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TikTok owner ByteDance to launch paid music service; secures rights from T-Series, Times Music

China’s ByteDance Ltd, which owns TikTok, is building a paid music service that it plans to launch in emerging markets later this year, Bloomberg reports, citing people familiar with the matter. While it doesn’t specify which countries, the report says ByteDance has secured rights from T-Series and Times Music but is yet to secure rights from Universal, Warner and Sony, which suggests the company will focus on Asia first and North America, Europe and Latin America later. The new app won’t be named after TikTok, ByteDance’s most popular app in India and worldwide, but will try to monetise TikTok’s user base by convincing some to become paying customers. It will have songs and videos on demand but isn’t a clone of Spotify or Apple Music, Bloomberg’s sources say.

While Tiktok gave ByteDance a worldwide presence, the company relies heavily on ads on monetise its huge user base. The paid music service is an attempt to diversify its sources of income and show that music subscriptions can work in emerging markets. Another reason why it is looking at music specifically is that TikTok already has a huge influence on the music industry – the current number 1 song worldwide, Old Road Town, first became popular in videos shared on TikTok.

What ByteDance will be up against

In India, ByteDance’s music app will be up against a host of local and global players, including JioSaavn, Gaana, Wynk, Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube Music and Amazon Music. Most charge users ₹99 a month and offer discounts to those who pay for a multi-month subscription in advance. Unlike Netflix, which can charge users a premium thanks to exclusive rights and original productions, all music streaming services have essentially the same catalogue and so must charge around the same. Here’s what each service costs per month:

  • JioSaavn Rs 99
  • Gaana Rs 99
  • Hungama Music Rs 99
  • Wynk Music Rs 99
  • Amazon Music Rs 93.25*
  • Apple Music Rs 99, reduced in April from earlier cost of Rs 120
  • Spotify Rs 119 (Rs 39 for a week; Rs 59 a month for students)
  • YouTube Music Rs 99

*Amazon Music comes with a ₹999 annual subscription to Amazon Prime, which also includes Video. Amazon Music is not sold separately.

Many listeners in India, but few pay

A study by the Indian Music Industry (IMI) and Deloitte earlier this year said that there were nearly 150 million music streaming users – or about 11% of the population – at the end of December 2018. But less than 1% of these users pay for a subscription, and about 14 percent have a bundled subscription (such as Amazon Prime, or through a mobile contract). The remaining 85 percent stream music with free subscriptions.

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