Business

Tencent Music Partners With Wave to Air Virtual Concerts In China

Courtesy TME/Wave

The pact gives Wave a stamp of approval from a leader in the music-tech space and a path to engage music fans in China.

China's leading music company, Tencent Music Entertainment (TME), today (Nov. 19) announced a strategic partnership with Wave, the Los Angeles-based virtual concerts company which helps artists like The Weeknd and John Legend perform live as avatar versions of themselves in imaginative digital landscapes.

Under the pact, TME will air Wave events across its owned music platforms in China, which are the streaming services QQ Music, Kugou Music and Kuwo Music and social karaoke app WeSing. TME also takes a minority equity investment in Wave, and both companies will collaborate on virtual concerts for "TME Live," an interactive livestreaming concert series the company launched in March.

"The collaboration with Wave marks an important step forward in our efforts to integrate technology and music, aiming to amplify the immersive music experience for our users, enhance user engagement and promote content consumption," TME group vp of content cooperation TC Pan said. "With this strategic partnership, we will further extend the boundaries of music services through virtual performances, and build a broader music ecosystem."

Originally founded in 2016 as a startup for virtual reality concerts, which fans would need virtual reality headsets to attend, Wave has since pivoted to livestream its shows on platforms like YouTube and TikTok, and is one of many virtual concert companies sent into overdrive amid the coronavirus pandemic. Wave has hosted more than 50 events for artists to date, including The Weeknd's augmented-reality gig on TikTok LIVE in August, which reached more than 2 million live viewers. The pact with TME comes after Wave announced $30 million in series B funding in June, with investors including Scooter Braun, Superfly co-founder Rick Farman and Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin and music-tech firm Raised in Space.

The partnership creates opportunities for Wave (and artists who use it) to tap into the music market in China, which the IFPI named the seventh top music market in the world in its 2019 annual global music report. Infiltrating that territory hasn't been easy for Western artists, in part because many of the social media and streaming platforms they use to promote their work, from YouTube to Spotify, are either banned or unavailable in China.

Meanwhile, TME's music services -- which will now air Wave shows -- attract a combined 646 million monthly active users, according to the company's Q3 2020 financials.

TME's stamp of approval is significant for a virtual concerts company like Wave, given that TME is considered a leader in monetizing virtual events and adding social media elements to its music services, two factors key to success in the concert livestreaming space. TME earned nearly 70% of its total revenue in Q3 2020 through virtual tipping, virtual gifts and other "social entertainment services" bought by fans, and Wave concerts include these elements as well. It's a strategy borrowed from the gaming industry, from which both Wave co-founders Adam Arrigo and Adam Lamke hail, having helped develop games like the Rock Band and Dance Central series.

"Wave is committed to bringing our interactive virtual entertainment experiences to music fans around the world, and TME is the ideal partner to accelerate these efforts," Wave COO Jarred Kennedy added. "We share the belief that gaming technology will dramatically expand the breadth of possibility for creative expression and audience interaction in music, and we are thrilled to be collaborating with TME to build that future."

TME and its parent company, Tencent Holdings, also hold equity stakes in Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group, while TME's agreement with Spotify finds the two companies owning nearly 10% of each other.

Wave isn't the only name in music partnering with TME for livestreams: Today, TME also announced that it will air Billie Eilish's "WHERE DO WE GO? THE LIVESTREAM" event, which originally premiered on Oct. 24, across its music services and TME Live on Nov. 21.