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Tencent’s music app Joox sees surge in karaoke users as virus brings Hong Kong’s love for singing online

Written by South China Morning Post Published on 

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Joox, which has a music library of 30 million tracks, aims to compete with global rivals by using its knowledge of local markets in the region.

The karaoke function on Tencent Holdings’ Joox music streaming app has recorded a 50% surge in users, according to the Chinese internet and social media giant, as the coronavirus outbreak changes the way people consume music and entertainment, and the way they pay for it.

The app recorded an increase in both users singing karaoke and those watching, Poshu Yeung, vice-president of Tencent’s international business group, said in an interview on Thursday. Users are also watching more livestreaming by more than a dozen local artists performing online in “marathon-style” concerts, he added.

“It aligns with the industry trend where video-related content is receiving a boost during the pandemic,” Yeung said.

Tencent first launched the Joox app in Hong Kong in 2015 amid a move to tap burgeoning demand for digital music across the Asia-Pacific, and it now operates in five other international markets including Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, and South Africa.

At stake is a USD 3 billion music streaming market in Asia in 2020, according to estimates by Statista, which has attracted international players including Spotify and YouTube’s music service. Last year, Spotify launched a slimmed-down version of its music streaming app for emerging markets, aiming to win users with speedier and easier installations.

Hong Kong’s increasing appetite for online karaoke and music performance comes as the city and governments around the world continue to battle the highly-infectious COVID-19 disease, resulting in lockdowns, social distancing measures, and a negative impact on traditional brick-and-mortar businesses.

Last week, Hong Kong shut down karaoke lounges, mahjong parlors, and nightclubs to curb the growing community spread of the coronavirus, which has now infected over 800 people in Hong Kong.

In mainland China, where large-scale lockdowns were imposed in late January, people stranded at home have turned to digital entertainment such as livestreamed concerts and online clubbing. In February, nearly 2.3 million people reportedly tuned into Beijing club SIR TEEN’s live concert.

Clubs in Shanghai have also reportedly been able to rake in millions of yuan in revenue by hosting online music events on Douyin, China’s version of ByteDance’s TikTok.

The traditional commuting hours are no longer the peak period for livesteaming, said Yeung. Usage of music streaming is now more evenly distributed throughout the day as people stay at home to work, and logins from desktop users have surged by more than 25% in the recent period, he added.

Hong Kong people are also turning to music to voice their feelings, with streaming of Dicky Cheung’s classic song Stay Healthy, which was released in 2002, surging over 40 times a week in February.

Joox, which has a music library of 30 million tracks, aims to compete with global rivals by using its knowledge of local markets in the region, Yeung said. Describing the app as a “pan-entertainment” service rather than a music streaming app, Yeung noted that Joox’s karaoke function and livestreaming of concerts, such as K-pop ceremonies, has hit the right notes with Asian consumers.

Joox was the most downloaded music streaming app in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand, according to a report by market researcher Ipsos in 2018.

The COVID-19 outbreak could also drive the wider adoption of digital payments in Hong Kong, which has experienced a relatively slow uptake of new payment services as the city traditionally relies on cash and credit cards for payments.

As people spend more time indoors, Tencent recorded “double-digit” growth of users paying utility bills via WeChat Pay, the e-wallet in Tencent’s multipurpose app WeChat, according to Yeung.

“Tech-savvy young people used to be the main group of digital payment users, but now a broader range of people are willing to try it out to avoid leaving home to pay bills,” Yeung said. “In the long run, the coronavirus outbreak could be a stimulus for Hong Kong’s overall trend of digital payments.”

This article first appeared in the South China Morning Post.

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