What is the future of digital services in Africa and what do you think are the top 3 major trends affecting your business in the region?
Digital services have a large role to play in the emerging digital economy in Africa, and will soon begin to rise to greater prominence as revenues increase. In terms of trends, the most important is the rise of bundled services. We are seeing MNOs all over Africa launching bundles which offer ‘free’ content services, and consumers are starting to react to these. Another trend is ‘love local’ – African customers clearly love African music. Its incredibly difficult to get the content, and we are really proud of our offering to consumers, which has taken years to build up. But the biggest trend, is always music piracy. We need regulators, governments, MNOS and services to work together to find a solution to push users to legal services – paid or ad funded.
Are new online distribution channels providing an opportunity to expand the reach of African artists to international audiences?
Yes definitely. We see a far larger proportion of African content available on international services today, versus our launch two years ago. Artists are now far more discoverable, and conversely, we find that users are more interested in local content, now that it is accessible.
Do you feel that mobile is definitely the future of content distribution, not just music but all forms of content?
Yes absolutely. The more we offer the public legal, efficient, easily accessible [ie mobile] services with good value propositions, the more they will turn away from piracy. Content creators, on the other hand, have far more control than in the physical world, as digital is trackable and protectable, via a watermark or other technology. The all-you-can-eat streaming model is spreading to other forms of content, such as Amazon’s kindle unlimited, as its obvious that consumers love the model. Simfy Africa has grown significantly since our launch in South Africa and Nigeria, largely due to mobile consumption of the service; and the potential for further growth is limitless.
Are there infrastructure concerns and issues surrounding internet speeds and data costs that are hampering the growth of online music in Africa?
It’s obvious that high data costs and low accessibility is holding back all digital businesses and digital consumer education. Our product is great value for money, however the consumer must pay the data costs in addition. So an external factor is causing our product to be deemed ‘expensive’, which is a concern for any business. We can’t directly remove that blockage. However we are seeing costs coming down, and of course, we have developed technology to minimise the data usage by the consumer. In terms of infrastructure, this is not an enormous concern for us, as simfy Africa is light on data, and will work on a 2G network, or slow line speed.
Any particular current or recent projects/success stories that you want to share?
We are presently working on several territorial launches in Africa, so watch this space!
How are smartphones/tablets & cloud services impacting mobile/internet service providers in South Africa?
The release of the new, low cost generic devices, as well as branded smart devices is certainly assisting the growth of cloud services in South Africa, and encouraging data use. Our customers must have a smart device and they are now far more accessible.
What will be your message at the event?
Music streaming is an incredible means to create ‘stickiness’ to your customer, particularly for MNOs. The service experience is outstanding, and the customer builds up a library of music and playlists which they are loath to lose if they churn from their MNO. The service is designed to keep the user close, by suspending music play if the subscription is not paid for example, particularly useful if it’s a ‘free’ service provided within a bundled subscription.
Gillian will be speaking on ‘Constructing and completing the digital music value chain’ on day one.
VAS Africa will be taking place this 30 June – 1 July in Johannesburg, South Africa. For more information, or to register for VAS Africa, please visit: www.comworldseries.com/vasafrica