Tencent ends exclusive music partnerships, bowing to regulators as rivals NetEase and Kuaishou jump in
- Tencent Music said its exclusive licensing deals with labels had come to an end as of August 23, as ordered by China’s antitrust watchdog
- Short video app Kuaishou struck a new deal with Warner Music this week, and music streaming rival NetEase also welcomed the move
Tencent Music Entertainment (TME) and its parent company said on Tuesday that the company had informed all partners involved in exclusive music licensing deals of the termination by August 23, and those parties were now free to license with others with the exception of some deals with independent musicians and new releases.
The Shenzhen-based company will continue to work with partners on non-exclusive deals.
The move is part of an intensifying crackdown from Chinese regulators on the perceived antitrust behaviour of the country’s Big Tech companies. The SAMR’s order opens up an extensive pool of resources from the world’s most prolific music labels that were previously exclusive to Tencent, which owns the country’s top three music streaming apps.
Kuaishou has been rapidly expanding overseas with a variety of products. In the second quarter, overseas business accounted for about one-third of the company’s sales and marketing expenses, CEO Su Hua said last week.
“The partnership with WMG allows us to provide a wide range of fantastic music for our creators and users, and is part of our commitment to provide fun, diverse, and authentic content to our global community,” Tony Qiu, international business head of Kuaishou, said in a statement.
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“The antitrust policy sent a very clear and positive, and very exciting signal to the entire industry, which is what is anticipated and warmly welcomed by users,” Ding said.
Ding also said he hoped Tencent was being “sincere” and would not “say one thing and do another”, but he did not elaborate. Ding has previously complained about paying “two to three times the reasonable cost” for content under TME’s sublicensing arrangement.
The end of exclusive music licensing was one the hottest trending topics on Chinese microblogging platform Weibo by Wednesday morning, with more than 530 million views. “Finally I can listen to those grey songs on my playlist,” a Weibo user said, referring to songs that were unavailable on services without the streaming rights.
“I hope they can make it all free. Isn’t it said that music belongs to all human beings?” another Weibo user asked.