Consumers seen unlikely to pay for content they now get free
The Xiami Music app, backed by China's e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding, will be back on Apple Inc's app store by this weekend after a short absence, a source close to the matter told the Global Times on Monday.
The source, who requested anonymity, declined to reveal the reason for the removal.
Another online music service provider, Net-Ease Inc's Cloud Music app, was also removed on July 10 and NetEase Cloud Music senior director Wang Lei has told the media that "the reason for it being removed did not involve copyright issues," a PR representative of NetEase told the Global Times on Monday.
The NetEase PR said that the app was available again on Apple's app store from July 14, but he declined to reveal the reason for the short removal.
The moves come as China's top copyright regulator tightens controls over domestic online music platforms.
The National Copyright Administration of China (NCAC) started a campaign to protect music copyrights on the Internet.
As part of that campaign, it ordered all online music platforms to stop providing musical works without authorization and remove all unauthorized musical content before the end of July, according to an online statement the NCAC released on July 9.
NetEase Cloud Music and Xiami Music were then removed from Apple's app store, although they remained available on domestic Android-based marketplaces.
With the swift development of the Internet, consumers have gradually abandoned CDs and turned to online music platforms.
About 71 percent of the income of China's recording industry comes from digital content, the Guangzhou Daily newspaper reported on July 13.
At the end of the first quarter, China had 380 million music app users with 18.8 percent year-on-year growth, according to a report released by Chengdu-based market research firm Big Data Research Center on June 3.
However, due to widespread copyright infringement, it is still hard for many musicians to make a profit on the sale of their work, an employee surnamed Li at the 268 Media Center, a music production zone located in Beijing, told the Global Times on Monday.
The NCAC began a survey of the online music industry in March and Duan Yuping, a vice director at the agency, was quoted by the People's Daily Thursday as saying that "every online music provider has copyright [infringement] issues. The only difference is how serious their issues are."
But the NCAC's promise to crack down on online infringement does not necessarily mean that users will pay for music, Zhao Zhanling, legal counsel of the Internet Society of China, told the Global Times on Monday.
Online music platforms are locked in a fierce competition, so no one wants to start charging their users as a universal policy. They may only charge for high-quality song downloads, which are only demanded by a small portion of the users, Zhao said.
"Moreover, many of [the platforms] are backed by Internet giants, such as Xiami Music and QQ Music, which is backed by Tencent Holdings. These rich companies don't mind paying for music copyrights and giving free music to their users," he noted.
Li also said that paying for music will not be a mainstream model for China's online music industry, since people have become accustomed to getting songs for free and it will be tough to change their habit.
Some international recording companies and some Chinese online music platforms have tried to charge monthly fees for music provided online but consumers have shown little interest, according to the Guangzhou Daily report.
Beyond charging users, online music platforms have other ways to generate income.
The first income source is advertisements in apps, and income can also come from cooperation with online games and derivative products, the PR representative from NetEase said.
But musicians are more willing to accept sharing advertisement income only when they trust the online music platforms, Li said, noting only the apps have the overall data such as the number of users or how many downloads have been made.