Is the Internet Changing the Way Africans Listen to Music?

Is the Internet Changing the Way Africans Listen to Music?

We presently live in a world of Bluetooth, smartphones, smart speakers, tablets and laptops. The boom of the 21st-century media technology is changing how we consume information, film and music. With smart gadgets and digital applications, we can efficiently multitask and switch between activities, and this might be affecting the way we listen to music.

Admittedly, music consumption has increased significantly due to digital portals and streaming services. There have been questions of if these new developments will end man’s search for a convenient sound distribution; the journey began decades ago from wax tubes to vinyl records, cassettes and compact discs.

In September 2017, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) reported on the entertainment and media (E&M) industry in Africa’s leading economies: Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana and Tanzania. The report presented consumption figures in the music industries of the countries for 2017 to 2021, stating an evident height of subscription-based and music rental portals now overlapping digital music downloads and physical distributions.

With the emergence of Spotify, a music streaming platform in 2008, we have witnessed the success of online music platforms. However, before Spotify, platforms like Napster, Rhapsody, and Pandora were in existence, but their services focus more on music downloads than streaming. Today, one can subscribe monthly to platforms like Spotify, Deezer, Google Play, Apple Music, which all offer a more extensive catalogue of music for streaming.

Most of these platforms target the African market, which in turn increases our music consumption rate. Through streaming, Africans can now access a limitless catalogue of music for affordable prices. Also, the decrease in the cost of data and smartphones hugely contributes to the change in trends of music consumption in Africa. A smartphone with Internet connectivity and data affords people the opportunity to select and listen from a vast library of music offered by streaming portals that deliver high-quality music.

Thanks to the Internet, there is a visible switch in the way we listen to music in Africa. CDs are going extinct, as well as a decline in music downloads. Platforms like Simfy Africa (South Africa), Boomplay (Nigeria), Spinlet (Nigeria), Tigo (Tanzania/Ghana), Mdundo (Kenya), iRoking (Nigeria), Vuga (Nigeria), Mziiki (Tanzania), Mkito (Tanzania), Orin (Nigeria), Las Gidi Tunes (Nigeria) are fast replacing conventional distribution channels with affordability and responsiveness, a significant criteria for consumers.

Wale Owoade is a writer, music journalist and pop culture critic. His works have been published in African American Review, Transition, Guernica, Bettering American Poetry, Poet Lore, Duende, The Brooklyn Review, and The Collagist. He received the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominations and was shortlisted for the 2017 Brittle Paper Literary Awards. In 2016, Owoade won a scholarship from Research and World History Institute (Tokyo) and was invited to attend the 2017 Callaloo Writers Workshop at Oxford University. His works have been translated into Bengali, German and Spanish. He currently writes on music and pop culture for The Afrovibe, Pan-African Music magazine and Omenka magazine.

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