My notes on how Mobile technology is disrupting consumption of
music and music businesses in Africa while creating new business
I am in a road side music shop in Surulere, Lagos, Nigeria trying to buy music CDs of some
Nigerian artistes when I noticed streams of people coming in either with a written list or
making a verbal request of songs to the shop attendant.
Once the cost is agreed (usually $0.08 per song), the customer unclips his MicroSD card
(minimum size is 2GB) from his phone, hands it over to the attendant, who will now insert it
into his laptop/PC and copies the requested music in MP3 format into the card.
In a few minutes time, the copy operation is over and the card is handed back to the
customer who happily inserts it into the phone and away he goes. If he meets his buddies
on his way he might share the files through the Bluetooth feature of his phone.
This is Mobile Music in Africa.
Africa is a mobile first continent which means that most people will own a mobile phone
before they can afford to buy a computer. This puts the ability to rip CDs in the hands of the
privileged few (think of demand and supply).
The cost of internet is still very expensive for the average users, which makes downloading
music unattractive. The average cost of downloading a 5 minute song is $0.30 (excluding
searching cost, battery charge, etc).
A full music CD with an average of 12 songs costs about $0.85 if the artistes is Nigerian and
minimum of $15.00 if it is non-African.
Mobile technology is disrupting distribution, discovery and consumption of music in Africa
via Peer-2-Peer (P2P) models due to the ubiquity of mobile phones.
The Mobile phone is the digital music player of choice in Africa while the MicroSD card
serves as the storage for the music.
Ipod and other digital music players have no place in Africa because the mobile phones
serve the same purpose (think of mobile phones and the cameras). Smartphones are now
wiping out sales of MP3 players.
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Road side installers and mobile phone engineers that are dotting the landscape of Africa
serves as hubs for distribution of digital content like music, videos and apps.
Figure 1 Road Side App Store in Nigeria. Photo by Techcrunch
These road side installers/engineers or Copy-Shops, as we might call them, are the new
Sneakernet of digital content or media in Africa. They could be as small as a laptop on a
wooden stool by a road side.
Music consumption via digital media in Africa will be mainly offline in the near future
because it is still going to be very expensive to download content from the internet. The
challenges of broadband in Africa are well known.
The road side installers in Africa have removed entirely or lowered the barrier to consuming
music online by making it available offline.
Other factors inhibiting consumption of music online in Africa include the following:
High cost of bandwidth/internet
Poor battery performance.
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P2P distribution of music in Africa is accentuated by the Bluetooth feature of mobile phones
which is the last mile in the chain.
The future of music in Africa will now be near-zero costing (excluding distribution cost) and
resulting in disintermediation.
The near zero-costing for music in Africa is bad news for pirates but it posses’ new
opportunities for artistes and labels to explore and exploit new horizons.
Labels and artistes in Africa can now sign “360 degree” recording contracts, explore
monetizing digital channels and merchandising, etc.
The reason why a lot of music apps (will) fail in Africa is because they do not mirror social
behaviours of users.
The reason why the Copy-Shops will be successful is that they do mirror social behaviours,
user expectations and its value proposition is real.
A lot of music apps (mobile and web) in Africa are copycats of itunes or other western-styled
apps which are not based on the way we consume music.
Every artistes and labels in Africa should start taking digital channels really seriously.
Imagine the opportunity if an artiste like Naeto C was on 2go (largest Mobile Social Network
in Nigeria with 15 million users) and he had 3 million fans.
Social media marketers are not making African artistes exploit the full potential of these
platforms due to their weak understanding and knowledge. There is need for them to
seriously develop themselves so as to exploit the opportunities these platforms can offer.
About Emeka Okoye
Emeka Okoye is the CEO of Vikantti Nigeria Limited, a software development company, has
over 17 years of progressive experience in Web, Semantic, Enterprise & Mobile Software
He is an innovative, visionary and creative technologist with deep understanding of the full
spectrum of Data, Social Media, Mobile, and Semantic Web related technologies.
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Emeka has visualized the mobile and data landscape of Africa. He also understands how the
"network of connected users", "communities of trust" or Mobile Social will play out in Africa
re. Linked Open Data, Payments, Commerce, Banking and Digital media consumption.
He also understands the application of mobile technologies in each of the vertical markets,
social behaviours across the spectrum and a deep knowledge of the mobile ecosystem in
Listed among the 20 most influential technology people in Africa by IT News South Africa
Named among the Influential people in technology in Nigeria and Africa by the top
Nigerian technology blog, Techloy (2010, 2011, 2012).
Listed among the World’s 20 most influential people in Mobile Money, Mobile Banking,
Mobile Commerce and Mobile Payments by Obopay in 2012
Nominated by CNN Marketplace Africa for Africa’s Tech Leaders to follow on Twitter in
Built the first Mobile App for Election reporting and violence monitoring in Nigeria
(2011), Liberia (2011) and Ghana(2012)
Worked under the winner of the 2003 InfoWorld Magazine Innovator of the year, Mr.
Kingsley Idehen (OpenLink Software), world renowned Semantic Web expert.
Emeka can be followed on twitter via @EmekaOkoye and can be reached on email via
Strolling through "Nigeria's Best Buy" (A Photo Essay) by Sarah Lacy (2011)
A week in Africa by Eric Schmidt
Future of Music in Africa (conversations in Storify) by Emeka Okoye
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