Music Monetization Strategies in China

How Global Artists Thrive in the Chinese Music Market

China’s music industry is demonstrating dynamic changes and growth, with technology playing a key role in shaping these transformations. This provides unique opportunities for global artists to tap into a market that is both vast and diverse. Explore the monetization strategies that global artists can employ in the thriving Chinese music market.

Brief Analysis of the Chinese Music Market

China’s music landscape is rapidly maturing, offering a rich and fertile ground of potential for artists, recording companies, and talent management agencies. The year 2021 marked a historical moment when the total valuation of China’s music industry reached a colossal 3,787.56 billion yuan, representing an increase of 8.54% from the prior year. This resurgence reflects the admirable resilience and vigor of the Chinese music sector, bouncing back to growth rates observed before the global health crisis. Younger demographics appear to be particularly engrossed in this burgeoning music culture, recognizing it as a key element in enhancing their lifestyle quality. The music sector in China is undergoing a momentous transformation, marked by a harmonious integration of music and technological advancements, and an impressive revival of both online and offline music consumption.

The multi-tiered structure of the music industry in China encompasses core, associated, and extended components. As of 2021, these segments achieved output values of 929.29 billion yuan, 2,201.26 billion yuan, and 657.01 billion yuan respectively. This indicates the core sector, primarily fueled by digital music and live performances, recorded an annual growth of 1.17%. The associated layer, too, observed a 1.48% increase thanks to the stability in offline production, sales, and consumption. The extended layer, on the contrary, suffered a decrease of 2.65%, attributable to a decline in conventional consumption practices such as Karaoke.

A notable feature of the Chinese music industry’s narrative in 2021 was its “revival”. An overwhelming 80% of its sub-sectors embarked on a trend of recovery growth. The live performance market, which had faced the steepest fall in the previous year, showcased an astonishing annual growth rate of 47%. There were promising developments in the copyright space as well, with the copyright brokerage market and the film, animation, game, and music market both experiencing annual growth exceeding 15%.

A significant shift is being observed in the Chinese music industry in the form of the ‘IP-ization’ of music offerings. As the era of mobile internet continues to evolve, the productization of music increasingly leans towards branding and IP-ization via cross-industry collaborations. Events such as concerts featuring film, animation, and game soundtracks experienced a substantial increase in 2021. These collaborations are integrating music into the daily lives of people, leading to the formation of music culture brands.

Monetization Strategies in China for Global Artists

The value of the Chinese music industry in 2021, including its core, affiliated, and extended segments, was 929.29 billion yuan, 2,201.26 billion yuan, and 657.01 billion yuan respectively. These figures correspond to 24.54%, 58.11%, and 17.35% of the total industry worth. The pattern observed was a dual increase with one decline: the core and associated sectors were burgeoning, while the extended layer, which includes traditional aspects like Karaoke, experienced a decline. This modification demonstrates a pivot towards integrating digital technology with musical artistry, indicating an opportunity for international artists to tailor their strategies around the expanding digital music and performance sectors.

Grasping the Evolving Trends and Blossoming Sectors

The Chinese music industry exhibited a remarkable bounce-back following the pandemic, with over 80% of its sub-sectors displaying growth trajectories in 2021. The music performance market, the digital music industry, and the music copyright brokerage and management market all registered growth rates of 47%, 10.28%, and 26.23% respectively. These flourishing sectors are ripe for exploration by global artists.

In the year 2021, the digital music industry in China was valued at 79.068 billion yuan. Despite the saturation, the online music user base peaked at 729 million. This sector, despite being heavily populated, exhibited vigorous growth propelled by technological advancements like 5G, AI, big data, and VR. These developments underscore the need for international artists to harness the potential of digital platforms and technologies to engage with the Chinese audience.

In the same year, the revision of the Copyright Law in China ushered in positive modifications in music copyright management, with the licensing income of the China Music Copyright Association escalating to 442 million yuan, marking an 8.3% growth on a year-on-year basis. This development indicates the importance for international artists to prioritize securing their music copyrights in China in order to leverage this positive trend.

While music programs on television are showing signs of stagnation, the income from radio advertising in music categories experienced a 2% increase in 2021, touching the 1.581 billion yuan mark. This shift towards digitization in the broadcasting industry illuminates potential avenues for international artists to monetize their work in radio broadcasting.

