China gains online indie music store

An online music store for China has opened up for business, offering non-Chinese independent labels and artists a rare route into the local music market.

Digital distributor IODA has partnered with R2G, a leading digital distributor in China to launch the Wawawa Music Store at www.wa3.cn.

This could be a good – though challenging – market to enter: a recent survey found one in three music fans in China will pay for downloads, particularly music they can’t find in music shops.

The service is also yet more proof that the days of DRM, at least for a la carte music downloads, are numbered. Wawawa sells DRM-free MP3’s via a monthly subscription plan, with downloads then permanently owned by the customer (kind of like the eMusic model). One interesting twist, that really should be repeated, the service lets users stream their downloads when they aren’t near their home collection.

“Wawawa opens this huge new market to the independent sector for the first time with an offering that we believe is the right combination of convenience, price, and content selection for the increasingly adventurous Chinese music fan,” said Kevin Arnold, founder and CEO of IODA.

Artists represented in the store include Bob Marley & The Wailers, San Francisco Symphony, Thurston Moore, David Byrne, NOFX, Frank Black, Sly & Robbie, CAKE, Ali Farka Toure, Kruder & Dorfmeister, Dennis Ferrer, Suzanne Bacca, Kenny Dope & Louis Vega, Lyrics Born, Aventura, Blind Pilot, Woodhands and Shanghai Restoration Project.

For one artist, at least, the allure of performing in China makes the service interesting: “Our label, Paper Bag Records, arranged for us to play two shows in Beijing in May, which were both electric. Hundreds of kids danced and screamed while we played, the crowd answering my screams with one hungry, unified screaming voice back at me, unlike anything I had ever experienced before,” said Dan Werb of Canadaian band Woodhands.

“It was incredibly moving, and you got the sense that the local music community was totally energized. There’s definitely something important developing here, and it’s rooted in a growing appetite for new ideas and music.”

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