe. Believe helped provide laser focus on Linying’s marketing efforts, including an artist feature on Spotify’s Spotlight Program. Her streams grew from a mere 10K to 1M and amongst the top 5 cities of active listeners, 3 of them were European. Have a look at the chart below:

Singapore artist, Linying's listeners' chart on Spotify

Chee Meng gave a brief explanation on one of Spotify’s best features, Discovery Weekly. This playlist of 30 songs is refreshed algorithmically every Monday based on music you listen to in the preceding week. To date, about 40M users actively use this feature, listening to more than 10 songs and/or artists, subsequently adding the newly discovered track to their own playlists. A brilliant example of Big Data at work, leading to greater stickiness and artist discovery.

3. What the rest of Asia could learn from China: As with most music streaming platforms, QQ Music began with a myriad of challenges when it first launched in China, as Andy explained. However, one of their goals was clear. To work alongside music labels to stamp out piracy. QQ deployed a 250 strong legal team to take down all illegal content online and the initiative was later supported by the Chinese government, facilitating more takedowns. Today, the subscription service is one of QQ Music’s key pillars in their business model, with more than 10M subscribers. Andy emphasized that work isn’t done and there’s still a sizeable market share to educate the value of content. QQ Music has also rallied the help of popular music artists to encourage fans to pay for official content. While it is a tedious and long-drawn process, the “education” Andy highlighted is probably a necessary step to take.

4. Getting creative: In our digital world now, the average person has too many things to do, which means there’s a need to compete for users’ time. Some of the suggestions highlighted: - Create a compelling story and timeliness of the story told: Danny mentioned a Kobe Bryant playlist created right before his retirement. It started with a song by Lin Qiang called 向前走 (Moving Forward), drawing reference to Kobe and his new chapter, hence the playlist was populated with similar themed songs. - Integrate music within users’ daily lives: Broad topic and will be discussed later. - Glocalized strategy: What took Spotify that long to enter Indonesia (it’s newest Asian market)? Chee Meng explains while Indonesia was a must-enter market, Spotify took time to understand and adapt to the local preferred payment methods and acquire the local music repertoire.

That wraps up the panel coverage in this long post. What’s your take?

Watch the full panel discussion in Mandarin: