We have good news for music lovers across the entire African continent - it’s soon going to be a lot easier to listen to your favorite music. So long as you have an internet connection, you’ll be able to find tracks from all your preferred artists whenever you want, any time of the day, all year round. That’s because one of the biggest music platforms in the world is finally expanding its operations to cover more African countries after years of demand.
While the rest of the world has been enjoying a revolution in music streaming during recent years, Africa has been left out of the conversation. Large-scale streaming platforms are like online slots websites, but for music rather than gambling. The way online slots websites work is to put as many slots in the same place as possible and allow players to engage with them without having to switch between websites or use multiple usernames and passwords. The ever-increasing availability of online slots websites has led to a huge increase in gambling revenue across Africa, and we can now presumably expect to see the same thing happen with music.
The company that’s just announced the expansion of its African horizons is Apple Music. Although the facility is available in some African countries already, it’s availability has been comparatively limited when compared to its availability across Europe and the rest of the world. Thirteen countries already enjoy access to Apple’s enormous music library - including Ghana, South Africa - and Kenya - but the expansion will launch the service in an additional seventeen countries, and will happen imminently. The move is believed to have come as a response to the fact that more Africans are now catching on to the idea of digital entertainment than ever before, and so Apple finally believes that it's possible to make a profit from these new internet users.
While the news will mostly be of interest to African music fans, it's also expected to be beneficial to African musicians. Without widespread availability of a dependable music platform, it's been difficult for African musicians to capture a wide audience online, and also in some cases to make money from their music. Because so many countries don't have a legal route to music streaming of the kind that Apple Music represents, piracy is common. While musicians and singers may gain new fans from piracy, they lose out on revenue - and that, in turn, makes it hard for them to pursue or maintain a career in music. We've seen African musicians attempt to make money through live streams on social media before now, but the money raised from such streams only goes so far, and the effect diminishes with too much repetition. Endorsements and sponsorships are also hard to come by if artists are unable to raise their profiles. Apple Music could, if used well, change all of that.
The full list of countries that will soon have access to Apple Music is Tunisia, Algeria, Tanzania, Angola, Sierra Leone, Benin, Seychelles, Chad, Republic of Congo, Liberia, Namibia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Senegal, Malawi, Mauritania, and Mali. The rollout of the service is expected to happen immediately, and may even have taken place by the time you read this. If you live in any of the listed countries, the best way to find out if you have access to the service is to log on to the Apple Music website and see if you’re able to download the app or subscribe.
With Apple expanding across the continent, many music fans will now begin to wonder whether Spotify will do the same thing with their own streaming platform. Like Apple Music, Spotify has only been operating in a small number of territories across the continent and citing the lack of potential to make revenue as the reason for their caution. Spotify is, in fact, less widely available than Apple Music used to be - right now, you can only subscribe to Spotify if you live in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, South Africa, or Algeria. Although we've heard reports of citizens in other countries attempting to gain access to Spotify through a VPN, it's generally thought that the potential for success in doing so is limited. Spotify and Apple Music are in direct competition with each other on every other continent on the planet, so it would be a strange move if Spotify allowed Apple to go unchallenged with its expansion.
No matter if Spotify expands or not, Apple Music will still have a challenge in Africa, and that comes in the shape of Boomplay. The Chinese-owned streaming service has flourished in Africa in the absence of competition, and having gained a foothold here is now looking to expand across Europe and attempt to rival the established platforms on their own territory. According to the most recent figures available (which come from April 2019), Boomplay has 44 million paid subscribers in Africa. That’s a drop in the ocean compared to the 217 million people around the world who pay to listen to Spotify, but it’s a huge number when you consider that almost all of the users come from one continent. Boomplay won’t gracefully step aside and allow Apple to steal in on their market, and so we can expect some kind of response from Boomplay in the weeks and months to come. Competitions like this usually result in a price war, and so it might be the case that we see subscription fees lowered, or additional perks offered to users in an attempt to win and retain subscriptions.
If Boomplay does expand across Europe, that too is thought to have positive implications for African music. With there being such a heavily African and African-influenced catalog of music available on the platform, new European users listening to playlists on the platform could be exposed to African music in a way that they’ve never been before. It’s been years since the world had an authentic African global music superstar, but these streaming wars could bring the wait for one to appear to an end. After years of having a restricted market, music is opening up in Africa in a big way. Very soon, it looks like you’re going to be spoiled for choice if you’re a music fan!