Despite the global recognition that African music is receiving, their rating and preference on streaming platforms continue to lag. The recognition of this grim reality has led two Kenyan innovators, Martin Nielsen (a Danish-Kenyan) and Frances Amisi, to found Mdundo, an Afro-centric streaming platform. They believe their app can rival Spotify and others in Africa.
Spotify, one of the world’s most popular streaming platforms, is only available in five African nations. This leaves much of Africa’s young music lovers in the dark. For those who do not have access to Spotify, there are two other options; Audiomack and Apple Music. Although Apple Music recently expanded to 30 countries, both platforms’ paid subscription model means they still remain less preferred to illegal downloads. Also, only a small percentage of Africans use iPhones and these apps are exclusive to iOS.
The Birth of Mdundo
This gap between demand and supply led the two Kenyans to bring Mdundo to life. Mdundo currently provides streaming services to over 6 million Africans. However, they hope to gain more traction within the continent. One of its co-founders, Martins Nielsen, explained that having seen Spotify revolutionize the streaming industry in the West, he felt inspired to create an African alternative. According to him,
“The philosophy is exactly the same. We believe that if you create a product that is interesting enough for the user, they will move away from the illegal stream. Consequently, you can start making much more money for the music industry and the rights owners than ever before. We don’t think that the product that Apple and Spotify are offering is the right one for the mass market in Africa. That’s why we’re doing it differently.”
Conquering the African Model
Contrary to their Western counterparts, Mdundo, which is the Swahili word for rhythm, earns majorly from ads. It does not operate using monthly subscriptions. Over 80,000 artists can upload their songs, from which Mdundo’s users can download rather than stream them. In place of the monthly fees, Mdundo plays a 5 to 10-second ad from which they share the proceeds 50-50 between the artist and the platform.
— Mdundo Music UG (@mdundomusicUg) January 16, 2021
Over the short period of their existence, they have attracted brands such as Visa, Safaricom, and Coca-Cola to advertise on their platform. Frances Amisi, the other co-founder, hopes they can attract more so they can do more for African music lovers.
Music in Africa director, Eddie Hatitye, believes Mdundo is one for the future of African music. According to him, this free model appeals to many Africans among whom illegal downloads are common. Legal platforms receive only 7% of all music downloads in Africa. With the exorbitant cost of data on the continent, he believes Mdundo’s model is the best to compete with illegal sites. He hopes that the one true Afro-centric streaming platform proves worthy to rival Spotify and Apple.