Licensed download service for music in Mainland China started
Despite the conventional wisdom that in China money is only made with ringtones, Chinese ringtone provider R2G has dared to leave their safe haven and will provide DRM-free music downloads in mainland China. The Wawawa Music Store is an eMusic-like offering, which R2G operates in partnership with California-based indie music distributor IODA. Subscription starts at USD 3 per month and includes 88 downloads per month from a catalog of allegedly 1 million titles, which focuses heavily on US independent label music and oldies like Bob Marley.
If Chinese Internet customers will appreciate the offer and start paying for the downloads remains to be seen. Research conducted by MediaScrums authors Leah Belsky and Wolf Richter last year in Beijing has shown that a fair majority of users, who currently use unlicensed file-sharing networks would like to get more variety and less mainstream content, which dominates the unlicensed networks. Recent research by Music2.0 confirms these findings and even indicates that one-third of Internet users in mainland China were willing to pay for licensed downloads. If this should turn out to be true, the lack of major label support could even be the crucial differentiating feature for Wawawa and position it in a premium segment currently not covered by the omnipresent “for free” networks. The Chinese market remains exciting and unpredictable.