13 million songs and going strong: why African music streaming service Mziiki is targetting SA

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Being able to find and download original African shouldn’t be a hunt for a needle in a haystack and a costly affair, according to Mziiki, a music streaming and download service which launched in South Africa this month.

Launched in July in East Africa, Mziiki is a mobisite and app that lets you listen and download singles or albums from a range of artists across more than 60 genres and it has just landed in South Africa.

Mziiki has had great success in the markets in started off in, getting more than 625 000 downloads, 2.9 million visits on its mobisite and roughly 13 million songs streamed.


Arun Nagar CEO of Spice VAS Africa, Mziiki’s parent company, tells htxt.africa that moving into South African was a move to grow its pan-African audience across the continent.

“You can’t be a pan-African player and not be in South Africa,” Nagar says. “It’s the biggest market in Africa and the most important for us.” Spice felt so strongly about this, that it even moved its head office to Sandton, Johannesburg.

“Mziiki’s focus has always been people who are interested in African music. Which is our major differentiator from the global music streaming apps,” Nagar adds.

But launching a mobile service in the east African market and bringing it down south is not always a sure bet, just ask Vodacom and the M-Pesa. But Naga says that they’ve put a number of strategies in place specifically in South Africa to help them steer clear of the same fate.

“As Spice and being in the market for almost 10 years, we’ve realised that the market is divided up into South Africa and the rest of Africa,” Nagar explains. “Our strategy is firstly partnering with a company called PayU to offer users multiple options to pay for their subscription.”

“The other strategy is implementing a solution that’s specifically geared to address the challenge of high data costs in South Africa. What we’re offering is the ability to sign up for a premium account, which will cost you R10 a week, this will allow to download and stream an unlimited number of songs from Mziiki even when you’re offline,” he adds.

Non-premium subscribers still have the advantage of downloading songs for free, but you still have to carry your own data costs.

Mziiki is also reaching out to users who don’t have a smartphone through its mobisite. “We want to reach out to the entire sub-Saharan Africa, a large majority of Africans don’t yet have a smartphone,” says Nagar.

While Mziiki has partnered with major record labels in South Africa to host music by popular artists, it will be opening up the platform for upcoming, unsigned artists to sign up and upload their music onto Mziiki and have it hosted in the cloud, to build their careers and fanbase.

“We believe for a music app to be successful, there needs to be two types of content: one is what we call the magnet, which are the big names that pull the traffic in and then there is user-generated content, which is what well be doing by allowing musicians to upload their content starting in March next year,” Nagar tells us.

While content by upcoming artists uploaded onto Mziiki won’t strictly policed, the system will be designed in a way that the site will detect whether or not a song’s technical aspects are up to scratch. Subscribers will also be welcome to flag any content they feel is inflammatory, discriminatory or inappropriate.

“Our primary role as Mziiki is that of an enabler, to bring musicians and audiences together, our mediation role would come in when sifting offensive content,” Nagar explains.

And in terms of how artists on Mziiki are remunerated, they get paid according to how many of their songs have been download or streamed and how many times and how much that has contributed to the service’s content revenue pool.

You can sign up for Mziiki on the website, .mobisite or iOS, BlackBerry and Android apps.