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Spotify hits sweet spot

Streaming has shifted the music industry away from ownership and towards customer experience, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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Last week marked the end of the beginning of the streaming music revolution. Apple announced the closing of iTunes, the 18-year-old platform that helped shift the music industry from physical to digital. At its height, in 2014, close to a billion people were using it.

However, the business model was still based on traditional ownership of music. Users either converted their physical music into digital tracks, or bought songs from iTunes. Apple founder Steve Jobs said back in 2003, when the iPod music player was launched, that consumers “don’t want to rent their music… They don’t want subscriptions”.

History proved him spectacularly wrong, and when streaming subscriptions services like Spotify and Pandora began taking off, even as iTunes hit the 800-million user mark, the company launched Apple Music in a dramatic acknowledgment that subscriptions were the future. It was also an admission that iTunes, which had also become a download service for movies and TV shows, had become top-heavy and frustrating to use.

Apple’s late arrival in the streaming world has cost it: In January this year, Apple Music reached 50-million subscribers – exactly half the number paying monthly subs to Spotify.

Spotify took South African music by storm when it launched here in March 2018, thanks to close collaboration with local artists.  It has a dedicated South African team that creates playlists for South Africans, in genres that appeal to local audiences. It also has a local ad sales team, and achieved early success with automotive brands like BMW and Mini using the platform extensively.

The company does not break down user statistics by country but, says Claudius Boller, managing director for Middle East and Africa, uptake exceeded all expectations.

“It’s been an amazing year,” he told Business Times. “Engagement in South Africa has crossed the world average. Users are extremely active, lean forward, and engage with playlists on a daily basis. We are not running many campaigns to move people from our free service to the Premium offering, but people do it right away.

“The metric we look at is how often and how long people use Spotify on average per day, and we have already seen those on premium subscriptions using Spotify much more than Facebook per day.”

The South African audience has another key differentiator, says Boller: “The market is extremely loyal. We know other music services have been in the market for many years. But when people make up their minds to try Spotify, they fall in love with it and continue to use it. The drop-off rate of people using our service is one of the lowest of all the markets in which Spotify operates.”

One of the secrets of Spotify’s success is the close relationship it builds with what it calls “the creative community” – both artists and labels.

“They are extra engaged, because of the data they are able to get. We give them a huge amount of data in a way that is very easy to digest. Through Spotify for Artists, they can see in real time how many listeners they have, their demographics, where they are listening, and where their audience is growing. If Jeremy Loops is doing very well in Australia, he can adjust where to promote his music and how to plan his touring schedule.

“We also use that data to work more closely with the creative community. We bring artists, labels and managers together for educational events so that they can get to know how to use the data. We give them practical advice, for example that they should release music on the same day on all platforms, including radio and streaming services, to maximise monetisation.”

Music entrepreneur Siya Metane agrees that audience data is one of the greatest benefits of streaming music. Better known as Slikour, founding member of the legendary hip hop group Skwatta Kamp, he now runs SlikourOnLife, an online urban music site and community with well over a million regular users. Understanding user trends has been at the heart of the growth of the platform, and he believes Spotify and its competitors add yet another dimension.

“The analytics that the streaming platforms provide give artists more insight of where their music is being consumed,” he says. “It is therefore giving the artists and their managers insight on where to invest nationally or globally. Such information has not been readily available to artists and managers before. Historically, everything was based on the physical purchase of a copy in a region – most of the time locally.”

But there is a downside, he says: “The cost of the streaming sacrifice is losing a whole R100 per album to a streaming company that pays you based on their pro rata plays on their service. Therefore only a few people can benefit. But streaming has definitely shifted the business from music alone to everything else music can influence.”

Both Vodacom and MTN have recognised the potential of streaming music to add value to their services, which are becoming increasingly commoditised. MTN late last year bought the local music streaming service Simfy Africa, and Vodacom in April this year launched its own streaming music service, called My Muze. The latter invites aspiring musicians to upload their music, with the possibility of being discovered and signed to a music label.

