Google Inc on Monday launched free downloads of licenced songs in China, while sharing advertising revenue with major music labels in a market rife with online piracy.
Lee Kai-Fu, president of Google in greater China, said one reason Google lagged in the mainland search market was because it did not offer music downloads, the missing piece to its strategy in a market where it trails leader Baidu.com Inc.
“We are offering free, high quality and legal downloads,” Lee told reporters. “We were missing one piece … we didn’t have music.”
The service offers downloads of some 350,000 songs — from Chinese and foreign artists — a number that will rise to 1.1 million in the coming months, said Gary Chen, chief executive of Google’s partner www.Top100.cn, a Chinese music website co-founded by basketball star Yao Ming.
Music from artists signed by Sony Music, Warner Music, EMI and Universal Music will be available on the service, which Google has no current plans to expand beyond China, said Lee.
“This is the first serious attempt to start (monetizing) the online market in China. I can’t overestimate how important this is,” said Lachie Rutherford, president of Warner Music Asia Pacific and Asia chairman of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).