Hundreds of millions of people use Chinese music apps every month.
The locals love listening to Chinese artists (of course) as well as international pop acts like Taylor Swift and the Biebs.
And just like Spotify and Apple Music dominate in the West, there are a few major music apps in China that everyone seems to use.
In this article, I’ll highlight what they are and what makes them special. I’ll also include links to the app stores so you can start bopping along to some Chinese tunes.
Alright, let’s get into it!
1. KuGou Music (酷狗音乐)
KuGou is the cool dog of all Chinese music apps.
No, I mean really. KuGou literally means “cool dog” in Chinese.
Over 300 million people listen to music on KuGou every month. This makes it almost as popular as Spotify on a global scale.
Some people even call it the Chinese version of Spotify.
And just like Spotify, with KuGou you can do everything you would expect like creating playlists, following your fave artists, and watching videos.
The app is part of Tencent Music, which also owns WeChat – the most popular Chinese app ever with a billion users.
Although KuGou is for any age, young people tend to love this app the most. There’s a KTV (karaoke) streaming section in the app encouraging amateur singalongs.
If you attract enough attention, you’ll earn digital coins that can later be transferred into real currency. Is that cool enough for you?
Get KuGou Music in the App Store.
2. QQ Music (QQ音乐)
The original QQ app is an instant messaging platform that was developed by Tencent about 20 years ago.
It became famous for the little penguin that made a cute sound whenever you received a message. (For more on QQ, check out the article on the best apps in China.)
But a lot has changed in 20 years, and the app has capitalized on its popularity by branching out into other areas, such as music.
QQ Music is now one of the leading Chinese music apps. It has the most comprehensive music catalog in China and has all the latest songs to download or stream.
It recently limited sales of digital albums and singles to one purchase per account. This prevents super-fans from skewing the charts by buying multiple copies of an artist’s work.
In 2022, QQ Music was the first music app in China to offer Dolby Atmos, giving paying customers the richest depth of sound available. Nice.
For local users with a Chinese bank account, the paid version starts at 8 yuan (US$1) per month.
3. Kuwo Music (酷我音乐)
This is another Tencent app for streaming and downloading music.
It’s a bit like KuGou as there’s a big focus on KTV streaming. The Chinese simply love their karaoke!
In 2022, Kuwo Music launched functions for four different scenarios: sleeping, driving, working, and studying, creating a more practical and immersive experience for users.
And, more than 80% of car brands in the Chinese market have teamed up with Kuwo. This means the locals can seamlessly use the app while navigating traffic jams.
Listen to Kuwo Music in the App Store.
4. NetEase Cloud Music (网易云音乐)
NetEase has been around for a while, launching in 2013.
Known as Cloud Music, the app provides personalized recommendations and promotes user interaction that creates a strong social community.
One way it does this is by allowing users to share emotional reactions or comment on songs directly.
There are more than 100,000 independent artists on this streaming service, giving the app a more grass-roots feel than the others on this list.
Interestingly, only about one-fifth of NetEase members pay to use the service. But this isn’t unusual, given most Chinese songs apps are free unless you pay for premium features.
NetEase has continued to innovate, recently releasing a social music app called MUS, which stands for Music with Us.
In ‘friend mode’ on MUS, you can meet people online with the same music tastes as you. You could even meet your future partner on this app, who knows?
Get Cloud Music in the App Store.
5. Soda Music (汽水音乐)
This is the newest algorithm-driven music platform, with tunes tailored to your taste.
Soda Music is from ByteDance, the company behind TikTok and its Chinese version Douyin.
The service offers more than 10 million music tracks, allowing Douyin users to sync their favorite music lists.
As Douyin is one of the hottest apps in China right now, I wouldn’t be surprised if Soda really takes off. Locals can subscribe from as little as 8 yuan (US$1) per month.
Listen to Soda Music in the App Store.
6. K Song (全民K歌) / WeSing
Capping off the list of the top Chinese music apps is yet another Tencent-owned app.
K Song is the leading singalong app in China, appealing to a large audience mostly in their 20s. The app blew up when the COVID-19 pandemic started, as people stayed home and had to find other forms of entertainment.
You can choose to sing solo or duet with friends, or even join a big party room. But you can still use the app just to listen to music and watch everyone singing.
K Song has some powerful social features including virtual communities where music lovers gather around their favorite songs, and you can also play games and chat in the app too.
Superstar artists have been known to join in the fun!
The Western version of the app is called WeSing, and boasts 100 million users from around the world.
Can’t access the app?
I’ve included links above to the stores where you can find these apps, which in most cases is the Apple App Store and not Google Play.
China has their own android app stores including Huawei App Market, Tencent My App, and Oppo Software Store.
And, note that China has its own version of the Apple App store and there are steps involved if you want to change your country settings. This includes having a Chinese payment method.
If you run into trouble and can’t access what you want – which is often due to licensing and geo-blocking reasons – you’ll need a VPN that hides your IP address.
I recommend ExpressVPN as my experience using it has been great.
Otherwise, you can listen to Chinese music on Spotify or Apple Music.
Just keep in mind that the catalog’s not nearly as big as what you’ll find on the homegrown Chinese apps, and most music will be from Hong Kong or Taiwan as opposed to the mainland.
Psst! A quick travel tip
Are you planning on visiting China?
Don’t forget the internet is censored when using Wi-Fi in your hotel.
So, to access all your favorite websites and apps (like Facebook, Instagram, Google, Gmail, WhatsApp, etc), you’ll need to get a VPN before you arrive. Otherwise, the signup page will be blocked in China.
Check out the review of the best China VPN before you fly over.
Get listening to some Chinese music
There are a few more music streaming services in China but I’ve covered all the major ones.
Make sure you download one or two so you can start discovering some great Chinese artists. Happy listening!
I hope you’ve learned a thing or two today about the best Chinese music apps. Now check out the article on the top apps in China, which I think you’ll enjoy.
Main image credit: TimeImage Production on Shutterstock. App icon images credit: Baidu.
FAQ about Chinese music apps
Is there a free Chinese music app?
Most Chinese music apps are free, unless you choose to pay for premium features.
What’s the best Chinese music app?
The biggest and best are QQ Music, KuGou and NetEase Cloud Music.
Are there Chinese music apps for iOS?
You can find all the Tencent Music apps on Apple including KuGou, QQ Music and Kuwo. If you can’t access them in your country, you’ll need a VPN which hides your IP address.
Is there a Chinese music app with lyrics?
Yes, most apps including QQ Music have lyrics you can sing along to.