Music publishing in the digital age

12 2018 | Issue 30
Text/tRisty Chang

In 2018, digital music publication has become the mainstream way for labels and artists to put out their works. As intellectual property law further matures, digital platforms emerge as legitimate channels that bring music publishing into the digital realm. In this issue, we have  record label JVR Music from Taiwan, music streaming platform NetEase Cloud Music from Mainland China and artist Chai Kefu from Macao to share with us on how to grasp the market dynamics in the digital age and increase exposure for their works.

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JVR Music: using the Internet to maximise music’s value

In the CD era, record shops were the main channel for people to purchase music, making CDs the main source of income for record labels. JVR Music was co-founded by Jay Chou, Vincent Fang and JR Yang. The label has popular C-pop artists such as Jay Chou, Cindy Yen, Gary Yang, etc. It is one of mainstream record labels in Taiwan. The record company’s new media manager Ricky Hsu believes that the Internet helps music transcend beyond borders. That said, once a song is published online, it can reach different regions around the globe very fast. This makes digital publishinga very strategic battleground for music productions.

The market scale and business strategy come hand in hand

The most important element in digital publishing is music copyrights. “When you buy CDs, you will have the music to yourself as long as you have the CD. But streaming service is more of a rental service. When a certain platform has the copyrights of the songs, you can listen to them freely. When the copyrights expire, you won’t have access to the songs anymore,” Ricky pointed out. “Then the streaming platform would need to negotiate with the record companies to renew their copyrights so as to get the songs back on the platform.”

Jay Chou’s 2016 album Jay Chou's Bedtime Stories is one of the unique examples of digital publishing and promotion. The album went on Tencent’s streaming platform QQ Music and charges users for downloading, which was a first on the platform. “The market in mainland China is enormous. There are different business models around. Given the market scale and user habit, we would need to sell the album on the platform that has the most fans. But we also need to consider ordinary users and fans’ music experience if they don’t purchase the album,” Ricky said. “That’s why we make the music video available for everyone to watch for promotion. This is one of our strategies to balance the marketing.” To drive the sales of the album, Jay Chou's Bedtime Stories only became available for users who didn’t purchase the record two months after the release. This strategy helped the record sell two million during those two months.

Platforms with distinct features

Every music platform is an independent record shop. But what makes them different from each other? “KKBOX is the most popular digital music platform in Taiwan at present. The platform has the most Chinese songs. There is also clear categorisation of music genres, such as western, eastern and independent music,” Rick explained. “The platform provides clear guidance for the users so it is very easy to navigate around on the platform. We also work closely with other digital platforms in the market to put more music on the platform.”


“Spotify is like a massive search engine. You can see it as Google. Most users of Spotify are hardcore music lovers. They can find the songs they like very easily,” he said, talking about the difference between KKBOX and international streaming giant Spotify. Mainland China has a grand market and a big population. A music platform in China can incubate diverse services. Besides including all the features that KKBOX and Spotify share, platforms from mainland China also provide functions like live streaming, community interaction, music upload, etc.

Exposure comes from content

How to increase the exposure of music for emerging artists from mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan? “The job is not finished yet after the songs are released on the music platforms. The promotion of the music shouldn’t solely rely on the resources the platforms offer,” Ricky stated. In general, a music platform has ten to twenty million songs at its disposal. This makes it important for music artists to come up with strategies for competing with other songs on the platform. “In fact, there is only one way to work this out. You need to have a good song. Your song should be good enough to be recommended by the platform,” he said. In addition to that, music artists need to know how to utilise resources around them to promote their songs. For instance, they can make use of social media and media platforms like Facebook and YouTube to gain momentum.


From Ricky’s perspective, the artists also need to use their social network to gain more attention from the crowd. Through online and offline presence and interaction, the artists will be able to receive the maximum exposure for their songs.

Embracing the digital age for music

A few decades ago, only artists from record companies were able to publish their records. But the Internet age has enabled independent creators and artists to publish their works in the digital world. They can get their songs on different music platforms through aggregators and distributors. “As technology further advances, every music lover can be the one that helps to distribute and publish music,” Ricky said.


According to MIDiA Research’s reports*, 300 million Internet users around the world have subscribed to digital music platforms in the first half of 2018. So what should we expect from the future of digital music? In Ricky’s opinions, the digital music platform sector is not perfect yet and that record labels, copyrights owners, digital platforms and artists should keep an open mind and face the challenges arise from different levels of interaction. “To grasp the opportunities provided by the new trend, we need to fully understand our own music, keep up with the technological changes and learn to embrace the challenges,” he concluded.