Expansion of Streaming services in Africa: an opportunity for the entertainment industry?

Global streaming companies have been making a stronger drive for African audiences since the beginning of this year due to the growth on mobile and internet usage across the continent. The African entertainment industry is also booming as streaming platforms become more available to a rising youth audience.

Afrobeats, the thrilling sound coming from West Africa already penetrated the global music consciousness since exploding on dance floors across the world. Its stars now foresee a strong domestic market. Africa’s large youth population and rising mobile accessibility amplify the market’s potential. Analysts revealed that more than 60% of Africans are under the age of 25, and they are steadily using music streaming apps to keep up with the local and international trends.

Boomplay, a Chinese start-up whose software comes preinstalled on Chinese-made Transsion smartphones, is the largest player in Africa’s burgeoning music streaming industry. Transsion is Africa’s second-largest smartphone supplier, and Boomplay’s success has paralleled that of the handset. Every month, the company claims to add 2 million new users, who sign up for either an ad-supported free platform or an ad-free platform that costs $1.50 a month.

Boomplay entered licensing agreements with major US labels such as Sony, Warner, and Universal Music. It also expanded into African markets in order to gain a competitive edge. Spotify, Amazon Music, and Apple Music, the world’s most popular streaming services, though have a small presence in the continent, are already “upskilling” themselves. Spotify’s first service in Africa was introduced in March 2018, but Apple Music, which was previously only available in 13 African countries, including Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa, has made it to almost 40 countries.

An opportunity for African artistes?

Africa has given birth to many unique talents who have been making incredible music for a long time, and it is a wonderful thing to have platforms and the means to share their music around the continent and around the world, as people, especially African youth, are now listening/watching more video on mobile devices than they are watching on television.

Recently, Spotify, an audio streaming and media services company announced the addition of 85 new markets to its operation. Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean are part of the expansion for the new markets. This is the platform’s biggest expansion to date, taking it to more than half of the world and introducing 36 new languages to the existing 24 languages.

Spotify was only accessible in five African countries before this expansion: South Africa, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, and Egypt. There would be family, and student-plan options in select markets in the latest countries available on Spotify, as well as free and paid premium plans. It will be accessible through mobile and desktop web browsers. In the coming months, Spotify will collaborate with partners to bring the service to more channels, including TVs, speakers, wearables and automobiles.

Also, Spotify, like Netflix, will definitely take advantage of its position as a global behemoth. Spotify created a curated pan-African platform and launched in north Africa last month, after first launching in South Africa in March. Deezer, a French streaming service, has been operating in Africa for over five years and has amassed a large library of local and independent artists to its credit. In addition, Newcomer Tidal formally launched in Africa a couple of years ago through a collaboration with MTN in Uganda, with common goals of showcasing African artistes.

However, Despite the fact that the emergence of Afrobeats and other common genres would mean more possibilities for collaborations with African artistes, the expansion doesn’t necessarily means efficacy for the African entertainment industry. There are an on-going dialogue on copyrights issues, and even the high cost of data is still slowing down the explosion of streaming music and many listeners still prefer downloading their favorite songs than streaming them. Also the catalogs of these streaming platforms remain mainly oriented towards international content even though local contents remain largely preferred to international music.

It should also be noted that African artistes have been uploading their songs online for free as ingredient of their content strategy to increase the song’s popularity among an ever-growing fanbase and to make the song big enough to entice promoters and other revenue-generating avenues.

Without an iota of doubt, music streaming has had a positive influence on the African entertainment industry, allowing African artistes to move beyond their boundaries and be discovered internationally. With streaming, music is more accessible and open to all, anywhere in the world. When new artistes and all genres of music become more available to consumers, up-and-coming artistes have a much better chance of being discovered.

Educator, writer and legal researcher at Alafarika for Studies and Consultancy.

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