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Social Network Douban Music Announces Major Merger, New Funding Round

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Douban Music has announced a major merger deal with fellow Beijing-founded company V.Fine Studio, in a move that could have a significant impact on the copyrighting of independent music in China.

Douban, a Chinese social network featuring film and book reviews, streaming music uploaded by independent artists, and cultural events listings, had 150 million registered users and 300 million monthly active users as of 2016. Different branches of the company operate a well regarded record label (D Force) and music festival (Wetware), and it recently launched a paid content column (Douban Time).

Douban has been talking about plans to go public overseas since last year. But this online shrine of wenqing — 文青; literally “literary and artistic youth”, figuratively “Chinese hipsters” — is still trying to to find its way toward monetization.

On April 3, Douban Music, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Douban since 2014, announced that the music platform has completed a merger with V.Fine Studio, an audio service company founded in 2015 in Beijing.

While Douban is still the largest shareholder, and will provide support in terms of traffic, products, content, and operations, the new Douban Music will add its own nearly 50,000 musicians and 500,000 original songs to the professional recording and intellectual property rights protection technology and management supplied by V.Fine. The newly merged company has raised nearly $10 million USD in funding, according to a report posted on Tuesday by technology site 36Kr (link in Chinese).

With IPO plans, China’s hipster social network Douban turns pragmatic

According to an official announcement (link in Chinese), the new Douban Music “is keeping its log-in system and will update Douban FM and Douban Musician apps, which will attract and dig out more potential Chinese musicians.” With V.Fine’s technology and copyright transaction platform, Douban Music can now offer its musician user base “upstream services in the industry chain,” allowing them to “form a closed loop of ‘copyright flow’ by connecting their platform data, transaction management platforms, [copyright] monitoring technology integration, and the Douban Musician community.”

Music copyright has long been a contentious issue in China. Besides outright infringement, the market lacks copyright management and a reliable information exchange system. The new Douban and V.Fine initiative may very well make a difference in this space.

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Fan Shuhong
    Shuhong (aka Rita) is a language instructor, English/Chinese translator, writer, and proud bunny owner based in Beijing. She's previously worked in Washington D.C. and IUP at Tsinghua University. She loves Chinese language, Japanese arts, post-rock music and good English TV series. Instagram: rita_van