Asian Technology Focus: The Key to the Dance Industry

By David Sorrenti

Read the full article on PULSE.

From this year’s IMS business report, we learned that electronic music buyers are twice as likely to subscribe to music streaming platforms as any other genre fans, and that electronic music fans were the third most active music group on social media. Almost every DJ has his own Facebook fan page, and from promoting to event organizing and selling tickets, everything is connected through social media.
Our ongoing studies in collaboration with IMS Asia Pacific have found the rapid rise of the Asian dance music scene to be indisputable at this point, so it’s only natural that anyone looking to develop within this growing industry should be paying close attention to the technologies through which electronic music consumers enjoy – and pay for – their music. In Asia, the focus is even more relevant, as the population in this region has the highest participation in social media and handheld devices than anywhere else in the world.

Clearly in order to understand the industry, it is crucial to learn how social media and streaming platforms in Asia work, so we decided to take a look at the current smartphone app industry in Asia, and compare the different social media, music and technology apps to those popular in Western countries.

Asia has emerged as the globe’s leading hub in the mobile app industry over the past few years. Consumers across Asia spend more time on their smartphones than in any other part of the world, with numbers reaching up to more than five hours per day on average. The major activity on social network and instant messaging apps plays an important role in the drastically increasing number of smartphone users in Asia, and popular apps continue to grow each day as the most frequently used communication platforms.

According to the statistic below, 2014 had 888.000 smartphone users in the Asian-Pacific region, with an estimated reach of 1,139.8 million users by the end of 2016, and a prediction to reach almost 1.5 million users in 2019.

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(via statista.com)

Another graph from January 2016 shows the average number of hours that users spend using social media each day, with the Philippines being the leading country with an average of 3.7 hours a day. Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia are also included in the top 10 countries, with an average time of 2.9 hours spent on social media.

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(via wearesocial.com)

Given these facts, we must question which apps are the most popular in the region, which have made a significant impact in the Asia-Pacific industry over the past few years, and how they affected the electronic music world? Let’s find out…

Social media and instant messaging apps

As we can see in this graph, Facebook is still the global leader in social media apps in the Asian region, and Facebook-owned apps like Messenger, WhatsApp and Facebook itself are represented in the top five list in almost every Asian country aside from China, where Facebook is blocked.

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(via wearesocial.com)

For the Chinese market, the instant messaging app WeChat is the strong dominator with 24% and reaches an impressive number of approximately 650 million users worldwide, with most users being based in China. WeChat initially started as a simple messaging app, but later on offered many other services like transportation (taxi, fights, train), movie tickets, online banking and more, and became the most successful social app in China, revolutionising the model of messaging apps.

Another notable messaging app is KakaoTalk, which is the leading messaging app in South Korea with 41% penetration, while Facebook Messenger, the next most used messaging app, has only 12%. Although KakaoTalk is really popular in Korea, it’s not really used much in any other country.

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The four leading messaging apps in Asia are WeChat, LINE, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger, and represent over 2.5B social users worldwide, with WeChat and LINE focused on the Asian market. Given the high number of social media users in the Asian-Pacific region, international brands must concentrate on these channels to spark new business opportunities. However, they should also know that every social media channel has different conditions for branding. WhatsApp for example doesn’t allow brand communication yet, although they recently announced that it will be available soon (but even then it might just be exclusive to Western businesses).

More diverse messaging apps like WeChat or LINE, which offer many different types of services, allow brand communication and include the branded app and browser functionality into their messaging apps, customized and integrated into the customer’s interests and activities. Aside from simple ticket selling, WeChat even allows users to add brands into their contact list, and offers a more advanced user / brand experience than in most Western countries. It is quite normal for Chinese social media users to have different brands among their friends in their contact list, which leads them to interacting and chatting with different brands through the messaging app, building consumer relationships. If they are not interested in a brand, they can simply delete it from their contact list.

This business model definitely marks the key difference in the Chinese market, and compared to the US, Chinese social media users are very comfortable with interacting with different brands through social media channels, while Western consumers are more likely to be scared off by this concept. For international brands with strong social media presence, this might just be the perfect opportunity to drive engagement with electronic music fans in the Asian-pacific market.

Music apps and streaming services

Moving on to another very important key point in the mobile app industry in Asia – and one of particular relevance to its growing dance music community – music apps and streaming services. While music streaming services are very successful in the US and in Europe, most Asian countries are still struggling with piracy and users that have long been habituated with free entertainment due to illegal downloading and pirated music websites.

Just recently, various international streaming services were able to introduce their product in Asia by adjusting the monthly subscription fee individually for each region, but also by pushing their services toward mobile, given the fact that most people in Asia go online via smartphone.

France-based streaming service Deezer for example, expanded in South East Asia in August 2012, and was available in countries like Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia shortly after. Other popular streaming apps like Spotify or Apple Music also introduced their brand in most South East Asian countries. But there are still a few individuals that have put out music apps and streaming services that are more focused on the regional market.

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According to government statistics, more than 478 million people in China (which is more than the entire population of the United States) listen to music online. Internet giant Tencent Holdings Limited, who also developed WeChat, first got popular with their instant messaging app QQ, which later on expanded to many other services and functions like online social games, shopping, blogging and music. With around 829 million subscribed users, their QQ music app is the most frequently used music app in China (around 80 million users), and it features popular tracks mainly from China, Taiwan, Japan or South Korea. Given the high piracy rate, it was definitely a courageous attempt to introduce paid music streaming service in China, and it was actually first launched in 2005 (which is even before Spotify, Deezer or Apple Music existed).

Taiwan also has a very prominent music app called KKbox, which is even outranking Spotify in the Taiwanese app market. KKbox has over 10 million users and offers over 20 million songs, and is also available in Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. Another notable music app is Malaysia-based Raku (Radio Ku). It provides access to millions of international and local songs, podcasts and more than 20 Malaysian radio stations. Raku is kind of the counterpart to the UK’s last.fm which was popular a few years back.

Understanding changing streaming and social technologies is key to success in Asian dance music industry, which is booming like never before.

Learn more at this year’s IMS Asia Pacific in Shanghai this September.