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Indie Musicians’ Love Hate Relationship with Weibo Weibo blocks ticketing information of many indie musicians, causing outrage in the community

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admin 2020-12-01 Collect

The word “getting clipped(被夹)” started trending among indie musicians and fans.

But what does it mean?

To put it simply, the Weibo posts that contains certain special words, sensitive words, advertisement or outside links becomes partially or completely invisible by users. Essentially, Weibo is limiting or blocking the amount of traffic of these types of posts.

Unsurprisingly, musicians had a lot of grievances about “getting clipped” on Weibo. On November 20th, Singer Lao Lang (老狼) complained that the traffic of his recent tour information and book sharing sessions were restricted by Weibo, calling it “mad for money,” and many indie musicians followed suit.

01

So, how does “getting clipped” affect indie musicians?

There are three ways independent musicians has three main channels to promote their music and tours:

  1. Public platforms: Weibo, Douyin, Kuaishou, and Bilibili.

These public platforms not only pushes information to their own fans, but also shows up as recommendations for users who like similar content, which helps the information reach more people. More importantly, social media popularity is, to a large extent, proportional to a musician’s attractiveness to brands. Brand endorsement and collaboration has been a very important income source for many musicians.

2. Private domains: WeChat official accounts, Weibo and WeChat fan communities.

In the past two years, almost all indie musicians and bands have established their own official WeChat communities. Not only younger musicians are paying more attention to their fan community and WeChat accounts, many older musicians are also seeking more in-depth connection with fans through private domain platforms.

In fact, the private domain platforms can greatly increase the engagement and stickiness of fans if operated well.

3. Commercial promotion. First of all, performance venues will actively promote tour information for better box office. spread performance information based on box office demand. Moreover, musicians usually does interviews with media and influencers in the area to promote their music or tour.

4. Spontaneous traffic. Music fans often share information about records and performances they like. Word of mouth can sometimes be very effective.

Among all these channels, private domain channels can only reach core fanbase, commercial promotion is either out of the musician’s control or require time and money, and word of mouth among fans are also out of control, so public platforms are the most effective.

Among the many public platforms, even though Douyin has around the same MAU as Weibo, but very few indie musicians have Douyin accounts. Most have Weibo accounts. Among the few musicians on Douyin, many tried it for a bit and stopped updating their account, such as Mr. Sea Turtle, The Face, New Pants, and Hedgehog. Most musicians do post on their Bilibili account regularly but the content is mostly just music videos and Vlogs.

Douyin, Kuaishou and Bilibili all require time and effort to operate, and they can only host video content.

But Weibo not only allows musicians to post pictures or videos and/or text anytime, anywhere, but also makes it easy to interact with other musicians and friends.

Therefore, Weibo is an important platform for musicians to announce their new releases and tours, “getting clipped” means that their promotional events, music releases, and performance information will not get promoted properly.

As the lead singer of rock band Hedgehog Zhao Zijian said: “As a indie musician, there is only so little room for survival, the importance of Weibo is self-evident.”

02

In fact, Weibo’s traffic restriction is not aimed at independent musicians or the live entertainment industry, but at all marketing content on all platform. Its unsaid purpose is to force users to pay Weibo to promote their content.

Founded more than a decade ago, Sina Weibo, the one we have now, squeezed out Tencent Weibo and Sohu Weibo to become the monopoly in this area. However, Weibo repeated incites users for scandalous behaviors  such as selling advertisement spot on trending, taking down trending hashtags for money, forcing users to pay for promotion and many other desperate attempts to make money.

On May 19th, Weibo released its first quarter 2020 financial report. At the end of March this year, Weibo had 550 million monthly active users and 241 million daily active users, which increased 85 million and 38 million, respectively, which both set the record for highest single-quarter net growth.

However, the increase in MAUs did not bring in more revenue for Weibo. It’s financial report showed that Weibo’s net revenue in the first quarter was US$323.4 million, which decreased 19% year-on-year; net profit was US$52.1 million, decreased 65% compared with US$150.4 million in the same period last year.

In addition, Weibo’s Q4 2019 revenue was US$468.1 million and Q1 2020 revenue was 3% less than that. This is the first time that Weibo’s revenue fell quarter-over-quarter.

In a sense, Lao Lang calling Weibo “mad for money” is quite accurate.

In addition, in addition to financial anxiety, Weibo also faces pressure from regulatory bodies.

On June 10th this year, the Beijing Cyberspace Administration met with executives of Sina Weibo, ordering it to suspend Weibo Trending chart and hot topic chart for a week after being accused of taking down trending hashtag for money.

This is just one example of close regulatory oversight on Weibo.

As a platforms with the largest information flow on the internet, Weibo has the obligation to strictly censor the information on the platform, which also leads to Weibo being very sensitive about outside link because they often serve as portals to anti-government or pornographic content.

Later, Weibo has released a blog post in response saying that they are taking this issue very carefully and they promised to create new policies for musicians’ music and performance information.

After Weibo responded, Livehouse owner twitted to Weibo Music official account, hoping that Weibo will solve the long-standing problem that Weibo limited the traffic of performance information from livehouse official accounts.

Lao Lang retweeted that post saying:” Livehouses are the most exciting corner of every city, the home of independent musicians, and also a sentimental enterprise that can’t make a lot of money. Please give them some space to survive.”

Weibo expressed gratitude towards Lao Lang and other musicians for bringing the issue to their attention.

Hopefully this problem will be solved soon and musicians will stop “getting clipped” and get back to their normal promotional activities.

For Weibo, it’s time to think about how to better service the large amount of indie musicians, small venues and indie music fans on the platform.

For indie musicians, this should be an opportunity to get out of their comfort zone, and look for a more diversified, far reaching way to promote their music and tours.

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