Digital & Mobile — January 14, 2013 at 11:57 am

2013: China’s Year of The Streaming

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While the rest of the world is hooked on popular online music streaming sites like Spotify, Pandora and Deezer – services that introduced free, legal MP3 downloads in 2011 – such sites are blocked in China. However, it seems that 2013 may be the country’s year for paid streaming subscriptions as several of their services get revamped.

First on the list is Douban.com, one of the most popular social networking sites in China. The website announced last week that they were introducing a subscription-based online music streaming service. Prices start at a meager US$1.60 per month or US$8 for six months, noting the current prohibitive bandwidths in place. The premium service offers subscribers commercial-free music streaming at 192Kpbs. Their free music streaming service – douban.fm – was launched back in November 2009, and is still available and can now be upgraded to premium. The introduction of Douban’s paid service will reportedly not hinder its current 50 million users who remain happy to put up with the ads, though with such low costs, there is still speculation as to whether Douban FM Pro will generate much revenue.

Following suit is Xiami.com, an online music streaming service similar to Last.FM, which was reportedly acquired by China’s Alibaba GroupShortly after they announced their plans to restructure the company, rumours started circulating of the Chinese e-commerce giant’s new venture. It appears to tie in with Alibaba’s developments on the social networking front: launching a group messaging app, a social ‘pinboard’ à la Pinterest, and a Twitter-like microblog. Xiami.com, launched in 2008, already has over 5 million registered users, making it a front runner in China’s social music sites. It is said to have the broadest range of music in the streaming market and, based on the above platforms, is very social. One of its most popular features is Xiami Loop, a replica of Turntable.fm, where users can mix tracks online under an avatar, while fellow users listen to and rate them. It’s a way of building a fanbase and social network based on users’ music tastes.

Lastly, Xiami.com’s nemesis: free service Jing.fm has recently released an iPhone app after much delay. Originally launching last year, the website struggled against its competition but the release of this app could bring the service to the forefront as its interface is very user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing. Jing.fm has a similar functionality to websites like 8tracks.com and stereomood.com, where playlists are created based on keywords or tags, e.g. “happy”, “party”, “weekend” entered by the user. It also includes a function that creates a playlist based on one’s favourite artists, something that Xiami.comdoesn’t have.

With all these developments on the horizon in China in 2013, music streaming is sure to become a major social platform for the world’s leading internet users.