In 2016 and 2017, various industry execs have predicted that the global music-streaming market will come down to five or six large-scale services: Apple, Google, Amazon, Spotify and perhaps a couple more pureplays drawn from Deezer, Pandora, Napster, Tidal and other rivals.
However, that still leaves room for more local players, focusing on individual regions, countries and demographics. Some of them gathered at Midem today for a session billed as a ‘world tour’ of streaming services.
The panel included Sandra Gama, chief legal officer at iMusica; Eddy Maroun, CEO of Anghami; Brian Ringer, CTO of Napster; Siddartha Roy, CEO of Hungama; Oliver Laouchez, CEO of Trace; and Val Segal, CEO of ELLO. The moderator was SXSW’s head of music festival James Minor.
Gama kicked off with a presentation about iMusica, which operates in Latin America. The company has been operating since 2000, headquartered in Brazil with 120 staff. It is a distributor of music to the major streaming services, while also developing platforms like Claro-Música.
That’s the digital music service for telco America Movil, offering weekly and monthly streaming subscriptions as well as a la carte and subscription-based downloads. It’s available in 16 Latin American countries.
Gama outlined the challenges in the region. “80% of the [telco] user base is prepaid. This impacts directly the way we charge users. The Latin users, most of the time cannot afford the monthly cost of streaming subscriptions, but when we divide it up in weekly prices, many times this service becomes possible for him,” she said.
“The average revenue per user for Latin users is approximately $5,” she said: a figure that includes voice, text messaging and internet data. “That’s less than the regular cost of a streaming subscription,” she said. iMusica has also developed something called ‘step-down pricing’ as a more-flexible billing alternative – “in which the platform automatically charges 50% of the price of the service, in case the user doesn’t have the full price to pay for that service at the moment”.
Laouchez spoke next, to present French firm Trace, which started life more than 20 years ago as a print magazine, before evolving into a wider media company focusing on urban music and entertainment. It has a roster of 22 music-TV channels which are distributed around the world, and also operates some FM-radio stations and mobile services.
“We’ve got 60 million pay-TV subscribers in the world, and about 200 million people are watching our channels,” he said. “We have created a community of people who are completely engaged by and are fans of urban music and entertainment,” he said.
Trace’s newest launch is something called TracePlay, a new platform that offers a blend of audio and video, curated by Trace’s in-house team. “Everybody also asked us to propose something that would be cheaper than Deezer, Spotify or Netflix!” said Laouchez. The result is a mixture of television, radio and video-on-demand for $2.99 a month, entirely focused on Afro Urban music and entertainment.
“We are going to launch this platform commercially, globally tomorrow, in 200 countries,” he revealed.
Maroun talked about Anghami, which is a streaming service for Middle Eastern and North African music fans. It launched five years ago. “Our region never knew any legitimate service, so we were pioneers,” he said. “We were the first to introduce something legal. Today we are the music platform of the region: we are market leaders by far.”
Anghami has worked with partners including more than 20 mobile operators, which Maroun said has helped particularly on the payments side of its business, as well as striking deals to bundle the service in with mobile tariffs.
Anghami has licensed more than 25m songs from local labels as well as international labels and aggregators. “A lot of artists choose Anghami to launch their albums or their tracks. It has given us an edge,” said Maroun. “We’ve also worked on getting closer to our artists, understanding their needs and addressing their challenges.”
Anghami makes its money from a mixture of subscriptions and advertising. “We are now at around 41 million users, but we also need to grow our revenues so that everyone is happy. We’re not just in growth in terms of numbers, but also in terms of revenues,” he said. Those 41 million users generate 650m streams a month at the moment, added Maroun.
Over to Napster’s Ringer, who explained that its service is now live in 35 countries, with 90% of its listeners using its mobile apps. “In the last few years, everything has shifted towards mobile,” he said. “We chose to grow with partners: we knew we needed distribution partners to help us in each market.”
Those partners are mainly mobile operators, although Napster also powers the on-demand streaming service of iHeartRadio in the US, and a number of retailers. “What’s happening to streaming is you have a number of players: the regional players and some of the other global players. We saw a lot of other companies that touch music in some way that want to get involved in streaming,” he said.
“We decided to open up our platform at the API level… and that’s become a real interesting business.” What’s new for Napster is Japan, where it launched last week in partnership with e-commerce company Rakuten.
“I think you’ll see this market really start to embrace streaming and start to tip in the next couple of years,” said Ringer. But in Japan, Napster’s app will include features to help people buy physical music if they want to – catering to the fact that physical is still a big part of that market.
“India’s just about starting off on the larger journey,” said Hungama’s Roy, who predicts that over the next 18-24 months, there will be 300 million music-streaming users in India. “The big difference about India is we don’t only listen to our music: we watch our music… 80% plus of our entertainment is built on the back of movies.”
Overall, 80% of Indian internet users are on mobile, up from 60% in 2013. Hungama currently has more than 65 million monthly subscribers to its services, with 81% of them aged 18-35; and 63% living in cities. Its users spend more than 60% of their mobile data watching videos, spending over 500 minutes a month on Hungama services.
Hungama Music claims to be the only “integrated audio and video app” in the Indian streaming market. It has 10m audio tracks and 150k+ full-length music videos, as well as radio stations.
Finally, Val Segal talked about Russian service ELLO, which focuses on music videos in partnership with YouTube. It has notched up more than 10bn views, 35k years of watchtime, from a core audience in Russia, but also Mexico, the US, Japan and other overseas countries.
It has worked with brands including BMW, Samsung, Heineken and Mercedes-Benz, placing their products inside music videos and sharing the revenues with the artists and labels. ELLO also promotes live events and festivals – three or four of the latter this year, free and sponsored by brands.
ELLO has also launched its own music-video service, which looks similar to Vevo, providing recommendations and a catalogue of videos across various devices. “We are talking to BMG right now, and we are signing a deal actually next week. And we are talking with other labels as well in the US. Everybody likes this type of idea,” said Segal.
ELLO makes money from advertising campaigns – complete with technology to prevent ad-blocking software from spotting its visual banner images.
There are also limited discount offers shown during videos: if viewers don’t tap on them there and then, they disappear (Snapchat-style), which Segal said drives plenty of engagement. Product placements, as he said earlier, are also becoming more common.