Why is it so hard to release a song? Not only is the publishing process cumbersome, but the promotion of new songs is also very tricky.
At 11 o’clock on the morning of November 28, singer Li Ronghao (李荣浩) posed on Weibo saying that he finished producing his new album in May and has been waiting for the company and agent’s arrangement for a release ever since; but from September to December, they are still “processing”. “If I can’t have it released by December 5, I’ll just find a home appliance repair forum, and just post all the songs. I refuse to believe that I can’t live without you (my agents and my company)” He said.
This post worked great as a marketing campaign for Li Ronghao’s new album. His humor sent him onto the Weibo trending list. Li is known for creative marketing tactics. When his album Ear was released in 2018, it also trended on Weibo because it contained a song that’s only 4 seconds long.
Before the song was released, some media revealed that Li Ronghao left Warner Music Group and set up a studio for himself.
Is releasing a new song really as difficult as Li Ronghao described? How do musicians choose between releasing new songs on streaming platforms for free or for sale? How do you promote a new song? China Music Business News discussed these issues at Chengdu’s with many guests.
△ Guest Yanon亚侬, Xie Yanyao谢颜遥, Yang Wei杨薇, Hu Wei胡嵬, Gu Xuan顾翾, and moderator Lucy Dong (from left to right)
Exclusive vs. All Network?
For Free or For Sale?
These are the two choices every musician and their team faces.
Major distribution channels in China include Tencent Music, NetEase Cloud Music, Xiami Music, and Apple Music. Weibo is the main channel for promotion. Musicians and their teams negotiate with streaming platforms to decide whether to release the song on one platform exclusively or distribute across all major platforms.
Xie Yanyao, an artist manager at Black Market Music Production and public relations manager of Accupass Entertainment, said that things are more complicated for her because she mostly represents bands from Taiwan. She and her team generally like to hold on to the copyrights instead of signing them over to the streaming platforms, and find a publisher to take care of the mainland release. For example, JADE EYES’s 2019 EP Crave were distributed across the entire network. But she also said she sometimes sells distribution rights exclusively to one platform.
However, Xie Yanyao acknowledged that not having a mainland cell phone number is very inconvenient. So she has to hire a publisher to upload songs for her for a fee.
Recently, M_DSK’s artist mostly releases a single and its music video at the same time.
According to label manager Yanong, Modern Sky’s Hip-Hop sublabel M_DSK has a standard publishing process even though it’s a Hip-Hop label.
“The key of a good promotion is creating a comprehensive game plan utilizing all platforms to the fullest extent,” he said. He also revealed that M_DSK takes Weibo very seriously.
As for putting the album up for sale, the current operation method and profit-sharing model is already mature.
On November 28, New pants and Wowkie’s paid single “The Feelings We Are Ashamed to Express” went on sale for 3 yuan per digital copy.
Regarding why the company chose to sell the single not letting users stream for free, Modern Sky Vice President Hu Wei (agent of New Pants) said that on the one hand, selling is a general trend of the industry. As a music industry practitioner, he has always wanted to promote the payment of music. On the other hand, the popularity of New Pants and Wowkie Zhang would guarantee good sales numbers.
The latest data shows that the song sold a total of 108,800 copies on QQ Music and 122,000 on NetEase Cloud Music. Hu Wei believes that the good sales number indicates that paid digital albums are the future.
Weibo Music has played a vital role in terms of new album promotion for eight years because fans are here, official accounts of major labels and singers are also here.
Yang Wei, Musical Director of Weibo, said, “No matter which streaming platform the song is going to be released on, musicians always tell their fans on Weibo first.”
She also summarized three stages of song promotion for us:
First, teaser. A teaser can be anything as long as it catches fans’ attention, It can be formal, or simple, or fun. A good example is Li Ronghao’s Weibo post about releasing a new album on appliance repair forum.
Second, visualization. Most new song release are paired with a music video. Any video promotion is effective, according to our experience with Weibo.
Third, spreading the news through a network of regular fans and influencers. The artist and/or their management company usually post the song first. The fans and their artist friends see it, and they are likely to repost it. And then, music critics on Weibo would repost and recommend to fans. There would also be cover videos circling around that leads fans to the original song.
△ JADE EYES
With the rise of short video apps and live streaming platforms, the impact of video on music becomes more prominent. Xie Yanyao figured “people’s attention span is getting shorter and shorter, which requires visual quality to be better.”
For independent musicians, song quality used to be their number one priority. But now video quality is more important. They must capture the audience’s attention in a very short amount of time with great visuals.
Chinese artists also have a lot of untapped potential on social media overseas. Gu Yi, director of marketing at Onesight, said that even though Chinese food bloggers are popular on YouTube, musicians are paying little attention to the platform. Judging from the huge success Kpop artists have on YouTube, we can see that Chinese musicians have room for growth overseas.
Whether it is Weibo, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, artists always need to create a distinct personality in order to be memorable among the public. But without quality to back it up, any promotional tactic wouldn’t be able to sustain the popularity of a song for very long.
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