China portals promise talented amateurs stardom and a cut of the revenue

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 September, 2005, 12:00am

Aspiring singers hoping to become China's next Super Girl should upload their songs to the internet in addition to submitting audition tapes to television broadcasters.

Li Yuchun, a 21-year-old student of Sichuan Music Conservatory, shot to fame last month after 3.52 million television users voted for her to become this year's Super Girl.

Mainland internet portals such as Tom Online and said they also had the ability to make stars out of amateur singers and musicians - and promised to share revenue with the content creators in the process.

Tom Online chief executive Wang Leilei said mainland internet users were no longer passive consumers of Web content. 'The internet user is not a simple browser. They like to be a content creator or publisher. We leverage the user behaviour to aggregate fresh content.' He said 100 artists were uploading music content to the company's servers each day. When the content is accessed via Tom's wireless valued-added services, the artist receives a cut. 'We have an electronic contract to share revenue with the music singers or the small music labels,' he said.

User-generated music content is the latest in a trend that started last year, when the mainland's first serialised text-message novel Out Of The Fortress fetched a reported 180,000 yuan from wireless content provider Hurray Holdings. What followed was a wave of websites set up to aggregate content from the thousands of amateur authors hoping to make their fortune writing text-message novels of their own.

In a country where karaoke is popular with young people, there is no shortage of content or demand for music. Mr Wang said most of the songs uploaded to Tom's servers were recorded at music parlours or using home-recording equipment. He estimated 40 per cent of the company's wireless content revenue was music related.

James Liu, chief strategy officer of China Interactive Corp, which runs the social networking site, said its users had long shared with each other amateur content such as stories posted to blogs, music and video. Mop had about 20 million members after acquiring UUme, and roughly 90 per cent of its content was user-generated. The company's formal music-publishing service was launched last month.

'We are seeing a lot of users participating in this kind of phenomenon. We provide an end-to-end service,' he said. 'We are also in the process of doing a joint venture with a record label company, which is going to proactively select potential stars and package and market them.'

Mr Wang said Tom's ties to traditional media would benefit the artists who used its website. 'We have good relationships with traditional media, to leverage TV coverage and print media coverage.'

While portal companies competed for the works of budding singers, Mr Wang said mobile content downloads were the only viable way to ensure artists were compensated for their efforts. 'Even though some vertical channels can attract more page views, they cannot bring more revenue to the music creators.'