Chinese mainland misses out on Apple Music launch

The initial launch of Apple Music has skipped the Chinese mainland, but in future faces stiff competition from local music-streaming services Tencent and Baidu, which shoulder high-cost royalties in order to provide low-cost services to consumers.

Apple fans on the Chinese mainland are unable to cheer the launch of Apple Music, with the service not included in the iOS 8.4 update on Wednesday.

The service is, however, available in Chinese territories Hong Kong and Taiwan, with consumers paying HK$48 ($6) monthly for an individual membership, or HK$78 ($10) per month for a family deal supporting up to six devices. This costs less than the $9.99 and $14.99 monthly deals in the United States.

But few complaints were heard after missing the Apple Music launch, as people on the Chinese mainland have been enjoying almost free but legitimized music from local service providers, including Alibaba, Tencent, and Baidu, over the past few years.

Through Tencent's QQ Music, a Spotify-like service, consumers all over the Chinese mainland are able to listen to or download most songs free of charge, both online and on mobile devices.

A search result of "Taylor Swift" on QQ Music shows that there are 29 albums, 190 singles, and 293 music videos currently available, but access to Swift's music requires a Green Diamond membership. However, this membership costs only 10 yuan ($1.60) a month, and customers will then also be allowed to download higher-quality sound (including FLAC songs), and access many other exclusive albums.

And this isn't unique to only Tencent's QQ Music service; many popular music websites operated by Chinese technology giants like Alibaba and Baidu have inked agreements with international music companies, including Sony and Warner Music, to obtain licensing agreements for the Chinese mainland, according to a Sina News report from late June.

Tencent didn't disclose the exact amount of Green Diamond members it has. The Sina report said that the number may have exceeded 3 million.

The record industry lobby group IFPI said the Chinese mainland "remains a music market of enormous untapped potential, with an online user base of 650 million people and a growing number of licensed digital services".

IFPI also noted that there is an undeveloped culture of paying for music in the territory, and online piracy has also held back the growth of paid music in the country.