Mu­sic mak­ers

Apps give mil­lions of users made-at-home en­ter­tain­ment

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By XU LIN xulin@chi­nadaily.com.cn

It’s the dead of night and Yang Jie is star­ing at her mo­bile phone and feel­ing sen­ti­men­tal. She puts on her ear­phones, swipes the screen and starts to sing to the mu­sic com­ing from it. “I love singing be­cause it re­lieves the pres­sure and helps me re­lax, espe­cially when I’m feel­ing down,” says Yang, 28, an of­fice worker from Bei­jing. She par­tic­u­larly likes pop songs by singers such as Karen Joy Mor­ris and Rene Liu.

“When some­one clicks a ‘like’ but­ton to my song on the app I use I feel a sense of achieve­ment and post more songs,” she says.

Chi­nese have taken to us­ing such apps by the mil­lions in re­cent years as a way of pro­vid­ing them­selves made-at-home en­ter­tain­ment that then al­lows them to earn ku­dos among friends and strangers alike. In the quest for plau­dits and in­ner sat­is­fac­tion they can send their per­for­mances to those they know or share it on their so­cial me­dia pages.

Users can broad­cast through live stream­ing or video­tape them­selves and up­load the clip later. If they lack the skills to sing a song in their own style they can closely fol­low the style of a recorded orig­i­nal, and if what they pro­duce leaves some­thing to be de­sired they can even mod­ify the way their voice sounds. They can also com­pete with oth­ers to be in the app’s rank­ing list so as to draw more fans.

Some well-known singers use the apps, and their fans can in­ter­act with them.

“It’s hu­man na­ture to sing,” says Chen Hua, founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive of Bei­jing Changba Tech­nol­ogy Co Ltd.

“There has al­ways been a de­mand for peo­ple who can sing, and there al­ways will be. Noth­ing has changed ex­cept the stage on which they per­form.”

Changba says its karaoke app has about 30 mil­lion ac­tive users a month on av­er­age, about 62 per­cent of them girls and women. Most users are aged be­tween 20 and 25.

Chen says users are al­ways want­ing changes and new fea­tures for the app, which means the com­pany is al­ways hav­ing to up­grade it.

“The so­cial as­pects are im­por­tant in our app. Users can in­ter­act with those who have things in com­mon with them.”

Ji Mingzhong, prod­uct di­rec­tor of the dig­i­tal mu­sic depart­ment of Ten­cent Mu­sic En­ter­tain­ment (Shen­zhen) Co Ltd, says: “A mo­bile app al­lows you to dis­trib­ute your beau­ti­ful singing on­line.”

The com­pany is owned by Chi­nese in­ter­net gi­ant Ten­cent Inc. Ten­cent’s WeSing of­fers users a strong so­cial net­work, thanks to the sup­port of its pop­u­lar in­stant mes­sag­ing app WeChat and QQ .

“The con­nec­tiv­ity func­tion plays an im­por­tant role in keep­ing app users ac­tive,” Ji says. “You can in­ter­act with friends, for ex­am­ple by lis­ten­ing to their singing and sing in cho­rus with them. You can also chal­lenge your friends in singing.”

Prospects for the mar­ket are good and get­ting bet­ter, he says.

“It’s es­sen­tial to in­te­grate singing with other fields such as short videos and live broad­cast­ing or ex­pand the set­tings within which the per­for­mances take place and to seek out good-qual­ity con­tent.”

Many of those who use the app will have been in­flu­enced by ac­quain­tances who use it, he says.

As long as you have tal­ent you can build up a fan base through the app and even be­come well known, he says, even without hav­ing to take part in a singing con­test on TV.

“As a singing plat­form, the app helps in­de­pen­dent mu­si­cians get their orig­i­nal works known and im­proves their in­comes so they can make ends meet.”

Some live stream their singing and sing or chat with fans. Their in­come is sub­ject to how many vir­tual gifts they re­ceive from fans.

For Liu Xing­tong, 36, a mo­bile karaoke app is a good sub­sti­tute for a karaoke bar.

“The thing about the app is that I can sing with it when­ever I want,” says Liu, an of­fice worker of Guangzhou. “Now rather than go­ing out with friends all I want to do is sing with all my heart. It’s a bit of a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion be­cause I know that if I were in a karaoke bar with them some would be singing out of tune.”

She used to fre­quent karaoke bars when she was a teenager.

“It was the golden age of karaoke. Without the in­ter­net, re­al­ity shows or so­cial me­dia, karaoke was al­most the only way for young peo­ple to have fun.”

Liu says she used to pay to record her singing in a karaoke bar but can now do so free with the app. She also likes to hear oth­ers sing.

How­ever, for some like Yang, a mo­bile app can­not re­place the ex­pe­ri­ence of singing in a karaoke bar.

She likes spend­ing time with her friends in a bar be­cause of the re­laxed at­mos­phere and good equip­ment such as stereo sound ef­fects. They of­ten choose a place that serves food, and a good time is had by all, she says.

“It’s dif­fer­ent hav­ing some­one right by your side en­joy­ing you singing rather than re­ceiv­ing a ‘ like’ on­line. The other thing is that when I’m at home us­ing the app it both­ers me that my par­ents may in­ter­rupt. In a karaoke room there are no such wor­ries.” .

In June 2014 Changba joined with Bei­jing Mysong Cul­ture Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Co Ltd to es­tab­lish Changba Mysong KTV, with more than 70 chained karaoke bars in 15 prov­inces and cities. One store has 15 to 30 rooms, the idea be­ing to max­i­mize use and min­i­mize over­heads.

“It’s karaoke com­bined with in­ter­net think­ing,” Chen says. “We’re striv­ing to pro­vide a great ex­pe­ri­ence for cus­tomers. The bright lights, good stereo and a small cat­walk in the room make them feel like su­per­stars.”

Guests can do many things with the Changba app, in­clud­ing mak­ing a reser­va­tion, re­quest­ing a song to be played and pay­ing the bill. They can also broad­cast their singing live on the app.

Chen says the num­ber of those fre­quent­ing karaoke bars is fall­ing, but the de­mand for spend­ing time with friends in such bars is still ro­bust.

Apart from the pop­u­lar­ity of mo­bile karaoke apps, there are other fac­tors be­hind the de­creas­ing pop­u­lar­ity of karaoke bars, Ji says. Among them are the many ways en­ter­tain­ment can now be de­liv­ered, the eco­nomic slow­down and the fact that con­sumers are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly picky.

“Go­ing to a karaoke bar is an im­por­tant so­cial ac­tiv­ity for Chi­nese. De­mand is weaker now, but it won’t dis­ap­pear al­to­gether. The best karaoke bars are not af­fected much and still at­tract reg­u­lar cus­tomers, but it’s dif­fer­ent for the bars that are just run of the mill.”

In the 1990s it was com­mon for Chi­nese house­holds to sing at home us­ing var­i­ous bits of equip­ment.

Ji reck­ons those days may be about to re­turn. It is now pos­si­ble to in­stall a karaoke app on an An­droid TV box, and once you have done so, the whole fam­ily can in­stantly be in the mu­sic busi­ness.

LIANG LUWEN / FOR CHINA DAILY

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

WeSing re­cently held a na­tional singing con­test in Chi­nese uni­ver­si­ties, and par­tic­i­pants can stream their singing live on the app.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

From left: Changba’s celebrity users get to­gether for a singing party; Yang Jie, 28, an of­fice worker from Bei­jing who par­tic­u­larly likes pop songs.

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