Music Industry Insights

Africa’s MP3 download era: Here’s why digital music downloads are still prominent in Africa.

Africa’s population is currently about 1.2 billion and the continent has about 362 million internet users, which is an internet penetration of 29%. The continent is witnessing a great amount of growth in the digital space and this has the world watching Africa as a potential technological hub to invest in. The burning questions are: how are the 362 million internet users accessing the internet, what are some of the reasons why they go online and how do they behave online? Well, for a starter, it is important to note that there are about 226 million smartphone users in Africa and about 150 million active mobile social media users. When accessing the web, African internet users open a world of information which leads to a need of smarter searching for what they want to see or learn.

africa's download era
Photo credit: Info Afrique

Now with all those numbers, we need to focus on their significance and what they mean for our area of focus, which is the digital music space. The one issue that is affecting the growth of certain digital advancements is the problem of affordability of data which allows African internet users to access the web. Due to high data prices, the time Africans spend online is shorter than the rest of the world. South Africa and Nigeria are the two top countries that have highest data usage in Africa and those countries have a mobile share of 78% and 81% respectively. South African internet users that access the internet using mobile spend about 3 hours and 3 minutes on the internet daily and about 4 hours and 27 minutes online using desktops. With that amount of time spent online, one can deduce that video and audio streaming has not penetrated the African digital space as of yet. Digital downloads are still triumphing over streaming and there are a number of reasons for that and we will focus on one of the reasons — which is high data prices. The expensive price of data in Africa makes the internet users in the region spend less time online and it is always cheaper for African internet users to download rather than stream.


africa's download era
Photo credit: Untold Africa

On a music front, downloads are still leading — whether legal or illegal. This prompts record labels and artists to use the download route for their releases because most of the consumers of music in Africa access music in that manner because it is cheaper. Africa still has a lot feature phone users which have basic internet accessibility features and allow the users to download. Most of the big African artists still see paid-downloading sites like iTunes a viable option, despite Africa having its own streaming platforms. Africa has ten strong streaming platforms which they can consider, namely: Simfy Africa(South Africa), Spinlet(Nigeria), Tigo(Tanzania/Ghana), Mdundo(Kenya), iRocking(Nigeria), Vuga(Nigeria), Mziiki(Tanzania), Mkito(Tanzania), Orin(Nigeria) and Las Gidi Tunes(Nigeria). As different avenues of digital music grow in the number of users, it is still too early to give up on MP3 downloads in Africa even though digital downloads have decreased globally due to the rise of streaming.

The key that will see artists and record labels churn out innovative ways in making their releases available for download is the need for re-thinking for how download release have been done. More can be done than simply having different forms of creative rolled out online and then supplying a download link. The MP3 download era is still in full swing in Africa and the space the continent is currently needs to get rid of mediocrity. Yes, cool campaigns still work but the industry needs to think differently keeping in mind the limitations that continent currently has. If you’re a record label or an artist that plans on only release a single only on a particular streaming site — have you considered the average internet speed in your region, how people behave online in your region, how much time people spend time in your region. Digital music downloads in Africa are still important. Re-think your strategies and innovate.

The gates of innovation in the digital music space are open. The question is, how are you going to think differently as an African record label or artist?