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Spotify arrives to shake up SA music industry

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The global leader in music streaming has arrived in South Africa, and is set to shake up the industry, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK .

The final death knell has been sounded for the thousands of iPods still in use in South Africa. Due to the high cost of streaming music via mobile data, many have held onto the one-time standard in storing music that was bought or copied onto a portable device.

That is about to change, as the world leader in music streaming, Spotify, was formally launched in this country yesterday. And it making a big play for the local audience.

“Our product stands for discovery: discovering new music and music you will like,” says Michael Krause, Spotify MD for Europe, Middle East and Africa. “We have local and international artists. Local content is so important which is why we made a huge effort to get local artist licensing.”

Krause stresses that Spotify’s arrival would be a boon not only or music lovers, but for the artists as well.

“It will give all the artists access to over 159-million customers, so we hope more South African artists will have great exposure outside the country, and also to local fans who will discover new artists they didn’t know. We hope more artists will be able to make a living off our service.”.

Spotify cheat sheet_Final

And there is one other massive potential benefit.

“Streaming is a key driver for industry growth in general,” says Krause. “Music streaming really helps to boost markets, even where there was a decline because of digital music. It has changed markets back to growth. These are features we hope to emphasise in South Africa.”

Spotify is available in both a free version, supported by advertising, and a paid version, which will cost R60 a month – as little as half of the $10 price tag in the United States. This positions it at the same price as other major streaming services in South Africa, like Simfy Africa and Google Play Music.  As with Simfy, users will be able to download music onto their smartphone when in a Wi-Fi zone, and play it offline when only expensive mobile data is available.

The one fundamental difference to other streaming services, however, is that few users will experience a difference between music available locally and internationally. That means current users who have been “cheating” by signing onto the American service won’t be disadvantaged when they switch.

“All South Africans can simply change the country and payment mechanism so that they can pay the local pricing,” says Claudius Boller, Spotify MD for Middle East and Africa. “The interesting thing is that it’s the same music, so you don’t lose any of your playlist.

“Our standard international offer is live in this market, and there will be more local content available. It’s a very tiny amount of content that may not be available due to licensing rights. We’re a 100% legal service, so we have everything licensed.”

Krause says that Spotify has had the African continent in its sights for a while, but chose South Africa as the continent’s launch pad due to a combination of music culture and better connectivity. Not mentioned in this context is the fact that, because the service currently requires credit or debit cards, Nigeria poses particular challenges. Many online services do not accept credit card from the continent’s largest music market

“Not everyone has a credit card available,” Krause says diplomatically. “Other payment options will come after the first launch. We will make sure we have all payment possibilities so that people have no boundaries.”

Meanwhile, the South African launch coincided with the service going live in three other countries yesterday, namely Israel, Romania and Vietnam.

Spotify is expected to make a similar impact on streaming music in South Africa as Netflix made on the video-on-demand industry. Netflix came into a market that had been gearing up for its arrival, but it still cleaned up, thanks to a vast and fast-growing catalogue of original content.

This still left room for a variety of niche players, like Digital Entertainment on Demand (DEOD), which emphasis extreme and school sports, Kwese Play, with a strong African focus, and Cell C’s black, which fills various gaps in between.

Music streaming,  on the other hand, does not lend itself to providers creating their own content, nor to artists providing exclusivity to one outlet – although there are exceptions. This means anyone in the market for a music streaming service is likely to choose only one. Spotify’s free version, along with the large existing fan base for its paid service, means it will be the first stop for most music lovers.

It is also likely to have one other effect that would not be encountered in developed markets. Because of the massive awareness that will spring from local artists punting Spotify to their fans, it will probably create a spike in app usage by South Africans who had migrated to smartphones but remained wary of data use.

In this way, it may well be a catalyst for growth in industries beyond only music.

* The Spotify app can be downloaded via the Android or iOS app stores or on the Web at www.spotify.com.  The premium service offers a 30-day free trial. 

Spotify facts and figures

Spotify offers the following curated playlists for South Africa:

Top Hits South Africa
New Music Friday SA
Hip Hop Juice
Sunday Praise
Gospel Greatness
House Nation
iGqom Le
Rock Essentials
Made in South Africa
Beste Pop
Maskandi Favourites
The Hip Hop Circle
Chilled Vibez
Sunday Feels  Feel Good Look Good
Nine 2 Five
Gym Beats
That Party Feeling
City Back 2 Kasi
SA Gold

Spotify stats:

  • Over 159 million active users
  • Over 71 million subscription users
  • Over 35m tracks in the catalogue
  • Over 2 billion playlists available
  • Over €8 billion paid to rights holders since launch in October 2008
  • Available across 65 markets including South Africa

Spotify Free features: 

  • Full catalogue access
  • Curated, personalised playlists, background play and charts
  • Listen to any artist, album or playlist on Android and iPhone handsets
  • Access to the full Spotify catalogue on desktop and tablet
  • Create playlists and share with friends on Spotify, Facebook, Twitter, text and email.

Spotify Premium: 

  • On-demand music with no ad interruptions on computer, phone and tablet
  • High quality streaming (320kbps)
  • Listen offline
  • Use Spotify Connect to play Spotify on a connected speaker, TV and car.
  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube

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Small South African town goes smartphone-only

Vodacom partners with farming business to upgrade all residents of Wakkerstroom from 2G devices to smartphones

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All residents of the small town of Wakkerstroom, which straddles Mpumalanga and kwaZulu-Natal provinces, have had their 2G feature phones upgraded to 3G devices.

