Why China is a hotbed of short-form music video opportunity

The following MBW blog comes from Rebecca Yang (pictured), the co-founder and Chairwoman of IPCN (International Programme Content Network) – a leading international entertainment business which brokers and manages rights in the rapidly growing Chinese market. IPCN, which also distributes content and produces programming and ad funded content in China, has been responsible for more than 35 major format deals in China, bringing in excess of 5,000 hours of international TV to the Chinese market. These have included global hit TV formats like Secret Millionaire, So You Think You Can Dance, Supernanny, China’s Got Talent and The Voice of China.

Words recently used in the press to describe short-form video in the People’s Republic of China include: ‘growing’, ‘rising’ and ‘surging’.

But I would also add ‘phenomenon’ to this list.

When you look at the growth of a short-form video app like ByteDance’s Douyin – or Tik Tok, as it’s known outside China – the numbers are simply mind-blowing.

According to data from research company Jiguang, Douyin saw its daily users jump from 17.4 million to 45.6 million between December 2017 and March 2018. And in June this year Douyin said its global monthly active user count had reached an incredible 500 million. That’s a staggering amount and all driven by consumers’ unrelenting desire to watch bite-sized content on their smart phones.

Put simply, China’s millennial and Generation Z generations have welcomed this ‘on-the-go’ consumption culture with open arms. Douyin in particular has been a catalyst for a whole new generation of consumers watching musical clips, lip-syncing to songs and shooting and editing their own music videos. And therein lie the opportunities for international music artists.

By using Douyin and other short-form platforms like Tencent’s Kuaishou or karaoke app Quanmin K Ge, artists’ work can be pushed out to hundreds of millions of consumers in an instant. To capitalise on this new wave of consumption, artists cannot solely rely on digital music downloads alone anymore – so getting their work onto a leading short video platform has become one of the biggest music promotional opportunities of this generation.

It’s imperative that artists now fully embrace their work being edited, regenerated and re-packaged by consumers. They need to let their work be lip synced and mocked in a 15 second clip if they have to! Along with growing their social media profile up on Weibo, it’s one of the only ways to really increase exposure to the masses in our country.

This new dawn of content consumption is one of the main reasons we decided to launch Channel R, a new short-form digital channel that features a host of original music shows, documentaries and film.

“Channel R – while not a platform designed for user-generated content – is representative of a new type of ‘music label’.”

Our ‘Rhythm’ strand features new music documentary/reality series ‘Street Credit in London’ – a coproduction of 5-minute episodes with Tencent that sees Chinese rapper AfterJourney (4.3 million Weibo followers) join forces with British grime star Cadell to trace the roots of the grime genre. This has recently been followed up with an instalment titled ‘Street Credit in Chongqing’ – that sees British grime star Lady Leshurr collaborate with Chinese rap artist and music producer Bridge (2 million Weibo followers). Within a bite-sized format, both series provide fantastic entertainment while providing the Chinese fans with a fresh insight into the grime genre.

Channel R – while not a platform designed for user-generated content – is representative of a new type of ‘music label’ that promotes international collaborations with artists from a range of genres, including urban music and electronic dance music (EDM). These sorts of partnerships are another way of providing a pathway for western artists to make a breakthrough into the Chinese market.

Our company is currently seeking out further collaborations with up and coming and established international music stars to work on shorter form video projects, whether that’s documentaries, reality shows or standalone music videos. It’s an incredible opportunity to gain more exposure in our market.

We are now in a strong position to realise a wealth of new opportunities after our stakeholder CMC’s multiple investments in the music world. CMC is making further gains by branching out into live EDM music events and in April this year successfully launched EDC in Shanghai, which is being followed up by a second EDC show in Guangdong in China this month (November).

EDM is a great music genre and offers diversified opportunities including clubbing, festivals, fashion and concerts – it’s the kind of music that can travel well internationally without any language barrier while also appealing to Chinese millennials. All of this puts in a great position to boost our production pipeline of short-form content and means artists from these events also have a chance to make it onto the small screen.

But whether you’re a channel operator, producer or a performer, we all need to be realistic about how turn this into a fruitful business partnership. Clearly, a lot of this comes down to the relationship between ourselves and the artists’ management teams and how we work together to generate substantial economic returns.

Nonetheless, the clear advantage of working in the short-form space is that content requires less production time and lower production costs – so we should all see a relatively large return from very little investment compared to working on a larger project. Indeed, after 20 years of downturn, the great news is that music streaming companies are finally making money and consumers are willing to pay for music in China, which can only be good news for content creators.

As it stands, it seems there is nothing that can stop the short-form boom. Inevitably, when anything gets this popular in China, some corners begin to call for tighter Government regulation – as seen recently with authorities clamping down on some video apps for showing illegal or offensive content. No doubt we will see more of this in in the coming months.

But I see no reason why this sector cannot grow responsibly at its current rate in a variety of forms. And with ByteDance recently incorporating fellow short-form video app Musical.ly into Douyin, the opportunities for artists – both from China and further afield – seem infinite.

Music Business Worldwide