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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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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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