YANGON -- Major Chinese internet company Tencent Holdings is leading Myanmar's growth in music streaming services, plowing ahead while major U.S. and European providers have yet to make advances into the Southeast Asian country.
Joox, a Tencent music streaming service, provides mostly free pop music to users in the region such as Thailand and Indonesia. In Myanmar too, it has become a popular app for enjoying music on smartphones since its launch three years ago on the heels of its success in neighboring countries.
The number of music CDs sold is no longer a measure of popularity in Myanmar where the use of smartphones is expanding rapidly. The mass-market entertainment industry itself has emerged in tandem with the spread of Facebook and online streaming services.
"Moshimo," sung in the Burmese language by female and male singers from Japan, Ayaka Hirahara and Win Morisaki, stood high on the hit chart in Myanmar throughout most of February. The song was written and composed by Hirahara for a local television drama in which Morisaki, who is also an actor and was born in Myanmar, appears.
Hirahara and Morisaki introduced it for the first time at an event in Yangon, Myanmar's biggest city, in mid-January. The song became a hit through a video of their performance shown on Facebook and it ranked third on Joox's weekly Top 10 hit chart at the end of January. It soared to the top the following week, overtaking songs by local pop artists.
In developed countries such as Japan, the U.S. and European nations, streaming services like Apple Music, offered by Apple in the U.S., and Spotify of Sweden, are widely used. But Apple's mobile devices are rarely seen in Myanmar where people prefer cheaper alternatives. Spotify services are unavailable in the country.
Thus, Joox is starting to corral users in emerging economies in Southeast Asia, as if filling a void left by global companies.
Tencent launched the Joox in Hong Kong in 2015 to expand its music streaming service from mainland China to other countries and regions. After tapping Southeast Asian markets such as Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, Tencent began the service in South Africa in 2017.
Joox has soared in popularity in emerging markets through strong investment in localization. The service offers a large selection of pop music by local artists and the app displays song lyrics in the local language, which also attracts many users in each market.
Like Spotify, Joox does not collect a fee per download but operates on advertising revenue, allowing users to get music mostly for free. Paid subscribers can enjoy high-quality music and video streaming services and remove ads from their screens.
In Myanmar, Joox has a deal with a major telecommunication carrier, which means users can use leftover amounts in prepaid telecom fees to settle accounts, eliminating the need for credit cards and other payment means.
In addition, Joox conducts live events involving local artists with high rankings in its hit chart in various countries to generate synergy with online streaming services.