France-headquartered Believe has built itself into one of the world’s largest music companies in no small part by capitalizing on the rapid growth of Asian markets.
On a recent earnings call, the company said it was the number-two digital music services company in India; on top of that, it has also expanded significantly into Greater China (i.e. mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau), where Believe now represents more than 300 labels and over 250 artists directly through its Premium Solutions.
And it has established itself in Southeast Asia as well, with leading market positions in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. In all, the company counts more than 10,000 labels and artists signed across the region.
Now, as it celebrates the 10th anniversary of its expansion into Asia, the company has revealed a statistic that illuminates its role in the region: It has paid more than €700 million in royalties to the music industry in the APAC (Asia-Pacific) region, which Believe says is “further fuelling the growth of a sustainable local music ecosystem by fostering new artist development.”
“Over the past 10 years in APAC, we have been committed to bringing back the attention of the local audience, and the revenues that come with it, towards local content,” Sylvan Delange, Believe’s Regional Director, APAC, said in a statement.
“Music is by essence local, it takes its roots in daily life, in the culture, the language, the beliefs, the values of local communities… I’m very proud to say that we have made significant progress in this mission to bring value back to the local music industry to build healthier, fairer and more diverse music ecosystems across the region.”
The explosion in popularity of local music across global markets is a trend that Believe has both jumped on and helped make happen.
Ten years from now, “local markets are going to be dominated by local artists in most territories around the world,” Believe Founder and CEO Denis Ladegallerie told MBW in a recent interview. “So one of our objectives as a company is helping to ensure that local artists have at least 50% share in their local markets.”
Ladegallerie expects that some of these local artists will become regional superstars.
“What we’re starting to see in Asia is some Chinese artists starting to resonate in Thailand, Indonesia or some other markets; Indonesian artists starting to resonate in Japan, Malaysia and other local markets. So we do think there will be a layer of regional superstars that is in development. That is part of what our teams in various territories are focused on.”
As for global superstars, they “will be more diverse from a geographic [standpoint] than today,” Ladegallerie added. “We’re already starting to see the [start] of this, we’ve seen Latin music, we’ve seen BTS, and I do think that we’ll see more and more of it.”
Ladegallierie said he’s optimistic about Believe’s future precisely because of its involvement in expanding local music in less-developed music markets that have large potential.
“We are positioned in markets in Europe and emerging markets that are faster growing markets, so naturally that positions us to drive faster-than-market growth in the years ahead,” he said.
In India, Believe expanded in part through strategic acquisitions, such as that of label Venus Music, which Believe acquired in 2019 and rebranded as Ishtar in 2021, a purchase that gave Believe control of one of the largest Bollywood soundtracks catalogs in Hindi. In 2021, Believe acquired Think Music, giving it a catalog of soundtracks in the Tamil language.
Beyond those acquisitions, Believe has also positioned itself as a leading player in various local Indian music markets in a variety of languages, including Punjabi, Bhojpuri and Haryanvi, among others. It has signed a number of top-selling artists, including Maharashtra’s MC Stan, who Believe says has clocked 1 billion YouTube views on his track Insaan, and the duo Cheema Y & Gur Sidhu, whose California Love has topped 42 million streams on Spotify.
“We are positioned in markets in Europe and emerging markets that are faster growing markets, so naturally that positions us to drive faster-than-market growth in the years ahead.”
Denis Ladegallerie, Believe
In Greater China, where Believe has been operating since 2016, the company has built a team of more than 80 in five offices, and has built significant partnerships with local artists, including the singer Young Captain, one of Believe’s Artist Services clients, who reached number one on the NeatEase Music Chart and Douyin Hot Chart, clocking 1 million streams per day.
“As the structuring of the local music market accelerates across Greater China, I’m excited to see the rise of a more diverse range of music genres, fostering endless opportunities for more and more artists and labels to grow and reach wider audiences both locally and internationally,” Believe China Business Head Vincent Li said in a statement.
Li isn’t kidding about “endless opportunities” in China; according to IFPI’s 2023 Global Music Market Report, China’s music market grew by 28.4% in 2022, making it a top-five global market music market for the first time. (That report also found that Asia as a whole accounted for nearly half – 49.8% – of all physical music sales worldwide.)
In 2022, Believe renewed its partnerships with the owners of China’s largest music streaming platforms, Tencent Music Entertainment (TME) and NetEase. As of last count, TME’s various streaming platforms had just short of 100 million paid subscribers, while NeaEase counted 41.8 million.
“As the structuring of the local music market accelerates across Greater China, I’m excited to see the rise of a more diverse range of music genres, fostering endless opportunities for more and more artists and labels to grow and reach wider audiences both locally and internationally.”
Vincent Li, Believe China
Then there is Southeast Asia, where Believe expects to see a quadrupling of paid music streaming subscribers by 2030. The region is “at the very beginning of its digital growth,” Believe says, with just 1.8% of the population subscribing to paid music services.
In the region, Believe has helped grow a number of local artists, including Thai hip-hop performer Saran, who was the third most-streamed artist in YouTube in 2022, as well as Indonesia pop sensations Tulus and Yura Yunita, all of whom have signed to Believe’s recently-launched hip-hop imprint Byond.
The company has also invested in the region through acquisitions, such as the 15% stake it took in Philippines-based Viva Music and Artists Group (VMAG) in 2021.
“As we celebrate this [10th anniversary] milestone, we remain dedicated to our mission of empowering artists and labels, and fueling [the] growth of Southeast Asia’s music industry by collectively embracing change and innovation to lead with operational excellence and continue delivering high-added and long-term value to the artists, labels and partners who place their trust in us,” Antoine El Iman, Managing Director, Southeast Asia, Believe, said in a statement.
Those three markets – China, India and Southeast Asia – are at the core of Believe’s Asian strategy, Delange told MBW in a 2021 interview.
“Some of those markets will become Top 5, Top 10 and Top 20 markets in the next 10 years. Those markets are therefore expecting to see very strong growth momentum and clearly more diversity,” Delange predicted.
“There’s going to be more labels, more artists. A wide array of ecosystems are going to emerge from that growth and we want to be able to accompany that growth from the beginning.”
Delange also laid out the company’s approach to acquisitions in APAC.
“First of all, it’s the quality of the leadership team, because music is a people’s business. We want to work with people to which we feel close and who share our values and vision of the market.
“Second, we’re looking at companies that have developed a very unique position on a specific music genre or within a specific geography., as illustrated by both Viva and Think Music transactions.
“And obviously, companies that are geared to leverage the digital space to accelerate their growth.”Music Business Worldwide