WeChat’s Tencent enters music-streaming fray with Joox
By Edwin Yapp June 30, 2015
- Multicultural and multi-language Malaysia second market to get service
- Curators to give localised touch, local servers to boost speed and reliability
THE music streaming world just got a whole lot more competitive, especially in Malaysia, with a new player joining the ranks of Spotify, Deezer and Raku in an already crowded marketplace.
On June 26, Tencent Holdings Ltd introduced Joox, its online music streaming service. Tencent is also the owner and operator of the hugely popular WeChat instant messaging software.
The Joox app is now available on both Apple Inc’s App Store and Google Play for download for iOS and Android devices, respectively. The service went live on June 24, and the app has chalked up more than 100,000 downloads since.
However, there are no plans yet to make the app available to any other operating system, company officials said.
The name Joox is a play on the word ‘jukebox.’ Malaysia is the second market Tencent is offering Joox in, following its worldwide debut in Hong Kong in January this year.
The service is available in three user interfaces and content selections – ‘Melayu Hits,’ ‘Chinese Hits’ and ‘International.’
The Shenzhen, China-based Internet company claimed it provides an extensive library of local and global music from favourite artistes across Malaysia, Asia and international markets.
Speaking to the media on June 26, Angie Tan, business development director of WeChat Malaysia, said Malaysia was chosen as the second launch country due to its diverse culture and vernacular languages.
Noting that Malaysia has a combination of English, Chinese and Malay speaking audiences, Tan said launching Joox here is like giving the company a chance “to do so in three different regions.”
“Joox features music from both local and international artistes of different languages,” she said at the launch. “We have a wide array of local choices as we cater to the local listening tastes.”
Later on the sidelines of the launch, Tan told Digital News Asia (DNA), “We see the potential in Malaysia. One launch here is like launching three sets of content [due to the three different languages spoken in Malaysia].
“If we’re able to gain a successful experience in Malaysia, we will get valuable feedback, which we can use to improve the product,” she added.
When asked what differentiates Joox from the other established players – Spotify, Deezer, and Astro’s Raku – all of which have had a longer presence in the market, Tan said that besides being a streaming music service that serves three different languages, Joox also offers a distinct ‘local flavour’ with a stream of recommended playlists.
These playlists are specifically handpicked by local music curators based on Malaysian trends and activities, as well as the latest music releases, she added.
Local experts, local servers
Tan said Joox’s music curators, who are Malaysians, offer a personalised approach for music lovers to simplify their music browsing experience.
Through their recommendations, users are said to be able to explore and discover hidden music repertoires, and new artistes and releases from different genres of music, she claimed.
“Local music content isn’t only about the language itself,” she said. “It’s about trends that reflect what is happening in the country itself. By having this curation, we believe we can be different from the rest.”
Katie Lee, assistant general manager of Tencent’s global communication group, said that the people chosen for these curator roles are locals and experts in their fields.
“This curation service is run by knowledgeable people in the country we operate in,” she said. “As we go to other countries in the region, we will continue to offer this as part of our service – and this is what makes Joox different.
Tan said Tencent is also ensuring that the Joox music streaming service is quick and reliable by making the content available on local servers.
Quizzed as to which countries Tencent will go into next with Joox, Tan declined to reveal details, saying only that the company will “definitely” roll out its service in the South-East Asian market in phases.
The Joox music streaming service is based on a freemium model: Users can download the app and use most of its features for free, while those who want more features will have an option to upgrade to Joox’s premium subscription service, Tan said.
The premium service will enable users to receive further add-on benefits such as access to a wider array of songs, being able to download songs for offline usage, ad-free music streaming, as well as being able to listen to high-definition quality soundtracks.
First-time Joox registrants however can get a taste of the premium service for free for the first 30 days, after which they will have to opt in to the service by subscribing to it for RM14.90 (US$3.90) per month.
Users who sign up upfront for either the three-, six- or 12-month package will receive some discounts for doing so.
The Joox app is also tightly integrated with WeChat, WeChat Moments and Facebook, so that users can share or post comments about the songs they are listening to in real time, according to Tencent.
Asked if the company had any targets given its nascent entry, Tan said Tencent is “definitely hoping to go mass market,” but it currently does not have specific numbers.
“Our KPI (key performance indicator) is to achieve as much as possible, but we do not have a specific number to reach as I believe that unlike in the West, it’s still too new a market to predict,” she argued.
“For us, we are more concerned about the user experience and feedback in the markets we enter. If Malaysians love this app, we would have achieved our targets,” she declared.
No mobile tie-up yet
One drawback for now though is that Tencent has not cut any deals with Malaysian telcos, which means that users who stream music via their smartphones will have their mobile data quotas gobbled up.
Acknowledging that this is still an issue and claiming that it will be eventually addressed, Tan said data is a key factor for access to a streaming service such as Joox.
“We’re in talks with different mobile operators, but to date, we have no confirmed plans as yet,” she said.
For now, Tan conceded that users would still have to listen when connected to a free or flat-rate service delivered over WiFi, although she was quick to point out that premium users can download songs in a WiFi zone and listen offline while on the move.
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