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What Spotify coming to Zimbabwe means for music streaming in general.

Here’s our two cents…

So chances are you heard the news yesterday that Spotify, the world’s largest and most popular music streaming service, will be officially available in Zimbabwe sometime this year, and there’s already been a bit of fanfare for a lot of interested parties. But all that excitement aside one probably has to wonder what kind of impact Spotify’s ability can have in Zim, especially in a Zimbabwe where music streaming is just beginning to find its footing. Well, here’s a little speculation.

 

Music Streaming might actually start becoming a thing

Image : Complex
Now the most obvious and most hopeful of connotations here is that the world’s biggest streaming service will help usher in a push towards music streaming in general. There are still some barriers of course but chances are a name as big as Spotify actually makes streaming music on your phone, as opposed to downloading it from who knows where, actually trendy or popular enough among many Zimbabwean consumers, such that they decide it’s probably worth it to pick that option over pirating and downloading music. After all, that’s always been the major lure of music streaming services pay a fraction of the price that you would for an album, and get access to most of that artist’s song as well as a countless number of other songs from so many artists around the world, you could never finish the amount of content you paid for. It’s a genius concept, and while album sales and even physical discs still exist, music streaming is essentially the dominant form of music consumption in most major markets now and it’s all for a reason. Unfortunately this hasn’t been the case in Zimbabwe because well, it’s another internet-dependent business and we all know how difficult the internet situation in Zimbabwe is. However if more and more people are taking an interest in TV streaming due to Netflix, music streaming might have a chance. After all its comparatively cheaper too. While everyone agrees Netflix is only at it’s best when you have unlimited internet, Spotify and other music streaming apps can be used pretty well on even certain data bundles. I don’t imagine anyone completely doing away with the music in their phone and sticking to Spotify all the time, but striking a balance between music on your phone or other devices then getting an internet bundle to access a (legal) copy of an artist’s latest album.

 

More exposure for streaming competitors, including local ones

Now chances are some of you might be thinking “What makes Spotify so special? After all Tidal and Apple Music have been available in Zim for years and yet they haven’t moved people to music streaming”. And you’re not completely wrong. But Spotify is still the biggest name in streaming, and when the biggest name moves, more people pay attention. Ironically enough if Spotify does make a big splash here , it could make a lot of people pay more attention to it’s competitors too. More importantly it could give some attention to some local music streaming offerings as well, whether it’s the ubiquitous Econet’s Buddie Beatz or smaller offerings like Zim Music Store. Local streaming options could use the boost and if music streaming becomes as widespread as say, YouTube streaming is, there could be a lot to watch from the streaming space in future.
 

The opportunity for local artists

Now we’ve mentioned this before, but there’s already a large offering of Zim music artists on Spotify, and the platform has become a way for Zimbabweans all over the world to access the best that artists from their country have to offer. However, while many big, established artists tend to have a Spotify account setup by their studio and/or managers, there’s an opportunity for a lot of undiscovered talent here as well. Spotify did state in their press statement that they aim to work with a lot of local talent and artist to enrich their platform for different tastes, and yes while that likely means if they ever directly engage with Zimbabwe they might engage with bigger names, but there’s also a chance that an undiscovered but talented up-and-comer who knows how to leverage their social media and YouTube could be noticed as well, even without as much clout as bigger names, and that’s because Spotify tends to be very interested in such artists. Personally, my Spotify which I’ve been using since 2017 has been trained by the algorithm to now feature music from barely-known up and comers that are also likely to have their music on just Soundcloud with no big record deal to back them up and instead have found fame due to Spotify and its own internal studios and events. Hence there’s a chance for at least a few ready, passionate artists to make a rise here, here’s hoping they’re a lot more than even I expect.
 

The possible local podcasting push.

 

Spotify has become a home for podcasts for many as well, especially as it tries to grow its revenue streams and customer base. However, there’s also been a growing crop of Zimbabwean podcasters (including us), and chances are that could even be another resource that the platform might want to invest in, especially since many of those (again, including us) already host their podcasts on Anchor, Spotify’s own podcast hosting platform. It’s more of a long shot compared to music artists, but it’s not anything to ignore either.
 

More interesting pricing options for developing markets.

Now it’s worth noting that Zimbabwe wasn’t the only country Spotify mentioned it’s officially expanding to. In fact it’s expanding to a total of 85 markets all over the world including neighbors Zambia and Zimbabwe. And this almost guarantees that Spotify will come up with interesting and lucrative pricing models for a lot of these markets too. For example when Spotify launched in India, it’s premium plan cost the equivalent of USD$1.58 as compared to it’s $4.99 price in the USA. Chances are we’ll see similar, if not cheaper pricing here, and that’s without of course considering that the service does still have a free tier, though to be fair it’s not that great unless you’re using an American account, at least based on my own experience. It will be interesting seeing whose ads we’ll get on Zimbabwean Spotify too, hopefully not the ones that take you out of the experience when you go from listening to Young Thug to a Lafarge Cement ad, but that’s just me.
 
Of course, in the end this all comes down to how Spotify itself approaches Zimbabwe and it’s other new markets. We could be overly excited for what ends up being a half-step for the company, but we reckon there will still be a significant effort from Spotify. After all while Zimbabwe alone isn’t as lucrative as India from both a population and potential market perspective, 84 other markets along with Zimbabwe is the kind of thing that Spotify can get behind, and that makes this move one that will likely see some benefits even coming to Zimbabwean users. So let’s all welcome Spotify with welcome arms and see what that does for us.
(Pro tip: make an American account in advance.)

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