Spotify, the Swedish audio streaming service that is home to over 50 million songs and over 2 million podcasts, is finally available in several African countries.

The announcement was made by Spotify’s CEO, Daniel Ek, during the company’s Stream On event on the 22nd of February.

Prior to this, the platform was only available in five African countries: Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, South Africa, and Tunisia.

As Spotify adds 38 new markets in Africa, there is a need to look at the current digital streaming space in Africa and what this entry could mean for listeners, artistes, labels, and other streaming platforms already on the continent.

For the listeners

Prior to Spotify’s entry, music lovers on the continent already had choices when it came to music streaming apps and services. Now they have more.

“This is going to be good for us [listeners] because it will increase competition,” says Omolola Oyedele, partner at Technolawgical, an entertainment law firm.

The current pricing of streaming services is an early indicator of what this competition could look like. 

With most of these platforms, there is a free plan. But a free plan means ads you cannot control and the inability to skip songs. These limitations can become annoying over time. 

So most platforms offer a premium plan, charging their customers less than $3/month.

In Nigeria, as of June 2020, Deezer, the French streaming service, priced its premium plan at $4.72 monthly and its family plan at $7. 

Today, their prices are the same as Spotify’s with $2.36/month for a premium plan and $3.67/month for a family plan – for Deezer, this is a 50% decrease across plans.

The conversation around pricing takes a new form with regards to onboarding students. Spotify and Apple Music provide student plans that cost $1.18 – lower than what Boomplay currently charges for its premium plan.

Spotify and Apple Music listeners also enjoy a wide variety of audio and visual content specially curated to match their listening tastes. 

Beyond music, podcasts have become increasingly popular and with access to Spotify’s large catalogue, we could see some new users create accounts for the sole purpose of finding new podcasts to listen to.

For the artistes

One of the strongest criticisms of Spotify before this announcement was that its playlists contained music from African artistes who could not access or share those playlists because Spotify was not available in their countries.

This has played a significant role in discouraging African artistes from paying any attention to their growth on Spotify. It is not uncommon to find that a musician with fairly high streaming numbers on Apple Music is unable to replicate that on Spotify.

This changes now. African entertainers and music superstars now have access to their backend data – via Spotify for Artists which is also available as a mobile app. Through this platform, musicians can study the behaviour of their listeners, down to their age ranges and where they may be listening from.

Data available to musicians can now be more accurate. Previously, many users on the continent used VPNs to access their Spotify accounts. Because of this, the listeners are recognised as being in another location and the data points shown to artistes are largely inaccurate. 

Award-winning musician Bez says “Spotify’s presence in these countries will give artistes more access to them and this, in turn, will give these musicians the chance to be featured on editorial playlists.”

Across streaming platforms, playlists curated by the service – called editorial playlists – are a huge source of plays for many artistes. 

As Spotify’s presence in Africa becomes more apparent, we should expect more diverse playlists that are a true reflection of the industry.

“I think the biggest value will be in their focus on helping us export our music to foreign audiences across the world. So we will see more playlists, editorial pieces, content partnerships, billboards, etc. with our artistes, sponsored by Spotify, being pushed across the world,” says Dolapo Amusat, founder of WeTalkSound, Nigeria’s largest music collective.

Many possibilities exist for the music industry and with more players with years of tested strategies entering the market, we can expect innovative approaches to marketing on the side of artistes and product delivery on the side of streaming services.

We will keep an eye out for what changes come, but until then, let the streaming games begin.

Edwin Madu | Author