But what does that mean for the local musicians, podcasters, and music-centric businesses?
Spotify, the largest audio streaming subscription platform, which is partly owned by two of the three biggest music record labels — Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment, has expanded to 80+ new markets. The new markets include Kenya, Ghana, and Nigeria.
Before the expansion, in the entirety of Africa, the service was only available in South Africa.
What are some of the advantages of the expansion of the service to Africa? Below is a couple of them.
- An added channel for musicians to earn revenue from their songs. Although Spotify has been criticized for paying artists pin money, its expansion to Africa is certain to help musicians from the region get a piece of the market. This was a market that was initially inaccessible except for those who were using VPNs or signed to major record labels overseas.
- Broader market. Also, the expansion is meant to help local musicians and podcasters access a broader audience.
- New business and employment opportunities — for local content aggregators, executives, etc. The expansion comes with new job opportunities — for example, regional music executives. Also, there are needs for locally-curated playlists (such as RapCaviar in the US) and locally-developed music aggregation platforms (such as CDBaby and Distrokid, again in the US).
- Improved music infrastructure. This is one of the elements that signal that the local music industry is headed in the right direction. It’s highly probable that record labels are going to spring up in Africa. More podcasts and other music-related content (blogs, TV & radio shows, etc) as well.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen overseas record labels expanding to cover the African region. Last year, Def Jam Recordings expanded to Africa by creating Def Jam Africa to “follow the blueprint of the icon Def Jam Recordings label, which has led and influenced the cutting-edge in hip-hop and urban culture for more than 35 years.” Intelligent industry insiders knew that something was cooking. I could only think of streaming platforms.
Nowadays, record labels get the majority of their revenues from music streaming platforms — such as Spotify. Hence, it was easier for me to connect the dots.
Also, it was a tension for many Africans who were avid fans of the legendary Joe Rogan Experience podcast after hearing that the show would be a Spotify exclusive. It didn’t end there — Spotify continued to acquire licence rights for more podcasts and podcast networks — Dissect, The Mitchell Obama Podcast, The Ringer, and Gimlet Media. To some, it was as if Spotify was becoming a barrier to knowledge consumption.
Just like any other good thing, there must be bad aspects too. In this case, let’s look at possible demerits of Spotify’s expansion to Africa.
- The exploitation of the local market by foreigners. As Spotify expands to Africa, it’s important for locals to be firm and make sure that the market isn’t infiltrated by foreign cultures.
- Secondary effects could include artists joining 360 record deals or some other dangerous deals without prior full knowledge.