MBW’s World Leaders is a regular series in which we turn the spotlight toward some of the most influential industry figures overseeing key international markets. In this feature, we speak to Sherry Tan, Managing Director of Warner Music China. World Leaders is supported by PPL.
China’s music market has been on a remarkable upward trajectory for a number of years.
Back in 2015, the country was ranked as the world’s 14th biggest music market according to IFPI data.
It then climbed two places to reach 12th by 2016 and continued rising, taking the No.10 spot in 2020.
Now, according to IFPI’s most-recent Global Music Report, in 2021, China is the world’s sixth-largest music market, after overtaking South Korea (now No.7), the home of K-pop.
Home to streaming giant Tencent Music Entertainment and its rival, NetEaseCloud Music, one driver behind China’s music market growth is the performance of its wider music streaming landscape.
Tencent Music Entertainment, owner of apps like QQ Music, Kugou Music and Kuwo Music, ended Q2 2022 with 82.7 million paying music users.
Rival NCM, saw its own monthly online music-paying users rise to 37.6 million at the end of June 2022.
Combined, as of Q2 2022, TME and NCM had 120.3 million paying users in China alone. Spotify, the world’s largest subscription music streaming service, had 188 million subscribers worldwide at the end of Q2.
Warner Music, which operates in China alongside rival major music companies Sony Music and Universal Music Group, as well as various prominent domestic players, tells MBW that its own revenues in the market are now six times larger than in 2014.
Heading up Warner Music China is Managing Director Sherry Tan, who joined in June 2021 from Mengxing Media, a start-up company she co-founded and which worked with entertainment figures such as singer and actor Kris Wu and TV director Zhang Li.
Tan grew up in China but moved to the US when she was a teenager. After graduating from NYU with a master’s degree in Music Business, she joined Sony Music in New York in 2005 as an International Marketing Department Coordinator.
The exec later relocated to Beijing and was promoted to Director of Sony‘s office there in 2007, playing a key role in the Asia-focused campaigns for superstar artists like Alicia Keys, Avril Lavigne, Celine Dion and Leona Lewis.
In 2009, Tan moved to Fremantle Media and worked on some of China’s top TV shows like China’s Got Talent, Chinese Idol and X Factor.
At Fremantle, Tan worked at Creative Artists Agency China, working with actors, artists and celebrities including Danial Wu, Karen Mok, Kris Wu, Leehom Wang and Tang Wei.
In 2018, Tan co-founded Mengxing Media, which worked with singer and actor Kris Wu as well as TV director Zhang Li. The company licensed the rights of movies and entertainment shows for import and export to China, and co-produced TV shows including The Voice and Tmall Double Eleven Gala 2020.
Partnerships struck by WM China since Tan joined as MD, include a strategic deal with “League of Legends” to jointly create and promote new theme songs, and a local collaboration deal with ByteDance-owned Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, which the Business of Apps estimates has 700 million daily active users. WM China tells MBW its media content on Douyin has reached billions of views.
Tan says that Douyin has “become one of the most effective promotional channels in the country,” adding that WM China plans to “continue to explore more potential partnership opportunities with Douyin and other similar platforms”.
Commenting on the explosion of short-form video content on the likes of Douyin, Tan adds that “short-form video has changed the way music is now performed, shared, and enjoyed,” and adds that “this allows for more people to discover our music”.
She notes, however, that “competition for eyeballs is fierce as people have only got limited time to spend every day”.
Here, Sherry Tan tells us about Warner Music’s objectives in China, challenges in the market, and opportunities in gaming, Web3 and short-form video.
In addition to achieving our vision of becoming the most localized international label in China, we can’t wait to create more influential songs that people love, and enhance Warner Music’s reputation by providing our artists and the market with more value-added services. We also plan to explore more high-impact win-win IP partnership opportunities, and think outside the box to search for more diversified business projects and innovative deals.
“Warner Music China wants to be the partner of choice for domestic artists that want to build a global career and for international acts that want to break in the world’s sixth largest recorded music market.”
Warner Music China wants to be the partner of choice for domestic artists that want to build a global career and for international acts that want to break in the world’s sixth largest recorded music market. We also want to be at the forefront of developing our industry’s culture, making sure that everyone who works in music feels safe and valued.
The Covid pandemic has had a significant impact on the planning and organizing of live performances and activities. Nonetheless, nothing will stop people’s enthusiasm for music, and fans are turning to online streams to get their dose of music and concerts, accelerating the digital revolution in music around the country.
To capitalize on the rapid changes in the way music is now performed, shared and enjoyed, we have helped put together many online concerts, as well as live streaming events on different DSPs.
We have also produced a number of songs aimed at short-form video services designed to encourage fans to create and share content. These songs have proved to be a huge success.
