Major Chinese music platform limits purchases of digital albums and singles to curb overzealous fan support
Published: Aug 29, 2021 10:43 PM
QQ Music. Photo: VCG

QQ Music. Photo: VCG

Tencent's QQ Music, one of China's major music platforms, confirmed on Saturday that it has limited sales of digital albums or singles on the platform to one purchase per account in order to prevent fervent fans from purchasing multiple copies of a work to support their favorite pop idols. The move comes after the platform removed charts on the platform such as those ranking stars' popularity.

Showing support for idols by purchasing a large number of albums or singles to boost sales and have these works top the charts has long been a practice in fan circles. In recent years, sales of a new album has become an important measuring stick to determine a musician's worth in China, making it no longer a discussion about just the quality of their music.

These fan pushes have had a pronounced impact on sales. For instance, in April 2020, digital sales of one Chinese pop star's single, which cost three yuan (46 cents), reached 160 million yuan in just three days. That comes out to more than 50 million units sold, more that US pop star Taylor Swift's single Shape of You has sold around the entire world, news website reported.

The chat records of the star's fans clubs were later leaked on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo, showing that club members were called on to buy at least 105 albums per person to increase sales.

This artificial inflation of sales has led to many albums and singles becoming chart-toppers despite the fact that no one outside a particular idol's fan circles has even heard of it. 

"I never believed the sales rankings on these music platforms. Most of them now just depend on how many fans the singers have and how rich these fans are," one Chinese pop music fan surnamed Zhang told the Global Times, representing many voices on social media.

In response to China's cyberspace regulator's new rules to rectify fan culture in the entertainment industry, QQ Music removed various charts that could cause conflict between fan clubs and introduced the new limited purchase system, both moves that have been hailed by many netizens.

Another Chinese music giant Netease Music has also announced that it will also limit digital purchases in recent days, the China News Service reported.

"I think I'm finally able to see the real sales numbers of these albums and can find high-quality music according to these sale numbers," one Sina Weibo user commented.

However, Fan Zhihui, a music industry analyst, is not so optimistic. He told the Global Times on Sunday that he is afraid that some zealous fans will simply register more accounts to deal with the platform's policy and use these extra accounts to keep increasing sales for their idols.

"I think this behavior cannot be totally stopped," the analyst said, suggesting that music platforms might need to introduce more complete measures.

Some idol fans have expressed their dissatisfaction toward the platforms, as they have been saving their money to support the debut of their idol's new works, but now they have to find other ways to help their idol reach No.1.