African music-streaming service Spinlet’s mobile app has been downloaded nearly 2m times since 2013, according to chief executive Nkiru Balonwu.
The company is facing growing competition in its home continent thanks to the launch of Apple Music and the global expansion of other streaming services, but Balonwu told Music Ally that Spinlet’s local knowledge will ensure it competes.
“Spinlet entered the market in 2012 but didn’t really kick off properly until 2013 when we put up our pay wall and started offering subscription (streaming) services first, and then downloads,” said Balonwu.
“Since then, our app has been downloaded nearly 2 million times. We see between 1,000 and 1,300 new user registrations on the average on a daily basis. We have also achieved over 20 million track downloads to date.”
Spinlet’s business has also expanded beyond streaming and downloads, as the company has worked with various telcos as a value-added services (VAS) provider, while also commissioning its own original content – from 2013’s remix of a track by veteran Dr Victor Olaiya by modern musician 2face Idibia, to web series Lyrically Speaking and I Go Blow.
Now, the company is facing up to global competition, which Balonwu expects to boost Spinlet’s business rather than crush it.
“The key trends we have noticed this year are the entrants of new players like Apple Music, changing consumer music tastes in favour of music streaming and a growing emphasis on playlists and music curation to improve user listening experience for any occasion,” she said.
Spinlet, like its global rivals, has been investing in editorial, hiring a team to focus on discovery and content curation, while also partnering with external DJs to promote playlists from its catalogue.
“The global players have been aggressive in their global rollout plans but we don’t think very many of them have distinct plans for Africa. That’s our vantage position and it’s the gap that we believe we’re filling right now,” said Balonwu.
“They may ultimately have larger catalogues overall, but we aren’t priced in a way to be directly competing with them. Furthermore, the diversity of our African offering and our familiarity with the music, the artists and the labels means you will always be able to find it more easily with us.”
Spinlet also recently launched a website that’s accessible to people outside Africa, with no territorial restrictions unless rightsholders have applied them. Just as Indian streaming services like Saavn and Gaana appeal to the Indian diaspora across the world, so Spinlet could find a global audience either with roots in Africa, or simply an interest in African music.
“We are very keen to accelerate our international expansion and particularly in the first instance to serve the huge market for African music around the world,” said Balonwu.
“There are an estimated 10 million Diaspora Africans living in Europe alone and that audience in itself represents a massive opportunity for us, before we have even begun to look at expanding Spinlet’s non-African portfolio further, which again represents additional opportunities.”
She added that Spinlet is launching a gospel-only streaming service this month. “Religion plays a huge role in Africa and gospel video and audio content is very popular,” she said. “With the gospel-only service, our subscribers who prefer not to engage with non-gospel content now have the option of doing so.”
Meanwhile, Spinlet is grappling with some of the challenges in the African streaming market, some of which will be familiar from other continents, while others she sees as specific to Africa.
“In addition to the global challenges, Africa has a few additional issues to surmount when it comes to the issues of royalties,” said Balonwu.
“There’s the problem of re-establishing a buying culture and a royalties accounting culture, after piracy and distribution issues decimated the industry for decades. There’s the corresponding problem on the artist side of the equation, with many not factoring in any income besides live performance and endorsement fees in their revenue projections.”
That means Spinlet has had to work hard to persuade artists that it’s worth their while to not just have their music available on its service, but to actively promote it.
“The artists who earn the bigger payouts are generally those who work with us in promoting their music. Many artists still grapple with the basics of online content promotion and don’t share links to their music or agree to participate in content promotion activities. They also don’t respond when they are tagged online,” she said.
“The reality is that sustained collaboration is the key to getting the most out of any distribution service. You need to give your music wings to fly. Other than that, we try to learn from global challenges and our new website is incorporating features that encourage more interactions with the artists and transparency with their earnings.”