As Apple’s iTunes finally launches in Africa, what are the implications for homegrown African music download services?
Finally, after many years of waiting for those of us who would prefer to buy authentic and high quality digital music downloads, Apple’s iTunes finally launched in a good number of African markets yesterday. More specifically, the list of countries in Africa where iTunes is now available includes the following:
- Cape Verde
- South Africa
iTunes is a beast when it comes to digital music downloads on a global basis. It has over 435 million accounts and 60% of music downloads now come from mobile devices. This is especially poignant since Africa is for all obvious reasons mobile-centric when it comes to getting online and especially accessing digital content in all its myriad forms. Therefore, it can only be a good thing for African musicians who want to market and sell their music via such a dominant platform such as iTunes which has a massive reach on a global basis.
However, over the past year or so, with the absence of iTunes in the marketplace, or even Spotify which has become increasingly popular globally and is starting to give iTunes a run for its money, a couple of interesting homegrown African digital music download services have been launched as well.
The first is Spinlet. Spinlet is a purely mobile-only service that hopes to leverage the fact that Africa has over 700 million mobile users across various mobile platforms. Spinlet is actually an impressive service that focuses on African music and currently hosts a large number of well-known Nigerian musicians. The good thing about their service is they offer both a free streaming service which requires you to be on a decent mobile internet connection to access as well as a paid service where you can buy and download music using your airtime. This is is really important since most Internet users in Africa do NOT have credit or debit cards which is what you would need to use on iTunes to download music. Spinlet’s mobile app is available on Android, Symbian (Nokia) and BlackBerry.
In addition to Spinlet, another music download and streaming service that is also from Nigeria and has global ambitions is IroKing. IroKing is a service from Iroko Partners who have gained global notoriety as a leading platform for legal downloads of Nigeria’s super popular “Nollywood” movies. Iroko Partners are using their well established reputation for Nollywood to extend to Nigerian music as well as other genres. At this point in time, their service is mostly accessed via desktop but they are slowly expanding to mobile apps across a myriad of platforms, just like Spinlet have done.
Going forward, in light of the arrival of iTunes in Africa for the very fist time, what remains to be seen is how well their service will be taken up in both traditional music downloads as well as iTunes Match for streaming music. In addition, there is the question of how many users in Africa will be able to afford the service when may are used to getting music for free or nearly free via torrents as well pirated copies. One also needs to take into consideration that the limited penetration of credit cards may be a major stumbling block for iTunes to gain widespread adoption. Lastly, much of the content on iTunes is of an international flavor and this is possibly where Spinlet and IroKing could have the upper hand as many Africans today tend to listen to lots of African music and in many countries there is indeed a preference for the same over international music. Whatever the case, iTunes coming to Africa is a good thing as it increases the distribution channels for legal digital music downloads for African consumers and musicians across the board.