Warner Music is different to other local Chinese labels because of its global network and international insights. As our operations span the globe, we’re able to draw on the combined resources and experiences of our multiple affiliates across the region to offer an array of A&R, marketing and promotional services to help our roster grow their fan base across the East and into the West.
“Warner Music is different to other local Chinese labels because of its global network and international insights.”
And compared to other international labels, we feel we’re the most localized international label in China. We’re very much committed to the Chinese market and are willing to invest in local artists and the wider ecosystem on a long-term basis.
This was recognized by Topklout.com, which named Warner Music one of China’s most active entertainment companies. We’re the only international company to have made it on the list, coming in at Number Two and beating other top domestic entertainment companies.
Warner Music’s strength also lies in our willingness to invest in artists who are at different stages of their careers and our commitment to build trusting long-term relationships.
Although there may be cultural differences between the East and the West, we believe that music has no boundaries and it can always find a way to everyone’s heart.
We will continue to promote C-POP music to the rest of world and look forward to introducing music from China to fans from around the globe.
Short-form video platforms have changed the way fans enjoy and share music. More and more people are watching videos and spending money on China’s short video apps. That’s why we’ve partnered with various DSPs in the country to create and promote music that gets us one step closer to this trend and to reach massive audiences.
“More and more people are watching videos and spending money on China’s short video apps.”
Another business trend that we are seeing in China are the opportunities in soundtracks. Despite a drop in the box office due to the Covid pandemic, soundtracks have remained an effective way of promoting music. Warner Music China has tailormade a number of soundtracks for several blockbusters recently.
One recent example is the movie Moon Man, which soared as China’s latest box-office champion grossing over 3 billion RMB since its release. This film has introduced our artist CoCo Lee’s new song Finale and Jin Zhi Wen’s Leave the Moon Behind to a massive audience and in turn increased our digital streaming on DSPs.
Games are now an essential part of the music market in China. Music in Games (MUGA) including theme songs, background music and game promotion music provide millions of gamers with a way to discover new songs. And because people are introduced to this music while playing a game they love, they develop a strong emotional attachment to it.
League of Legends is one of the most influential and popular video games in China. It has about 60 million registered players in the country, and has been credited for delivering massive and instantaneous exposure to audiences who then stream the tracks in full on DSPs.
There is a huge audience crossover straddling gaming and music, and we hope that through our partnership with the League of Legends, we can present our music to players in an innovate and creative way.
Douyin is one of the most popular short-form video platforms in China and has therefore become one of the most effective promotional channels in the country.
We’re working very closely with Douyin on various projects, including the creation of a number of short-form video oriented songs tailormade for it to encourage fan-created content.
“We’re working very closely with Douyin on various projects, including the creation of a number of short-form video oriented songs tailormade for it to encourage fan created content.”
This deal will enable our artists to benefit from exposure on Douyin’s platform, helping it attract and retain users by enhancing their experience and accelerate the amount of fan-created content.
In addition to being a great marketing tool, Douyin is also an excellent channel for our A&R execs to use when searching for new talent. We’ll continue to explore more potential partnership opportunities with Douyin and other similar platforms.
Web3 is poised to revolutionize and transform the music industry. We’re working with some of the country’s top tech firms to explore all new metaverse-related opportunities for our artists.
“Web3 is poised to revolutionize and transform the music industry.”
For example, Warner Music’s strategic investment approach to Web3 and its global infrastructure have enabled us to sign an exclusive deal with Chinese superstar G.E.M. to release her Metaverse-themed album.
We embrace fair competition in free markets, and also respect the laws of all local jurisdiction. We believe that great music deserves to be heard by as many people as possible.
Our industry has developed in a different way to that of Europe and North America. We can’t simply clone their approach as what works there, may well not work here.
To become a truly localized international label in China, we need to create meaningful connections with fans by adapting our music products to their preferences, and continuously evolving to the country’s highly dynamic domestic market to create songs that resonate with Chinese audiences.
Short-form video has changed the way music is performed, shared, and enjoyed. Although this allows for more people to discover our music, competition for eyeballs is fierce as people have only got limited time to spend every day.
With the development of this new consumption format, we’re not just competing with other music labels, but also with different types of entertainment companies from around the world.
I sincerely hope that the Web3 technology will develop and mature soon, so that everyone can listen to, share and create music freely in the virtual world, while artists who create it benefit from its use.
I look forward to seeing a metaverse where we, or perhaps even our avatars, could perform; it’d be a place where there’s no negativity, no pessimism, only music and music lovers.
World Leaders is supported by PPL, a leading international neighbouring rights collector, with best-in-class operations that help performers and recording rightsholders around the world maximise their royalties. Founded in 1934, PPL collects money from across Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North and South America. It has collected over £500 million internationally for its members since 2006.Music Business Worldwide
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