That headline above is accurate, but it could just have easily read: ‘Kobalt has NOT inked a licensing deal in China with Tencent.’
Unlike the three major music companies (Universal, Sony and Warner), Kobalt has taken a different path in the key emerging territory.
The company’s publishing division and its AWAL recorded music operation have signed a deal with NetEase Cloud Music to license and distribute its music catalogue.
In addition, as with the relationship between the majors and Tencent, NetEase will also exclusively sub-license Kobalt and AWAL repertoire in China to its fellow digital platforms.
What’s more, AMRA, Kobalt’s wholly-owned global collection society, will work closely with NetEase operations to provide digital processing and reporting services to its clients.
NetEase will represent more than 600,000 songs and recordings from Kobalt’s publishing and master catalogs.
These include songs penned by the likes of Paul McCartney (MPL) and Max Martin (MXM).
Songs represented by Kobalt include those recorded by artists such as Justin Bieber, Crowded House, Miles Davis, Fleetwood Mac, Flume, Foo Fighters, Gotye, Lauv, Zayn Malik, Maroon 5, Stevie Nicks, Sinead O’Connor, Pet Shop Boys, Elvis Presley, Lionel Richie, Ed Sheeran and Skrillex.
The NetEase agreement will also cover famous songs from Asian artists such as A-Lin, Jolin Tsai, Wanting Qu, Jane Zhang, and Bibi Zhou, as well as including the catalog of EKKO Music Rights; Big Bang, EXO, F(X), Girls’ Generation, Shinee and Super Junior.
“As we continue on our journey to help bring the music industry into the digital age, monetizing the huge Chinese music market has always been a priority for us.”
Willard Ahdritz, Kobalt
Crucially, Kobalt and NetEase say they will ‘work closely to drive increased creative collaboration, development of artists, and enforced copyright protection for Kobalt writers and artists’.
They add that the partnership will ‘improve transparency for creators and drive new access to data, reporting, and sustainable pay models’.
“As we continue on our journey to help bring the music industry into the digital age, monetizing the huge Chinese music market has always been a priority for us,” said Founder & CEO of Kobalt Music, Willard Ahdritz.
“This partnership reinforces not only our commitment but also creates a world of new collaborative opportunities for our artists and songwriters.”
President and Chief Revenue Officer of Kobalt Music, Laurent Hubert, added, “The Chinese market is the next great land of opportunity for the music market as hundreds of millions of fans, especially the younger generations, will pay for an engaging music streaming experience.
“NetEase is a natural fit for our catalog as they have millions of young members who embrace music from across the globe. Additionally, NetEase believes in doing what’s best not only for their customers but doing right by creators as well — the latter being something we base our ideals on as well.”
NetEase Cloud Music, launched in April 2013, has over 400 million users.
NetEase Cloud Music CEO, Zhu Yiwen said, “We are honored to be the strategic partner of the world’s leading music group, Kobalt Music in mainland China – it is also an endorsement of our pan-entertainment industry effort that will benefit music fans and artists. We will aim to use our deep industry knowledge and huge user base to expand Kobalt Music’s reach in the market.”
Kenney Shiu, Director, APAC for Kobalt Music, commented, “Last year, Simon Moor and I established Kobalt Hong Kong and have restructured Kobalt’s business across Asia to bring greater benefits to writers and artists alike. This latest agreement continues to assert our commitment to the China music market and the region as a whole.”
Universal Music Group signed an exclusive sub-licensing agreement with Tencent in May, making it the last of the three major music companies to ink such a deal with the firm.Music Business Worldwide