Earlier this week we heard that American mobile network operator, Sprint unveiled the HTC One M8 Harman Kardon Special edition phone which is optimised for audio playback. The network also announced a partnership with Spotify, the music streaming service.
Sprint will be offering Spotify services to its subscribers who are signed to their post -paid package called Framily. This is a grouped discount services package (dubbed Framily for “friends and family”) which has been hugely successful for offers that include unlimited talk and text as well as a guaranteed 1GB of data.
For a 6 month period Framily subscribers will have free access to Spotify after which they will have an option to pay for the service for either $7.99 or $4.99 per user per month depending on the number of people in their “Framily” or group.
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While this might seem like the sort of deal you can never dream of getting here in Zimbabwe, these sort of packages and services are what we would expect to see if techpreneurs were willing to step up and connect all the dots in this picture. A lot of innovators seem to be ignoring the opportunities that lie in digital music and streaming services.
Selling music or packaging it digitally has never been fully explored as a business opportunity on the local front. This is despite an established and successful market for digital music sales in other parts of Africa and the world.
Recent attempts by local developers such as Astro have been focused on selling specific albums and singles which the user has to download to their specific device. While the success of this product is yet to be determined, there is no reason why we cannot have a music streaming service instead that can match the delivery model of Spotify or Nigeria’s iROKING.
Looking at the deal inked by Sprint and Spotify, the mechanics can be executed locally as well. We have mobile network operators like Econet that are already selling devices through two year contracts and let’s not forget the ease of service that has been made possible by bundles for WhatsApp and Facebook. A bundled offer for a streaming service might not be so far-fetched.
Questions that arise when the issue of digital music for Zimbabwe is discussed usually revolve around the readiness of the networks to handle streaming services and whether or not we have the talent that can come up with a similar or better product. Other issues have been focused on the viability of the project because of a strained economy, the threat of piracy, payment issues and the sticky issue of harvesting content.
The truth is the development talent is available for such a project. From what we have seen in the local tech space there are designers able to bring an idea like this to life. In terms of network readiness, the prerequisite for services such as Spotify is really just a 3G connection.
Economic speed bumps are part of any local business with the quality of product and its ability to address a problem or fill a gap in people’s lives determining its success. I’m fairly sure the same listeners buying pirated music and attending music shows would be willing to pay for a reasonably priced product.
An efficient streaming service actually combats piracy. While this definitely does not do away with the “Jack Sparrows” of this world it offers a platform that is rewarding for both the artist and the subscriber. Mobile money solutions can address the payment issue no doubt, but the greatest challenge lies with harvesting content.
Getting a slew of artists to sign up to a digital distribution platform seems impossible when you consider the failure to embrace tech that has been displayed by the major local record labels like Gramma. Coincidentally it is the same Gramma records that has arguably the largest repository of local music.
Whoever can figure out a way to gather content while presenting a functional platform that can deliver the music at a reasonable price (factoring in the network operator’s own cut of course) will have a genuine shot at offering a streaming service. We just hope it happens sometime soon.