Oh Spotify, what a bunch of big teases you are. When Axel Bringeus, head of new markets for Spotify, appeared on stage at Africa Com yesterday, we held out a small hope that he might be there to more than just talk about the nature of the music streaming business.
“This is a map of the 34 territories we’re in now,” he started of, with a countries in which Spotify operates coloured in a green, “It’s my job to turn the entire map green.”
A quick discussion of how there’s no (legitimate) Spotify access from any African country yet, but that there’s lots of potential as music streaming services from its rivals seem to be doing rather well, seemed to suggest that the big announcement was on its way. But no.
“Hopefully by the next time you see me we’ll have some announcements to make,” he said.
Before the company opens up offices in Africa, Bringeus said, it wants to be sure it has the right deals in place with labels and distributors to get access to local artists.
Still, Spotify will make it eventually, and there’s plenty of other streaming services to choose from already. Despite the fact that Deezer, Simfy, iRoko, Xbox Music, Nokia Music and more are all doing varying degrees of business of across the continent, Bringeus said strong competition made it easier to launch Spotify in a particular market.
“More people listen to music now than ever before,” he said, “It’s not a zero-sum game. What we see is that when we launch in a market everyone benefits – other services see a bump in subscriber figures too as more people become aware of the potential of digital music.”
Right now, Spotify has six million paying subscribers, most of whom Bringeus believes are willing to sub up in order to get access to the mobile app. One question that the company faces in countries where mobile is the main way of accessing internet services is whether or not the current model would work at all – if there’s no way to get customers using the service for if they don’t have a connected laptop or PC, they aren’t likely to start using Spotify over rivals that do cater for them.
Spotify’s model evolved in Sweden, and Bringeus says it’s no surprise that the same country produced file sharing site The Pirate Bay. Cheap, government subsidised PCs and broadband gave the country a high level of internet literacy ahead of most of the rest of the world in the late 90s. IN other markets, though, other models may need to be adopted.
At an earlier session at Africa Com on digital music, representatives from some of those services took part in a debate about the profitability of streaming music services in Africa, and how in some countries like Tanzania the mobile operators are stepping in to a creative gap left by the absence of formal record labels. While much of the talk focussed on who gets how much under streaming deals, and how everyone feels like they’re getting a bad deal at the moment, one of the panelists pointed out something that struck a chord which could be used in future arguments with the likes of Thom Yorke.
“Rather than complain that the mobile networks are taking 70% of the pie,” he said, “We should all be focussing on getting more subscribers to these services and growing the total pie. That way it doesn’t matter if someone has a bigger share as we all make a decent amount of money.”
Wise words indeed.