Popular gospel collective Joyous Celebration is the most streamed artist by South African users of the popular web-based streaming service, Deezer.
The group started over 20 years ago, the shared dream of Jabu Hlongwane, Lindelani Mkhize and Mthunzi Namba. The group is not your typical ensemble, boasting an ever-changing line-up of performers who are selected through auditions, after which they attend a workshop and rehearse for about two months before going on tour to promote their annual releases. Performers sign a one-year contract and few stay for more than a year. As a result, the project has launched the solo careers of numerous gospel stars. Joyous Records was established in 2007 to offer musicians from the bigger Joyous Celebration family the opportunity to record their solo albums. The group recently released their 19th album, Joyous Celebration 19, which is available on Deezer along with their earlier albums.
Deezer, a Paris-based company that is part of a now $7 billion industry, currently has six million paying subscribers in more than 180 countries. It made its entrance into South Africa in late 2014 in partnership with the country’s largest cellular network provider, Vodacom.
Tecla Ciolfi of Deezer South Africa recently told Moneyweb that Joyous Celebration is the most popular South African act “by a country mile”, far ahead of the next most popular artists, hip-hop stars Cassper Nyovest and AKA.
Mathieu Molinero, Deezer’s head of new markets, was optimistic about the South African streaming market, due in part to the widespread usage of 3G-enabled smartphones. Molinero told Moneyweb that Deezer’s biggest threats are physical CD sales, music downloads and piracy. Unlike iTunes, where one pays per track or album downloaded, Deezer’s premium service works on a monthly subscription fee (R59.99, or roughly US$5), which gives one access to 35 million tracks that can then be arranged into playlists. By syncing albums, tracks or playlists to one’s laptop or mobile device, they can even be made available offline.
However, it’s not clear how much artists themselves are benefiting financially from streaming, rather than their record labels. Molinero argues that artists should understand that a once-off CD purchase has now become a lifetime value in streaming. “In the first months after the release of an album, it is probably true they are getting less money on streaming. But after a few months, when CD sales of a new album are decreasing, the artists are still being paid every time they are streamed, even 15 years later,” he said.
A premium Deezer South Africa subscriber would be paying a subscription fee of R720 (US$60) a year, which amounts to roughly six CDs. “This is more than what the average South African music fan used to buy, so streaming is bringing back value to the music market,” said Molinero.