Sony Music announced last week that it is opening an office in Lagos, Nigeria, the first step towards establishing a footprint in a West African market that Adam Granite, Sony’s president of Northern/Eastern Europe & Africa, claims has huge growth potential.
“West Africa has a population of 340 million, and Nigeria alone has 150 million of that. It’s a very big country that has historically had a very large music market,” Granite said.
In the ’70s, the nation had one of the largest music markets in the world, but piracy (analog then, digital now) has ravaged the music business, a situation Granite says is beginning to turn around, thanks to the expansion of the mobile market in region.
Sony and other majors haven’t traditionally had much, if any, market share in Africa. Until recently, the only way for most consumers to hear their product was either on the radio or through piracy. That’s one reason why Sony is in “very active discussions” with the Johannesburg-based mobile giant MTN Group’s Music+ streaming and download service, which will offer content to the service’s 2.5 million subscribers.
Rotimi Fawole, the head of business development for the four-year-old Africa-centric streaming and downloading service Spinlet, told Billboard he is excited to have a major company in the country.
“We expect that their efforts and promotions will lead to higher standards locally, not just with music production but also things like reporting, metadata, artist management, et cetera,” Fawole said. “Hopefully, they will set examples for local music companies to follow and the local industry should be the better for it in the long run.”
Fawole estimates that Internet penetration hovers around 38 percent in Nigeria, with smartphone penetration behind, at around 30 percent. The high price of smartphones and the cost and reliability of bandwidth are still issues, but Fawole pegs his country as one of the world’s fastest-growing smartphone markets. Ninety-three percent of Internet users access the web through their phones.
Wi-Fi availability and smartphone adoption in Nigeria remain modest, but Granite says MTN is working feverishly to build out the infrastructure for 2G and 3G networks, which could bring more major players into the fold just behind Sony’s entry in the hopes of riding a “big and growing” wave of new consumers.
To that end, the recently launched download store MusikBi, which takes as its mission the proper payment of artists and battling piracy, plans to distribute songs via SMS and PayPal, which could result in rights holders keeping up to 60 percent of the income from sales. The Dakar, Senegal-based service has drawn more than 200 musicians including superstars like Youssou N’Dour and Baaba Maal, whose songs will cost somewhere between $0.50-85 a piece, according to The Guardian. At present, MusikBi does not have plans to offer streaming services because of the slow nature of Internet connections in the largely mobile-driven market. A number of other download and streaming services are already up and running in Nigeria (including Orin, Las Gidi Tunes and Fawole’s Spinlet).
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