- With a large youthful population and a thriving interest in contemporary African music around the world, there is a rush to expand streaming services in the continent.
- After a spectacular growth that surpassed one billion plays a year ago, the free music streaming service Audiomack, available across 54 countries has stamped its presence in Africa, by opening up an office in Lagos, Nigeria.
In an era when music consumers are shifting to streaming as the most convenient way to access their favourite songs and playlists, there is cutthroat competition among artistes to get their music played by millions of fans who access these platforms.
With a large youthful population and a thriving interest in contemporary African music around the world, there is a rush to expand streaming services in the continent.
After a spectacular growth that surpassed one billion plays a year ago, the free music streaming service Audiomack, available across 54 countries has stamped its presence in Africa, by opening up an office in Lagos, Nigeria.
“Streaming is still nascent on the African continent down to relatively low Internet penetration so the growth opportunities are immense,” says Charlotte Bwana, Audiomack Head of Business Development and Media Partnerships.
Ms Bwana who has been on a visit to Nairobi says the platform allows artistes to share their entire music catalogue and fans to discover both new musicians and the latest releases. Some of Kenya's top acts including Octopizzo, Sauti Sol, H-Art the band, Otile Brown, Nyashinski, and Wakadinali already have their music streaming on Audiomack.
The business model of the music industry has transformed remarkably in the last two decades. The physical format of the CD was replaced by mp3 downloads and that has now in turn been swept away by streaming. As of December 2020, the Audiomack application had hit 742 million sessions in Africa alone.
“The entire music business is now data-driven, artistes can tell what kind of music connects with their audience and the audience, in turn, can express themselves on what they like or don’t like,” she says.
Unlike other streaming platforms that charge a subscription fee to access music, Audiomack is a free service so once an artiste signs up to the website, they can upload their entire discography on the platform at no cost at all.
“More than 50 percent of our users are aged 18-24 and want to listen to music on demand but may not have access to a credit card to pay for music subscriptions.”
The artistes receive their first payment after three months and thereafter the royalties are paid monthly. “They have access to a dashboard that enables them to monitor the number of streams and therefore their earnings,” says Ms Bwana, explaining that the process is the most verifiable way for artistes to monetise their music.
“That is why artistes are now pushing for views and streams because their income comes directly from the number of times their music is streamed,” she says.
So, how does the platform generate revenue to pay royalties while running a free service? “We run adverts on the platform, which creates a remuneration plan for artistes,” she explains.
Ms Bwana says one of the obvious advantages of the music streaming business model is that piracy and other forms of illegal distribution have been rendered irrelevant. “Music has become so accessible that even other websites will embed a link to Audiomark,” she says.
Last year, Audiomack announced its first partnership with a major label licensing Warner Music to make the label's music catalogue available in Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, Ghana, and South Africa.
They are also in partnership with independent labels across Africa like Mavins in Nigeria, and pan African entertainment provider Ziiki Media.
While music streaming is an attraction for younger fans, many people still turn to radio and performances, and digital platforms are alive to this reality.
According to Ms Bwana, the pandemic has proved to be a boon for African musicians because instead of waiting for an agent to book a show in the US, not to mention all the hassles of travel documents and visas, artistes have been able to set up with their crew and perform to the entire world from wherever they are.
“Fans can see your performance and judge how good you are so African music has been exposed to a global audience in ways that had not happened before,” she says.
"We want to work with as many Kenyan artistes as possible and top music events in Kenya like Blankets and Wine and Koroga Festival where the best talent is showcased."