The initiative is a result of Vodacom partnering with BPG Langfontein, a farming business that employs the majority of the people living in Wakkerstroom. It is now the first smartphone-only town in South Africa. This is a model the network provider says it hopes to replicate across the country as part of its mission to connect people who live in deep rural areas and are still dependent on 2G networks.

Wakkerstroom, is the second oldest town in Mpumalanga province, on the KwaZulu-Natal border, 27 km east of Volksrust and 56 km south-east of Amersfoort.  

“There are growing expectations for big corporates the size of Vodacom to serve a social purpose, and for us to use our resources and core capabilities to make a significant contribution in transforming the lives of ordinary people,” says Zakhele Jiyane, Managing Executive for Vodacom Mpumalanga. “We are helping to remove communication barriers, so that citizens in the area can be part of the digital revolution and reap the associated benefits. By moving the more than 1400 farm workers from 2G to 3G devices, this will also free much needed spectrum and this spectrum can be re-farmed to provide for faster networks such as 3G and 4G.

“Crucially, the move opens a new world of connectivity for farm workers in Wakkerstroom. As a result, most people in the area will now be able to use the Vodacom network to connect on the net and access online government services, eHealth services such as Mum&Baby and eCommerce. Learners can now surf the internet for the first time and access Vodacom’s eSchool free of charge and those who are actively looking for jobs can start using their smartphones and tablets to apply for jobs over the internet on Vodacom’s zero-rated career sites. This will be key for driving growth to the benefit of people living in this area.”

Vodacom has already deployed 4G base stations in Wakkestroom as part of this initiative.

For the next phase of this project, says Vodacom, it is going to educate the farm workers about data and the benefits of the Internet. Vodacom will also look at various ways in which it can help empower members of this community in areas of education, gender-based violence and health.

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10 more African countries join Facebook fact-checking

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Facebook today announced the expansion of its Third-Party Fact-Checking programme to 10 additional African countries, which now join  Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Cameroon and Senegal in the project,

In partnership with Agence France-Presse (AFP), the France 24 Observers, Pesa Check and Dubawa, this programme forms part of its work in helping assess the accuracy and quality of news people find on Facebook, whilst reducing the spread of misinformation on its platform.

Working with a network of fact-checking organizations, certified by the non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network, third-party fact-checking will now be available in Ethiopia, Zambia, Somalia and Burkina Faso through AFP, Uganda and Tanzania through both Pesa Check and AFP, Democratic Republic of Congo and Cote d’Ivoire through the France 24 Observers and AFP, Guinea Conakry through the France 24 Observers, and Ghana through Dubawa.

Feedback from the Facebook community is one of many signals Facebook uses to raise potentially false stories to fact-checkers for review. Local articles will be fact-checked alongside the verification of photos and videos. If one of our fact-checking partners identifies a story as false, Facebook will show it lower in News Feed, significantly reducing its distribution.

Kojo Boakye, Facebook Head of Public Policy, Africa, said: “The expansion of third-party fact-checking to now cover 15 countries in a little over a year shows firsthand our commitment and dedication to the continent, alongside our recent local language expansion as part of this programme. Taking steps to help tackle false news on Facebook is a responsibility we take seriously, we know misinformation is a problem, and these are important steps in continuing to address this issue. We know that third-party fact-checking alone is not the solution, it is one of many initiatives and programmes we are investing in to help to improve the quality of information people see on Facebook. While we’ve made great progress, we will keep investing to ensure Facebook remains a place for all ideas, but not for the spread of false news.”

When third-party fact-checkers fact-check a news story, Facebook will show these in Related Articles immediately below the story in News Feed. Page Admins and people on Facebook will also receive notifications if they try to share a story or have shared one in the past that’s been determined to be false, empowering people to decide for themselves what to read, trust, and share.

Providing fact-checking in English and French across eight countries, Phil Chetwynd, AFP Global News Director said: “AFP is delighted to be expanding its fact-checking project with Facebook. We are known for the high quality of our journalism from across Africa and we will be leveraging our unparalleled network of bureaus and journalists on the continent to combat misinformation.”

Eric Mugendi, Managing Editor from Pesa Check who will provide fact-checking services in Swahili and English added: “Social networks like Facebook haven’t just changed how Africans consume the news. Social media is often the primary access to digital content or the ‘Internet’ for many Africans. They shape our perceptions of the world, our public discourse, and how we interact with public figures. This project helps us dramatically expand our fact-checking to debunk claims that could otherwise cause real-world harm. The project helps us respond more quickly and directly. We’re seeing real positive results in our interactions with both publishers and the public itself. The project also helps our fact-checks reach a far larger audience than we would otherwise. This has helped us better understand the information vacuum and other viral dynamics that drive the spread of false information in Africa. Our growing impact is a small but tangible contribution to better informed societies in Africa.”

Caroline Anipah, Programme Officer, Dubawa (Ghana) said: “Dubawa is excited to be in Ghana where the misinformation and disinformation have become widespread as a result of technological advancement and increasing internet penetration. Dubawa intends to raise the quality of information available to the public with the ultimate aim of curbing the spread of misinformation and disinformation and promoting good governance and accountability.”

Derek Thomson, editor-in-chief of the France 24 Observers, said: “Our African users are constantly sending us questionable images and messages they’ve received via social media, asking us ‘Is this true? Can you check it?’ It’s our responsibility as fact-checking journalists to verify the information that’s circulating, and get the truth back out there. Participating in the Facebook programme helps ensure that our fact-checks are reaching the people who shared the false news in the first place.”

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