With karaoke bars closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, streaming platform NewEase Cloud Music has launched a new app to allow fans to sing at home with their smartphones.
Titled Yin Jie, "music street", the new app targets younger users and combines multiple functions, including singing, scoring and producing. One of the highlights of the new app is that users can remix songs and create something new.
"The KTV experience is a great part of the entertainment scene for Chinese music enthusiasts. Many people like singing as a way of relaxing and entertaining. You can sing alone or sing with your friends online. You can also create your own stories or songs. It's like writing a diary every day," says Zhu Yiwen, CEO of NetEase Cloud Music. He says their goal, since the founding of the company, was to help more people fall in love with music. With the new app, they hope more people can enjoy singing.
Ever since its introduction in the 1980s, karaoke has been a hugely popular form of entertainment. Now, soundproofed private booths, usually in public venues, such as shopping malls, offer a space for friends to hang out together.
Karaoke apps have also been developed on major online streaming platforms, including Changba and We Sing, which enable users to sing via a "portable solo KTV booth".
The new app, according to Zhu, has added two new functions in an effort to win over more fans-remixing music and hunting for singing talent.
During the testing process of the app, he found that over 90 percent of the users of the app were born after 1995.
"For the younger generation, they have lots of access to music from all over the world. They love to create and share their ideas on social media platforms," Zhu says.
By August 2019, the company had over 800 million registered users and over 30 million songs. The large user base helped the company to analyze young Chinese music fans.
Zhu says that the users not only love singing with the original version but also like to remix songs with various music styles.
The large song lists also benefit the new app's users, who can not only perform the latest hits but also offer their interpretations of classic songs.
On May 12, Warner Chappell Music, a division of the Warner Music Group, announced a partnership with Zhu's company, which has enabled the streaming platform to obtain the copyright to 1.3 million songs. In March, the company also announced a licensing partnership with long-established record label Rock Records.
Besides offering music lovers a platform to sing on, the new app functions as an opportunity to discover new talented singers. Zhu says that the company will invest 200 million yuan ($28 million) into the app, aimed at supporting 100 indie musicians' budding careers within three years.
"We want to build up a new connection with our users. The app will offer a stage for everyone to display themselves, no matter whether they sing well or not," Zhu adds.
According to Li Yin, vice-president of the company, there are 160,000 indie musicians who share their original material on the platform.
Indie folk duo The Landlord's Cat performed at the launch ceremony of the app in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province on June 16. It was formed by two friends in 2013. Guitarist Wu Peiling and lead vocalist Wang Xinyi both went to Zhongnan University of Economics and Law, in Wuhan, Hubei province. When they decided to take their music career seriously, they started by promoting and selling their albums through NetEase Cloud Music. They released their self-titled debut album in 2017 and now they have become one of the most popular acts that play live house venues and outdoor music festivals nationwide.
"We didn't have academic training in music. We just love singing and writing songs. There are many young people like us, who need support to fulfill their dreams," says Wang.
Li also shares another successful example. A 23-year-old Chinese singer with the handle MaiLajiao Yeyongquan, who, along with her friend, Mi Guo, adapted a Japanese song written and performed by Takahashi Yuu. With the help of Net-Ease, they obtained the copyright of the song and released a Mandarin version, titled The Wind Blows.
"The song has been played about 1.2 billion times on the platform and topped the music charts. It's an inspiring case of a young amateur music lover transforming into a full-time singer-songwriter," Li says.
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