“The music industry has changed rapidly in recent times in that everything now lives digitally,” says Rehana Hassim, portfolio manager for music at Vodacom. “We also hope to attract new young consumers, to whom music remains one of the biggest passion points, providing various ways to engage with and consume the music they love.”

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It’s printing, Jim, but not as we know it

Selling printing services is not only about the hardware anymore, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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The seminal science fiction series Star Trek generated many catch-lines, like “The Prime Directive” and “Live long and prosper”. One of its most parodied lines, however, is Doctor Bones McCoy’s words to Captain Kirk on encountering an alien species: “It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it.”

That’s exactly the way one could describe the printer industry today. Every time an HP, Epson or Konica Minolta releases a new machine for this sector, one can sense the puzzled frowns of people taken by surprise that it still exists.

The difference is that it has evolved from a focus on paper to an emphasis on document management.

One of the first companies to spot that shift in the market, Japanese-headquartered Konica-Minolta, pioneered the concept of a dedicated printer company introducing its own software development division.

“We’ve always believed our role is solving problems for the customer, and not just to provide print, copy and scan solutions,” says Marc Pillay, CEO of the company’s South African division. “Our primary focus is multi-functional devices, but we always look at adding value to clients. Our real job is to assist in achieving a better return on investment.”

The proof of the pudding is that the local division is one of the biggest Konica-Minolta distributors in the world. The reason is simple: unlike most other countries, the South African operation has both a direct and indirect channel. That means it is able to supply companies through its reseller network, while also having a presence on the ground in the form of a dealer network across the country. That, in turn, has given it access to municipalities and other organs of state.

“Our value proposition is based on quality products, service and an unparalleled supply chain,” says Pillay. “When everyone was afraid to do business with government, we thrived on it. It comes from being located in areas where it’s easy to do business with us.”

One could call that the secret of success for existing demand. The coming era, however, will require an appreciation of the next big shifts in printing, says Pillay.

“We’ve seen the big shifts from analog to digital, from monochrome to colour, and from decentralisation to centralisation of printing. The next shift is unbundling printing into a hybrid approach, using both cloud and managed solutions. It’s all going to become subscription-based, and it will be print-on-demand. The high-end customers go into that very quickly, but we still have to cater for people who just do copying.”

Pillay believes that the opening of Microsoft’s Azure data centres in South Africa in March has already made a difference.

“Now you can scan from a device into Microsoft’s SharePoint online or Google Drive. It’s not about screen size anymore, but what you can do to make an impact.”

Where people don’t print, says Pillay, they’re absorbing documents digitally.

“We have to make sure that, where we lose the print, we are gaining the management of the scan, digitisation of the document or management of the workflow. Our income will come out of the workflow.

“Clearly, we’re not just focused on selling a piece of hardware anymore.”

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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SA chooses most loved local businesses

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A new World Wide Worx research report identifies and names South Africa’s 12 Most Loved Local businesses, and places the spotlight on the vital role commercial businesses play in the South African economy. The country’s favourite local businesses include the Chapman’s Peak Hotel in Hout Bay – famed for its calamari, celebrity chef David Higgs’ Rosebank eatery Marble as well as Rouge Day Spa with branches in Kenilworth and Constantia in Cape Town run by a dynamic mother and daughter duo.

The aim of the Most Loved Local report was to celebrate those businesses South Africans love the most and to investigate exactly what makes consumers big fans of these entities. It further offers these enterprises insights into what it takes to succeed in business, highlights the qualities that convert clients into fans and encourages more South Africans to ‘shop’ local.

Report results

Commissioned by Santam, results were compiled using a combination of digital listening tools and traditional research. Social media listening using organic search analysis looked into which business categories were being searched for most. This was followed up with a trend analysis to assess whether a business category was growing in popularity, keyword volume analysis to refine the categories and finally social listening within the categories which businesses were being spoken about in the most positive terms. Thereafter, a poll was conducted among 2 489 respondents to find out what made them love a local business – or not. The sample was nationally representative and aligned to the economically active population per province. A respected independent research house World Wide Worx conducted the research.

