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Trends shaping the future of music in Africa

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Typewriters, rotary dial telephones, cassette tapes, video stores and spools of film- just some items of which next-generation children won’t experience or understand, says Hennie Theron, GM at Red Touch Media Africa.

Technology is a major progress driver in every industry, especially music. Technologies like Napster in the late 1990s and the iPod in the early 2000s, completely revolutionised the industry and changed how consumers acquire and consume music.

Internationally, most consumers have moved away from physical media, like CDs, and now consume digital content using mobile devices like tablets and smart phones. Although the transition to digital has been much slower in Africa, it’s coming, and coming fast.

So what are the trends that will shape the next few years of music in Africa? Which ones are fast-tracking its transformation into a global digital behemoth?

Exponential growth of mobile & user experience
According to a recent report by global social media agency We Are Social; South Africa, with a total population of 54-million, has 20,9-million mobile users. That’s nearly 50% of the market and 46% are active Internet users.

Globally, this number is less, but it’s definitely on an upward trajectory. It varies between streaming platforms, artist websites, B2B platforms, and other services, but one thing is clear across all markets: the percentage of visits from mobile or tablet devices is increasing and the potential for music service customers is rising rapidly. This trend will give way to an increase in mobile commerce, as more people become accustomed to purchasing from a mobile device.

Thanks to digital music being more accessible and affordable for the consumer, a positive knock-on effect could very well mean the reduction of music piracy in Africa.

Music access versus ownership
What’s more important, owning every song that you want to listen to, or being able to access any song at anytime, anywhere? Access is trumping ownership globally with music fans, and we’re seeing this behaviour more and more in South Africa.

Users are embracing the opportunity to access content, whether permanently or on a rental basis. In markets where disposable income is limited, smart companies are finding ways to appeal to low-income earners and allow them to cost-effectively obtain music content. Digital content partnerships are essential for retailers, mobile service providers or any consumer-facing brand – and can serve as revenue generators, loyalty incentives and much more.

Harnessing emerging markets’ potential
Digital technology is enabling the music industry to effectively reach mass numbers of consumers in Africa. Thanks to handheld devices, Internet and mobile music penetration is sky-rocketing. Technology offers the opportunity to reach many consumers for the first time, and thanks to rising smartphone adoption, is making access to music downloads a reality for millions. No consumer-facing brand should ignore the massive potential of leveraging the digital market, via clever content partnerships or offers.

Local is lekker
According to the Fourth South African edition of PricewaterhouseCooper’s South African entertainment and media outlook: 2013 – 2017; local artists dominated digital sales in 2012, while international artists accounted for the majority of physical music sales. This was echoed by Rick Fant of Mozilla Africa, who said at Africom 2014: “There is more demand for local digital content here than anywhere in the world”.

Providing consumers with access to local music and artists is vital, but fully embracing this potential won’t be easy. Sourcing music from local artists in an environment characterised by an underdeveloped licensing framework, is just one of the major challenges that needs to be overcome.

So what is this telling us? It’s clear that consumers are hungry for content, content that they can identify with, and content that is easily accessible on various mobile platforms. The right approach, combined with the right technology, leapfrogs the challenges and delivers digital content where it matters.