Establishment of Alibaba Music to Lead to “Music Copyright War” in China

0 Flares 0 Flares ×

Crunch time: the state’s desire to increase the protection of IP rights and the market’s desire to fully capitalize on IP – best represented by the investments made by tech co’s into media content acquisition and generation – are coming to a head. Confrontations in the music sector between Alibaba-owned Xiami and Tencent-owned QQMusic have been steadily intensifying over the last year, and with the announcement of Alibaba Music, it’s perhaps now a question of merger or die for the remaining services.

Alibaba Music is basically a rebranded Xiami + Ttpod merger, and forms another component of the e-commerce giant’s media portfolio, which extends across financial information services (China Business News) and film / television production (Beijing Enlight Media and Alibaba Pictures Group) etc. Gao Xiaosong and Song Ke (the guy who reportedly left the biz to sell tasty duck) have been appointed as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer respectively, and will be depended on to bring in the deals that will ensure Alibaba Music has (exclusive) access to the catalogue that matters.

This all comes at a time when issues of transparency between digital music services, labels and artists are at a peak in the West. The leaked Sony x Spotify contract was a watershed moment, which redefined the tone of the argument between rights owners and streaming services (which until this point had been pegged as the bad guys.) It became clear that besides some rather onerous points featured in the contract, money was flowing out in the right direction. The question then, was how was that money being distributed by labels once received? It seems artists aren’t getting anything close to their fair share from the deals.

Is an identical tale unfolding in China? Tencent has already been doing direct deals with the majors, and this is only set to intensify. While in the West there are numerous examples of pro-copyright artists and creators going public with their arguments, their royalty statements, and their desires for equitable treatment, there is little outcry to be heard here (or at least it’s died down since the founding of Xiami, when a bout of discontent briefly swept over the industry). Perhaps this is due to overriding assumptions as to the role of the artist in all of this; perhaps it’s due to complacency. It’s hard to say. Readers of the Radar are welcome to share anecdotes of high-profile artists having their say, if any exist.

The prospect of a war on copyright in theory is fantastic news to (some) rights owners. The wealthiest companies in the world are potentially on the verge of entering into a bidding war for IP, something which for the most part has had no meaningful value up until now. But if there were ever a good time for the international indie community to come together it would be now. Whatever happens in China over these formative years will set the agenda for the future, and will have implications for foreign and local artists alike. As of 2015, we are not road-testing these music services. They have vast (largely un-monetized) user bases, they work well, and they are growing. These are not petty transactions; millions could be shelled out for access to international repertoire – how much of that will go to artists? Well, given many are still bound to CD-era terms, we wouldn’t want to hazard a guess.

0 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 LinkedIn 0 Google+ 0 0 Flares ×