The full list of businesses that came top across 12 categories are:

  1. Place to Stay: Chapmans Peak Hotel (Cape Town) – the one with the perfect calamari
  2. Eatery: Marble (Johannesburg) – the one with the celebrity chef in the kitchen
  3. Butcher: The Butcher Man (Cape Town) – the one that people cross town for
  4. Bakery: Fournos (Johannesburg) – the one that is way more than a bakery
  5. Spa: Rouge Day Spa (Cape Town) – the one run by a dynamic mother-daughter team
  6. Entertainment Spot: Gold Reef City (Johannesburg)  – the one with the heart of gold
  7. Gym: Dream Body Fitness (Johannesburg) – the one that is completely unintimidating to work out at
  8. Interior Designer: By Dezign Interiors (Johannesburg) – the one that really, really gets its clients’ style
  9. Market: Bryanston Organic & Natural Market (Johannesburg) – the one that was an organic market before it was trendy to be an organic market
  10. Laundromat: Exclusive Dry Cleaners (Johannesburg) – the one that treats every single client like family
  11. Car Wash: Tubbs’s Car Wash (Johannesburg) – the one that cleans your car while you have a haircut
  12. Construction company: Radon Projects (Pretoria) – the one that is ready all day and all night

Delving into what makes a consumer go from ‘client to fan’, the key factor standing out above all others was service. Arthur Goldstuck, CEO of World Wide Worx, says it seems South Africans will forgive a multitude of ‘sins’ if they are treated well. “Good service was the number one factor that makes 40% of those surveyed support a local business. This was followed by quality products at 18%. Third place went to value for money at 10%, proving the old adage that competing on price alone is not a sound business strategy,” said Goldstuck.

When asked what makes them loyal to a local business, some interesting views across age groups emerged. “Younger clients are more swayed by quality, while older ones are impressed by service. This seems to fit with younger people wanting the status of nice things, and older people wanting to feel valued and respected,” said Goldstuck.

Unsurprisingly, all 12 Most Loved Locals called out service as one of their guiding lights and core pillars when interviewed. Theo and George Parpottas, owners of Exclusive Dry Cleaners, the selected company in the laundromat category, believe when someone walks into their shop, they should be greeted with smiling faces and courteous people. “We don’t care if it’s the president or a beggar, from the moment they walk in, they are a client. We greet them, we are courteous, and we treat them with respect. It doesn’t matter what they bring.”

For Gary Karycou, who co-owns Marble in Rosebank with celebrity chef David Higgs, it is all about attitude. “You can teach someone anything if they want to do it, but we employ on attitude. You get the basic skills but if someone really wants to learn, you can transform them.” He continues, “Giving the best service to our clients, is our motto. It’s something that’s lacking in South Africa and even globally. Businesses just become a bit complacent.”

Famed Green Point butchery and restaurant, The Butcher Man, is owned by Arie Fabiani. He says people will drive past other butcheries and come all the way to the Butcher Man because “we deliver a great service. Good service is critical, and our team knows it.”

Another key finding was that people are more likely to recommend a business if there is a good deal or excellent value for money. Mokaedi Dilotsotlhe, Chief Marketing Officer at Santam, says this is an interesting finding. “Perhaps we are more likely to share a good deal with others and keen to help others find great nuggets of the positive trade-off between value and price. So, it is worth ensuring that, in addition to service and quality, your clients feel like they are getting value for the money they spend with you. That way, they are more likely to tell family and friends the good news!”

Dilotsotlhe added that the report’s release has been well-timed as the need to stimulate sectors of the economy which can create jobs has never been more vital. Commercial enterprises are responsible for a significant percentage of the labour-force in South Africa, and the impact thereof is significant. Due to the fact that these enterprises remain a largely underinsured sector, the campaign also seeks to highlight the need for insurance as a vital aspect of business continuity. When they thrive, it benefits the whole nation, and from a Santam perspective, this translates into sustainable growth for our business.

To download the full report, click here.

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