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Warner Music in first big label music deal in China

[NEW YORK] Warner Music announced a partnership Thursday with Chinese Internet company Tencent that will include streaming, in the first such deal for a major global record label in the huge market.

The Warner Music Group, whose roster of artists ranges from Prince to Coldplay, said the deal would let it distribute to Tencent's platforms across China including QQ Music, a start-up streaming service similar to Spotify.

The deal is the first for one of the three global label conglomerates in China, where international companies have long complained that rampant piracy has slashed revenues for creators of everything from music to software.

"By providing wider access to high-quality, licensed music on authorized services, the deal will create greater choice for consumers, greater value for artists and a more sustainable business for music companies and service providers," a joint statement said.

The agreement, however, will exclude applications on mobile telephones. Warner said that it hoped to reach its own partnerships.

The deal is the latest expansion into Asia for the Warner Music Group, which earlier this year bought Hong Kong-based Gold Typhoon, which both signs local artists and runs the China operations for international stars including Japanese girls group sensation AKB48.

For Tencent, the agreement would allow the company to expand more firmly into music. Its core businesses are online games as well as messaging applications such as WeChat, which had 468 million active users at the end of the last quarter, according to company figures.

"Leveraging (Warner's) rich portfolio of artists, this strategic partnership will offer fans in China an extensive stream of entertaining and high-quality music content that is well-managed and protected under the license agreement," Tencent's senior executive vice president, Dowson Tong, said in a statement.

Stu Bergen, international president for Warner Recorded Music, said that the company had put a priority on expansion into China, which has the world's largest population and where musical tastes are quickly evolving.

"Providing music fans with access to high-quality music, and the right mix of regional and global artists, will be integral to the growth of the digital music sector in China," Bergen said in a statement.

AFP