by Carey Finn (@carey_finn) “We’re very excited at the state of streaming in South Africa,” says Milton Smith, chief operations officer for Tencent Africa, the regional arm of Naspers-backed Chinese multinational, Tencent, and the company behind music streaming service, JOOX. “It has been pointed out as the second-fastest-growing streaming music market in the world, in the last year. We’d like to think that we’ve played a part in that.”
Reflecting the global uptick in music streaming, a growth rate of 125% was reported for SA in 2018, with the figure for the broader continent at 146%. JOOX, which has a strong presence in Southeast-Asian markets, including Hong Kong, Malaysia and Thailand, launched in SA in June 2017, leveraging increased smartphone penetration and a partnership with MultiChoice to gain a firm, fast foothold in the country.
While Tencent doesn’t share precise regional numbers, the number of subscribers in SA is in the hundreds of thousands, says Smith. The actual figures may be much higher: since 2018, DStv Compact, Compact Plus and Premium subscriptions have included premium access to JOOX for account holders and four of their family members. This translates to 20m potential listeners. Similar to video-streaming service Viu, JOOX operates on a freemium model, with free subscriptions funded by advertising, and a paid-premium option as an alternative.
Globally, the number of JOOX subscribers has surpassed 100m since the service launched at the beginning of 2015. Smith says that rapid growth is a key part of Tencent’s business strategy, going into new markets — and that indications in SA are that this will be possible.
Explains Smith, “The more consumers get educated about streaming and see the advantages of streaming music, the more we have alignment of data prices, making streaming more affordable for the end consumer — and [the more we have] collaboration between music services such as ourselves and hyper-local content and artists, the better the adoption will be, and hopefully we can sustain and even improve on the growth figures we’ve seen so far.”
Unpacking hyperlocal, he says that JOOX makes efforts to promote unique local sounds by curating, showcasing and supporting artists. He mentions gqom, amapiano and ghoema as examples of SA genres that the platform has punted to date. The streaming service also has exclusivity agreements (of varying degrees) with certain labels when it comes to local content; he cites Coleske Artists as an example of this with Afrikaans music. In this case, artists are available through JOOX, Apple Music and MTN.
It’s the local focus that differentiates JOOX from the myriad other music streaming apps available here, says Smith. “We look at ourselves as a hyperlocal product, where we promote a lot of local artists, and we try to position ourselves as a local brand.” While the percentage of local music that is consumed is indeed “very high”, he acknowledges that “it needs to sit on a platform of internationally recognised content” — JOOX is by no means a local-only platform.
When JOOX expands into other African markets, which he says it plans to do (though nothing is concrete as yet), the focus will again be on local content. “Going into Africa, it’s about identifying what makes you hyperlocal in those territories,” he says. Aligning with key stakeholders in the various regions would also be critical to success, and this is something Tencent Africa is working on, he says.
Smith believes that, in the coming years, streaming will play an increasingly important role: “If we look at the growth of streaming music globally, it shows the most-significant growth of revenue into the music industry. If we look at the figures for 2018, we’re talking about streaming music almost contributing 47% of all global music revenue. It’s shown to not just fill the gap but supercede physical sales and any other forms of musical revenue.”
Opportunities for brands
According to him, within this growth are new opportunities for brands. “If we look at streaming music in the broader [media] landscape, and we look at how brands start to identify with music streaming, and embrace music services to supplement their brand and their brand positioning with consumers, I think streaming will play a much bigger role in that over the next five years,” he concludes.
Carey Finn (@carey_finn) is a writer and editor with a decade and a half of industry experience, having covered everything from ethical sushi in Japan to the technicalities of roofing, agriculture, medical stuff and more. She’s also taught English and journalism, and dabbled in various other communications ventures along the way, including risk reporting. As a contributing writer to MarkLives.com, her column, “Press Pass”, is a monthly feature spotlighting media leaders and their responses to the trends and tribulations in the industry.