|Chinese music websites including Baidu Player are reportedly planning to begin charging for music by early next year. Lu Jianshe / for China Daily|
China's major music websites are expected to form an alliance to start charging for music downloads at the beginning of next year, industry insiders said.
Baidu Music and Tencent Music are among the major music websites said to be part of the initiative.
Subscriptions that will allow users to download an unlimited number of songs are expected to cost between 10 and 15 yuan ($1.6 to $2.4) a month, a price level jointly reached by the country's major record companies and the music websites, said Wang Hao, chief executive officer of Xiami, a website founded in 2006.
The audition of music online is expected to remain free, Wang said.
"You won't have to pay anything to enjoy the music online, but if you want to download it, you will either have to subscribe to the service or pay for each single song," said Wang.
"The era of the free lunch for China's online music industry might be coming to an end," he said.
This is a radical change for the online music industry, and might bring a much-needed positive impact to the business, Wang said.
At the same time, the Chinese government has also released documents to boost the development of copyrighted and paid music online, another person with knowledge of the matter said.
According to an insider of the online music industry, record companies and the major online music platforms have been discussing the feasibility of a paid service for about six months.
The quality of paid music will see a significant improvement compared with the freebies currently available, the insider said.
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