The total value of music output in film, television dramas, games, and animation was roughly 740 million yuan in 2021, marking a year-on-year increase of 15.2%. Coupled with a 14.6% rise in the gaming industry, the intersection of music with these mediums presents a fertile ground for monetization strategies for international artists.

Although traditional karaoke experienced a 6.5% slump, the online karaoke market skyrocketed by 45% in 2021, hitting the 15.58 billion yuan milestone. This shift from traditional to online platforms unveils new potential channels for international artists to monetize their work.

Adapting Monetization Techniques to Market Dynamics

China’s vibrant and evolving music industry brims with numerous opportunities for global artists to monetize their work. However, an understanding and adaptation to the unique traits and trends of this market is vital.

Artists need to emphasize their visibility on digital platforms such as streaming services, social media, and online music festivals to tap into China’s thriving digital music industry. Digital concerts, live streams, and fan engagement activities can provide substantial revenue streams in a time when digital consumption is predominant.

In view of the improving copyright environment in China, artists should actively register and enforce their music copyrights. Licensing their music to Chinese platforms and engaging local copyright management organizations can result in substantial royalty income.

With the rising popularity of music in film, TV, games, and animation, artists can think about diversifying their music formats. Partnerships with local filmmakers, game developers, and animation studios for original soundtracks and theme songs can unlock additional revenue streams.

As online karaoke gains increasing popularity, artists could consider licensing their music to these platforms, thus earning royalties while also gaining exposure among Chinese consumers.

The Influence of Live Performances and Festivals

The music performance market demonstrated a strong recovery and development momentum, with a surge in the number of performances, audience count, average ticket prices, and box office revenue. Outdoor music festivals and live music venues were central to this resurgence.

The younger generation, specifically the age group of 20-29 which forms a significant 84.1% of the online music user base in China (729 million in 2021), has been pivotal to the revival of live performances and festivals. By synchronizing with the preferences of this demographic, such as genre preferences, social issues, and emerging trends, musicians can design performances that strike a chord with the audience.

Outdoor music festivals represent a lucrative opportunity. These festivals often amalgamate music with other cultural elements, thereby creating an immersive experience. The allure of these festivals lies in their ability to offer a diversity of musical styles, bringing together artists from different genres. By participating in these festivals, musicians not only gain exposure but also benefit from the shared audience of the varied lineup.

As China continues its journey of economic growth and technological advancement, the demand for cultural experiences, including live performances and festivals, is projected to surge. Musicians and record labels should think about establishing a long-term presence in the market, building relationships with festival organizers and promoters.

Thinking Ahead

As the Chinese music industry continues to metamorphose, international artists need to remain nimble, continually adapting their monetization strategies to align with the emerging trends. With technology steering the transformation, artists need to stay technologically adept, leveraging advancements in AI, VR, and big data to construct immersive and engaging music experiences. The successful artists in China will be those who can seamlessly blend creativity, technology, and business acumen in this rapidly transforming market.

Understanding the Music Consumer in China

For musicians and record labels with an ambition to delve into the Chinese market, a profound comprehension of the Chinese music consumer is absolutely essential. China, with its vast and diverse populace, is a treasure trove of myriad musical tastes. The significant tech-savviness of Chinese consumers heavily influences the contours of the music industry, thereby positioning technology as a key catalyst in the evolution of the music consumption paradigm.

The emergence of the digital age has dramatically transformed the manner in which music is consumed in China. This transformation has been propelled by advancements in digital technology and the integration of music platforms. These changes have spurred the birth of new consumption models such as “music + social platform” and “music + live streaming sales.” To illustrate this transformation, it is noteworthy that the count of online live streaming users in China reached a significant milestone of 660 million in 2021. This underscores the extensive magnitude of digital music consumption in the country.

The propensity for rapid innovation is a hallmark of the Chinese market. This trait is vividly manifest in the country’s digital music scene. Cutting-edge technologies, including but not limited to 5G, Artificial Intelligence, big data, and virtual reality, have found wide application in the music market. This integration has heralded the inception of new business models and formats that are driving industry growth.

