Piracy Remains A Major Challenge For Digital Music Distribution In Africa
As the General Manager of Boomplay Music, how has the experience been so far?
IT has been a roller coaster of sleepless nights and strategic planning. When you are at the helm of affairs, you need to make everything work; you need to carry the teams along because your teams’ performance is your performance. If the team is not performing, I’m not performing. It is a wonderful experience with a bulk load of responsibilities.
Boomplay has become a leading music app in Africa, what was the strategy that brought the platform to this position?
First of all, being able to acquire good hands to manage the company and having people that are focused and ready to do the work. Then, bringing together veterans of the industry, who have in-depth knowledge of music and entertainment and the support from the management, has really pushed Boomplay to where it is now.
Considering challenges in the African music landscape, how has the company managed to meet?
It has been good and at the same time, quite challenging. Different artists from different parts of Africa bring in different sounds and our platform consists of people with a diverse taste in music; it helps us have a finger on the pulse and we meet this need by putting up good music. Music is not how it was back in the days; people know and appreciate good music. Also, the advent of the Internet has made it easy for people to have access to music via the Boomplay app. One challenge though is content acquisition, but we are improving daily on that because a lot of talent hasn’t been discovered and we are working towards that.
With over 5000 musicians being hosted on your platform, you must be having a lot of difficult times in your hands?
It’s been easy because Boomplay has been a house that accommodates different genres of music. So, these artistes serve a variety of sounds to our diverse users. If you want to listen to Apala, it’s on Boomplay. If its Fuji or Gospel that fits into your mood, we have whatever you need.
It seems that the African music industry still has enormous challenges despite the support Boomplay provides through its platform. Where exactly do you think the problem lies?
For digital musical distribution, the major problem for us has been the issue of piracy especially competing with blogs putting out links to stream and download instead of coming to the app to stream and download. Also, the quality of music in terms of lyrics and production is an issue; some people prefer beats, while some focus on the lyrics of the song.
In Nigeria, we consume more of the Shaku Shaku, Reggae, and Afro-pop, but the quality is what we look out for; you can do those types of music with quality. Fela Kuti, Lagbaja, Ebineza Obi sang songs that are standing the test of time. We need people that would give good music that mean something to us and not those that corrupt the society. Another challenge is with artistes and their management; some artistes sign with a label and after three years they leave. So, we need to actually get more good hands to manage talent.
As a music platform, what is the way out of the quagmire?
Some of the issues we have are piracy, the buying culture of Africans, lack of Internet and inadequate payment options. I would say the way forward is for musicians and stakeholders to advocate and for the government to take action.
At Boomplay our team ensures that we have proper contracts and license of each song before we upload any artiste’s music. Also, proper education and an improved standard of living would encourage Africans to purchase music. If the government and network providers can work together to improve the Internet service and reduce the chargers, it will allow the people to have access to more streams and downloads to the content we provide.
A number of Nigerian artistes have reached the milestone of a million streams on Boomplay. What has been the attraction?
For those songs that have reached the milestone of one million streams, they are songs that people accept, connect with and read meanings to like the gospel music of Tope Alabi and artistes like Simi.
Looking at the African market and its prospect, does it not bother you that it took this long before platforms like this found its way to Africa?
As I said before, the issue has been that of inadequate infrastructure. Yes, there have been some improvements to our Internet service and payment gateways, which have allowed for such a business to exist in Africa. The African community adopts things quickly and more people are being exposed and enlightened. Even though we didn’t start on time, we are moving at a fast pace and will soon surpass some European countries in a few years.
How long will it take to catch up with the rest of the world?
Where we are going is actually closer than expected. In the next 5 years, we will catch up because we are growing at a good pace. The adoption is good, however, our only issue of concern is that of subscription. A lot of Africans like free things and if you look at our minimum wage no one would spend money buying music when they haven’t eaten. So, I think the question is how quickly can we get people to consume music in the right way, not as a free platform.
With other platforms like Spotify, Apple Music also driving the market and drawing attention, how are you dealing with the competition?
Because Boomplay has been recognised as a localised brand, though it’s a Chinese company; its managers have put Nigerians at the helms of affairs. This, coupled with the fact that the app is preinstalled with Transsion devices like Tecno, Infinix, Itel, it has made it easier for Boomplay because these devices are more affordable than the likes of iPhone.
But it seems Apple Music has been giving Boomplay the run for their money in terms of steaming and all?
I don’t think it’s true. People might subscribe to Apple Music, but in terms of streaming, we have a lot of streams on Boomplay.
Globally we can say that Apple music is making a run for our money, but in Africa, I don’t think any platform is beating us. In terms of streaming Boomplay is doing well and we will still do better with our new strategies to curb piracy and improve digital music distribution.
What drives you as a person?
I love challenges and being able to find solutions to problems as a salesman. Motivation is a fire from within. Accomplishing set tasks is very important to me and I’m driven by the joy of being able to do what I’ve always wanted to do.