Streaming is a hotly debated topic within the music industry, mainly because of headlines about low pay-out rates of streaming providers and therefore low revenue for artists. However, there’s no denying that music streaming is a rapidly growing market, with a global increase of 39% in 2014[i]. It therefore seems unwise for an artist to not explore it.
Plenty of musical content is already available for streaming on platforms like Youtube and Daily Motion, but these platforms often don’t provide a comprehensive licensing environment like dedicated music streaming platforms. It therefore definitely seems wise to make content available, at least on stores that pay decent revenue to artists. Besides simply creating revenue, there are other benefits for artists to being present on streaming platforms. It also opens up possibilities to reach new audiences. Considering that approximately 2.5 billion people worldwide don’t have bank accounts and 2 billion of them are using mobile technology[ii], in places where easy mobile payments have become a reality, huge new markets for the music industry have emerged. The rapid growth of smartphones (especially Android phones) now enables the recording industry to reach markets that it previously could not monetise through physical retailing or other channels.
Through streaming, people in developing countries now have the possibility to consume music at affordable prices, because costs for smartphones and data are steadily decreasing. Latest statistics show that streaming will replace most music downloads in the near future, a trend which is already in progress in most ‘first world’ countries, as subscription services already now account for the majority of digital revenue in 10 territories[iii].
Next to global players like Spotify, Deezer, Google Play or Apple Music, there’s a seemingly ever-growing number of streaming music services available, many of them African. This article introduces 10 that focus mainly on pan-African or regional African content. It tries to rank them according to specific criteria. For an artist, the revenue and the number of active registered users are probably the most important factors. For consumers, the affordability and amount of music offered are the main criteria. I have therefore considered equally the amount of revenue per stream, number of purchases, registered users, monthly traffic and the amount of music on offer.
1. Simfy Africa (South Africa)
Simfy Africa was launched 2010 in South Africa and is wholly owned by Exactmobile. It has a catalogue of 27 million songs across all genres. However, local music only makes 5% of their catalogue. The streaming service is available in Nigeria and South Africa, where users can try the platform for two weeks free of charge, and thereafter need to chose one of the subscription packages, which range from R25 to R60 per month. The artist gets paid a proportionate share of subscription revenue or a proportionate share of the ad-revenue. The payout rates fluctuate each month, depending on how much revenue was generated and how often music was streamed, so a clear answer on revenue to an artist per stream can’t be given.
2. Spinlet (Nigeria)
Spinlet is a privately held company which was formed 2006 in Finland and bought by Nigerian investors. It was launched in 2011 in Nigeria and has regional offices in Lagos as well as the USA and South Africa. It hit 650 000 subscribers in 2013 and targets to have 50 million by 2016. Currently Spinlet has 635 400 monthly unique visitors, who can choose from a library containing 50 000 local artists (according to 2013 data). Artists or aggregators can upload music to the site and receive 90% of the money generated from selling it, with 10% going to the company. The payout per stream is currently about US$0.0038. Genres on the site include Afrobeat, gospel, dancehall, Fuji, Highlife, Hip-Hop, Hiplife, House, Jújú, Kwaito, Reggae, RnB and Traditional.
3. Tigo (Tanzania/Ghana)