This multi-million-dollar market was majorly sustained by the distribution of recorded music as opposed to live music in China. Undoubtedly, it was music streaming holding the largest share of revenue generated by the industry, equivalent to more than 700 million U.S. dollars in 2019. As of March 2020, the online music streaming userbase in the country figured around 635 million users, most of them accessing these services via smartphones.
It is worth noting that Chinese songs are the most popular choice among different age groups in the country. When it comes to online digital music sales, Chinese male singers often pop up in the chart: Hua Chenyu (the winner of the 2013 Super Boy singing contest), Cai Xukun (Chinese boy group Nine Percent’s leader), and other idols with a South Korean-Chinese boyband background like Luhan, Wang Yibo, and Lay Zhang. Chris Lee was the only homegrown female music artist who could make to the top ten best-seller ranking. On the other side, the appeal of Korean and American pop music had also rooted in young generations. South Korean music groups like Blackpink and BTS, and American singers like Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande had gained huge popularity in the Chinese market.
Currently, Tencent and NetEase were leading the music streaming sector in China. Tencent owns some of the largest music platforms – KuGou Music, QQ Music, and Kuwo Music. As of March 2020, KuGou Music was the top Chinese music app with 292 million monthly active users, followed by QQ Music. Of these KuGou Music was found to be used more by people falling within the 19 to 28 years age group, while QQ Music was better preferred by older users. When faced with the choice of paying for access to their choice of music, most Chinese consumers preferred to look for a free source instead. The most commonly touted reason to not pay was the possibility to listen to music for free. This poses a dilemma for the digital music industry.