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Music Streaming in Nigeria: Tech’s biggest question mark

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The history of selling music in Nigeria has always been warped. From piracy in the early years to the non-payment of royalties by media stations that play music, there has never been a time when artistes in Nigeria have been paid what they really deserve.

Even more vexing, is the use of songs in movies without the producers and indeed directors thinking it important to pay owners of copyright songs.

A man listening to music on his phone

With the advent of the internet in Nigeria, there was another problem in the works for musicians and label owners; the illegal sharing of music online without any form of profit for musicians and labels- well, financial profits.

On the global scene, there has always been a quest for artistes and labels to sell their music and other intellectual properties via innovative ways. With the debut of streaming on-demand music subscription service Rhapsody in 2001, the new future was born.

From there, other on-demand music streaming services came into the market, giving artistes the much-needed control of their earnings and revenue.

Artistes and labels could now distribute their intellectual property online and earn money for it. Infact, for many independent labels, streaming platforms became their only source of revenue.

Unfortunately, the success that artistes found in the international market using streaming has not been replicated in Nigeria due to a number of reasons.

Olumuyiwa Olowogboyega, writing for Techcabal says that one of the reasons why streaming platforms in Nigeria have not reached their heights is because of the abundant free access to music in Nigeria. According to him, “The biggest problems streaming services deal with is how accessible free music is. In Nigeria, artists often put their songs online for free, aiding a general reluctance to pay for music.”

Another issue that continues to plague the music streaming industry in Nigeria is the ever-present issue of the high cost of internet data in the country. With the high cost of internet, end-users are usually perplexed as to why they should spend so much for data and also pay streaming services when they are already “wasting data”.

 Nairametrics puts it best in this post when they say, “The high cost of data also underscores another problem in Nigeria which is the lack of internet access, especially in rural areas. According to the business insider by Pulse NG, there are about 98.39 million internet users in 2019. This number represents a 4 million increase compared to the statin 2018; however, the overall internet penetration rate in Nigeria remains relatively low, with only 50% of the population that has access to the internet. A fewer number have access to high-speed internet.”:

Similar to the first issue covered in this article is the issue of piracy. Piracy has been an enduring problem in the Nigerian music industry. With Alaba Market, making music CDs available for as low as 100 Naira ($0.26) per CD (and sometimes selling CDs without the permission from artistes), it becomes almost futile to convince music consumers to abandon that cheap option for streaming, an option that will cost them significantly more via data charges as well as streaming/download costs.

Eromo Egbejule, writing for Ventures Africa, explains it properly: “Structured in a unique way, the Nigerian music industry is largely beset by the twin evils of a weak distribution infrastructure and piracy. Pirates and bootleggers have made music CDs accessible on every corner for as little as $0.4 (now $0.26) (N100) and with a largely inefficient distribution system, it is hard to track down actual number of sales, with both artistes and marketers suffering.”

Poverty is another major challenge to the growth of streaming services in Nigeria. It is when one can feed, clothe and shelter himself, that he considers leisure. Unfortunately, many Nigerian cannot do that comfortably as they are living below the poverty line.

Ugochukwu Ikeakor, writing for Business Day says, “Findings from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 2019 global multidimensional poverty index also state that slightly over 98 million Nigerians are living in multidimensional poverty.  Consumers in Nigeria don’t have enough purchasing power to pay streaming services to consume music and movies legally. So they prioritize their spending.”

Failed streaming enterprises

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There are a number of failed enterprises in the Nigerian streaming market, many of which failed due to factors that we already discussed. 

Below are some of the enterprises that have either suspended operations or discontinued operations totally.

Iroking

Iroking was one of the first indigenuous music streaming services in Nigeria. Founded by Jason Njoku of Iroko group, iroking was designed to offer an alternative source of revenue to Nigerian artistes and labels. But the company soon found out something that was known all along- Nigerians are still not ready to pay for music.

As this writer properly says about Iroking’s unfortunate demise, “ One of the most prominent challenges the company faced before shutting down in 2018 was monetising music, as Africans still prefer not to pay for music.”

Other music streaming enterprises that have not made a headway in the Nigerian market include:

  • Orin
  • Musik Genie
  • Gidilounge
  • Vuga.fm
  • Mymusic.com.ng
  • iWantAirplay.com

List of Active Music Streaming Services in Nigeria 

  • Boomplay
  • MTN Music Plus
  • Spinlet
  • Udux
  • Mynotjustok.com
  • Cloud9.com.ng
  • lasgiditunes.com

Moving Forward

The situation of the music streaming business in Nigeria is not all gloom as we can see from the streaming services that are still active after years in the industry.

The truth is that we can make music streaming work in Nigeria if we incorporate a few things into the music market.

The first thing we need to do is to make the illegal download of music prohibited. This is a core step if we want people to look at the streaming business at all. Although artistes might claim that free downloads help them gain popularity and it does, in the long term they will discover that it is a dangerous trend as they will have nothing to fall back on when they retire. With streaming, they have the opportunity of being paid for their music until they die.

Another thing that should be done to help revolutionise the music streaming business in Nigeria is that stakeholders must learn to embrace methods that are already working. Another huge means of illegal getting music in Nigeria is when music lovers pay “music downloaders” or telechaurgers to help them send songs to their phones. 

The downloaders usually charge anywhere from 20 Naira ($0.051) per song to share these songs with fans. There is a huge opportunity for music streaming services to regulate the downloaders, provide them with a huge depository of music and make the pricing better suited to the market, thereby harnessing a method that is already working.

As Benjamin Morgan clearly writes for Quartz “…informal vendors could be legitimized and licensed in the interim while it develops formal systems. These informal vendors are the best candidates to become the formal workforce. As Nollywood’s global distribution has shown, informal markets can create efficient and economically sustainable media industries.”

An important building block towards achieving a standard streaming market in Nigeria will be building an ecosystem that supports streaming. We have noted that one of the major problems of streaming in Nigeria generally, is the high cost of data. Streaming service providers must come together to solve that problem one way or the other.

Liasing with network providers to provide affordable data for streaming, giving data bonuses to subscribers, and incorporating data cost as part of the streaming subscription fee are all ways that streaming service providers can look to solve this problem.

Also, Nigerian music streaming platforms need to compete with their international competitors. Deezer, Apple Music and of late, YouTube Music are some of the international names that have entered the Nigerian market. And if artistes deduce that they can make more money by collaborating with international brands, they will have no reason to work with a Nigerian streaming service.

People have tried to start music streaming services in Nigeria and have failed, others have managed to just scrap along without making any profit. For the music streaming industry to blossom, a lot of things need to be put in place. Licensing, infrastructure, and deciding what the aristes really deserve are some of the cogent things that need to be sorted out. Else, music streaming in Nigeria will remain what it has been for a long time- tech’s biggest question mark.

Saviour Adugba is a journalist by day and a poet by night. He is fascinated by the internet of things, virtual reality and connecting the dots for brands. Saviour is the Lead, Content Development at TechEconomy.ng.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Josh

    June 18, 2020 at 4:14 pm

    If there’s one thing missing from digital music services like Apple Music, it’s the ability to quickly learn more about a song or album without leaving the Music app. With physical media, these sorts of details were relatively easy to find via liner notes and cover booklets, but the information has never been integrated well into the https://www.joshdriod.com/waptrick/ Apple Music service

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