Chinese music sites move away from free downloads

By | Published on Tuesday 18 June 2013

Various Chinese music websites that previously offered downloads as well as streams for free, both funded by advertising, have reportedly started charging for the former, seemingly at the insistence of the big record companies.

According to Chinese news service Sina, music website has relaunched offering downloads on a subscription basis (five yuan a month – that’s about 52p – for 150 tracks), while rival is now running an iTunes-style pay-per-download model (albeit with much cheaper rates).

It is thought that Baidu, the Chinese search engine which for years was accused of being a hub for music piracy, will also start charging for downloads on its now legit music service. Sina says that the Chinese offices of the major labels insisted music sites in the country move away from free downloads this month, presumably in a bid to drive up the rates received by the rights owners for each track downloaded.

It remains to be seen whether the move drives more Chinese users over to illegitimate sources of music, or whether recent anti-piracy measures in the country, coupled with the rise of streaming, which on most sites will remain free, will be enough to avoid a too significant loss of legit customers.