Ep. 33: Tencent Music – Totally Not China’s Spotify


In episode 33 of TechBuzz China, co-hosts Ying-Ying Lu and Rui Ma talk about Tencent Music (TME), which finally completed its $1.2 billion IPO after a two-month delay due to market volatility. The company rose 9 percent on its first day, but has traded below the initial offering price ever since. This episode covers the business model of TME, its market potential, and our co-hosts’ thoughts on its future outlook. Though often compared with Spotify, to what extent are these two companies truly similar?

Rui and Ying-Ying begin today’s story by reviewing Tencent Music’s corporate history. The entity comprises four apps: QQ Music, Kugou Music, Kuwo Music, and WeSing, which today account for a combined 70 percent of China’s music market. However, once upon a time, these were disparate products that sometimes competed; in fact, they only came together through an entity known as China Music Corporation (CMC), which was formed in 2012 by Xie Guomin. CMC acquired Kuwo in 2013 and Kugou a few months later; Tencent turned its minority stake in the entity into a majority position when it injected the QQ Music and WeSing assets for over 60 percent ownership at a valuation of $2.7 billion. At this point, the company was renamed Tencent Music Entertainment.

From here, Rui and Ying-Ying contrast the strategies of China- and U.S.-based music player apps. They delve into the reasons for these divergent paths, including China’s unique business environment, its domestic user behavior and cash-giving habits, the impact of new categories such as mobile live streaming, and even Chinese people’s deep love for karaoke. Notably, the legally trained and opportunistic Xie Guomin was first spurred to found CMC to capitalize on the government’s changing policies around copyright and intellectual property. Listen to find out: How has this “race to own copyrights” affected the industry and its major players? How do Alibaba and Baidu fit into the picture — or not? Why is it that paying for music is a behavior TME still needs to cultivate in its users? What does all of this mean in today’s competitive landscape, and what does betting for or against TME really entail?

As always, you can find these stories and more at pandaily.com. Let us know what you think of the show by leaving us an iTunes review, liking our Facebook page, and tweeting at us at @techbuzzchina to win some swag! Finally, we would like to welcome our new listeners over at our partner, dealstreetasia.com.

Our co-hosts will be on a two-week break for the holidays, but we look forward to releasing a new episode in the second week of January. Happy Holidays!!