Two of the most significant innovations reshaping the Chinese digital music landscape are the blending of music platforms with social media and the incorporation of live streaming into the music experience. The former allows artists to engage with fans on a direct and personal level, nurturing an intimate bond that fosters a devoted fan base. The latter, with its impressive user base of 660 million in 2021, has evolved from a basic entertainment medium to a powerful instrument for music promotion and sales.

Short video platforms have played a pivotal role in the spread of digital music. Through the creation of captivating and engaging short videos, musicians have the potential to reach an impressively large audience. These platforms also provide opportunities for revenue generation through strategic partnerships, advertisements, and virtual gifts.

For international artists and labels, adapting to local consumption patterns is a critical aspect of achieving success in the Chinese market. Chinese consumers have unique preferences and behaviors. A prominent characteristic is their inclination towards local and traditional music, but there is also a noticeable burgeoning interest in international music.

Cultural sensitivity and awareness of local traditions and values often make the difference between success and failure. It is important that lyrics, themes, and even musical styles are crafted with an understanding of the Chinese audience’s preferences.

Tailoring content to resonate with the Chinese consumer’s preferences is of paramount importance. Strategies may include collaborations with local artists, incorporation of traditional Chinese elements, or even generating exclusive content for the Chinese market.

The social dimension of music consumption in China presents a unique landscape that international artists must fully comprehend. Prominent platforms like Tencent Music Entertainment (TME) place a strong emphasis on nurturing a vibrant community of music enthusiasts. This focus on fostering social interaction facilitates the creation of strong bonds among users, forming the foundation of the platform’s monetization strategy. These community-building endeavors cultivate highly engaged users who are more likely to make purchases on the platform.

The fervor of Chinese fan culture is particularly notable. Fans frequently mobilize large-scale coordinated actions to express support for their favorite artists. These actions can include bulk purchasing of albums, organizing fan events, and initiating social media campaigns.

Furthermore, audio live streaming has surfaced as a significant driver of growth for platforms like TME. This innovation not only enriches the user experience but also attracts more audio anchors, which in turn benefits the music ecosystem. It provides a platform for diverse talents to showcase their skills and reach a wider audience.

Navigating Partnerships with Chinese Companies

China’s music industry is marked by an evolving “music+” ecosystem driven by a paid model. Original songs are disseminated through short video and social platforms, often gaining popularity due to traffic guidance. Leading digital music companies are diversifying into short video, general entertainment live streaming, and long-form audio domains to provide more diverse and personalized value-added services.

In 2021, following the implementation of the revised “Copyright Law,” the China Music Copyright Association’s licensing income reached 442 million yuan, up 8.3% from the previous year. This development has set the stage for rewarding recording producers for broadcasting and performing rights. Musicians entering the Chinese market must be cognizant of the evolving copyright landscape. Engaging with legal experts and local partners is imperative to safeguard intellectual property rights and maximize revenue.

The integration of music with technology is revolutionizing China’s music industry. By partnering with digital platforms that utilize advanced technologies such as 5G, AI, big data, and virtual reality, musicians can leverage innovative formats and business models.### Capitalizing on Social Media and Short Video Platforms

With the rise of social media and short video platforms, musicians have an avenue to reach a vast audience. By forming partnerships with platforms like Douyin (TikTok’s Chinese counterpart), musicians can use creative marketing strategies to promote their music. Additionally, collaborations with influencers can be instrumental in amplifying reach and engagement.

In building partnerships, cultural sensitivity is key. It’s crucial to understand the preferences and values of the Chinese audience. Tailoring content and messaging to resonate with the local culture can foster a positive brand image and facilitate successful collaborations with Chinese companies.

With continuous technological advancements and the increasing integration of the digital economy with musical creativity, the Chinese music industry is poised for further growth. Strategic partnerships with Chinese companies can unlock a plethora of opportunities for musicians seeking to monetize their art. However, it is paramount to navigate these partnerships with diligence, cultural sensitivity, and a forward-looking approach.


In summary, the Chinese music industry in 2021 showed a strong recovery trend driven by technological advancements, digitalization, an increase in music performances, IP-ization of music products, an improved copyright environment, cultural consumption, and the integration of music platforms. These factors, coupled with the resilience and adaptability of the industry, contributed to its robust growth.

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