China is already Apple’s largest market for app downloads and the company hopes consumers will be just as eager to try out Apple Music. The streaming music service launched there today, along with iTunes Movies and iBooks.
After a three-month trial membership, Apple Music will cost 10 RMB per month, or about $1.60, which means it is the same price as a premium membership on Tencent’s QQ Music. The service will also be available for Android (which holds a 70 percent market share in China) later this fall.
Apple Music’s competitors in China already include services from Tencent, Baidu, and Netease, but all face the challenge of convincing listeners who have spent years downloading pirated music that on-demand streaming is a more attractive alternative.
Online music piracy is a huge problem in China, but the government recently launched a host of initiatives to crack down on copyright infringement. This may help Apple avoid the problems Google Music faced. Google Music Search shut down its China service in 2009, just three years after launching, because of poor performance.
Apple’s e-book and movies business will also have to deal with similar obstacles: piracy and competition from Chinese Internet giants. For example, Tencent Literature and Shanda recently announced a merger that makes it the country’s largest online publishing and ebook company, with more than three million books.
The Cupertino company has localized its entertainment services with popular Chinese artists and authors. Apple Music will give Chinese consumers access to artists like Eason Chan and Li Ronghao and iTunes Movies will offer “The Taking of Tiger Mountain,” a recent hit, for free for a limited amount of time, while iBooks has titles from local publishers.