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Triegaardt: Africa’s distinctive sounds taking the world by storm

For the first time in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) region and Nigeria in particular, Spotify recently launched its audio streaming data, Wrapped. In this interview with ENIOLA DANIEL, Spotify’s Lead, Music Strategy and Operations (Africa), Melanie Triegaardt, speaks on Wrapped, music business in Nigeria, how Spotify is impacting the music industry and other sundry issues.

Spotify’s growth since inception is something of interest. What is responsible for this?
Our mission, purpose and essence, are responsible for the growth of Spotify globally. We are set up to unlock the potential of human creativity by giving creative artists the opportunity to live off their art and billions of fans the opportunity to enjoy and be inspired. 

As of today, we are the world’s most popular audio streaming subscription service with 381 million users, including 172 million subscribers, across 184 markets.

Where is the place of Africa and Nigeria in this success story?
The continent of Africa is becoming one of the fastest-growing music markets in the world with increased demand for its music. The world over, people are demanding African music and our wealth of genres and artists. The continent’s distinctive sounds are taking the world by storm. This includes AmaPiano, Afropop, Afrobeat and Gengetone, among others. So, I can say that Africa has a lot to offer and Nigeria is quickly becoming its biggest success.

At Spotify, we have implemented different strategies to make sure that creators on the African continent are receiving recognition across the world. One of these is the creation of the Africa heat playlist, which is one of our flagship curated playlists dedicated to supporting African creators.

How has Spotify transformed music listening since its launch in 2008?
Spotify is not just about access to audio; we help make it easier to discover new music and podcasts that users will love through a truly personalised experience. We have discovered, managed and shared over 70 million tracks, including over 3.2 million podcast titles to listeners for free or via upgrade to Spotify Premium, which provides access to exclusive features for music, including improved sound quality and an on-demand offline, and ad-free music listening experience.

What’s Spotify Wrapped and how important is it to artists’ growth?
Wrapped was launched in 2017 and its delivery has evolved since then. It’s audio streaming data that highlights the top artists, songs and albums, among others. As streamed by users across the globe, it’s released yearly in early December. The new feature in Wrapped is the personalised Wrapped data, which presents Spotify users with an account of minutes streamed, most streamed songs and artists, amongst others.

To further give our users in Nigeria a more personalised experience, we have added a personalised Wrapped experience that has different fun features.

What are the surprising and interesting data around Wrapped?
In Nigeria and Ghana, for instance, local artists topped the charts of the top 10 most-streamed artists. And Wrapped data shows that Nigerian artists didn’t just conquer the charts at home, they also pulled their weight in Africa, with artists like WizKid and Burna Boy featuring among the top 10 artists in almost every featured country in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). However, in other countries like Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda, Western superstars such as Drake and Justin Bieber dominate the top 10 list chart.

How is the ranking calculated?
Rankings are based on uncapped streams; top albums lists include various artists albums and compilations.

What do you think is responsible for the successes of the Nigerian artists who made it to the list this year?
The massive crossover appeal of Nigerian artists across the African continent and beyond is one of the factors responsible for their successes. In addition to that, the genre of music of these artists also contributed to their success. Most of them sing Afrobeats/Afropop genre, which is attracting a global fan base and appeal.

There have been reports of individuals living large on another person’s work. How do you protect the interest of the original content owners on Spotify?
Piracy is a big challenge in the music industry. For us, when we enter new markets, education becomes a key driver. We seek strategic partnerships with creators and media to educate users on the benefits of legally streaming music and its impact on creators.

Our free tier is also a way to help curb piracy. The ad-supported service takes the cost factor away from users and still allows for us to pay creators.

What’s Spotify doing for creators on the African continent, especially in Nigeria?
We continue to leverage our global playlist brand like African Heat to further drive visibility and discoverability on a global level for creators, both on and off-platform.
 
Spotify for Artists: through the release of music on Spotify, a creator will be able to tap into a world of tools to help support in building his presence on the platform, access to data on how his music is travelling and being consumed.

How challenging was 2020 to Spotify and how did you overcome?
The year 2020 was a challenging time for everyone and for businesses in particular as the world is experiencing COVID-19 pandemic for the first time. Many companies closed their doors and for those that stayed open, they struggled financially. For us, we are not only particular about ourselves as a brand, we are also particular about the wellbeing of our business partners. We pride ourselves in giving artists a platform on which they can thrive. That is, a platform for them to share their music with a global audience and garner fans’ support.

For artists continuing to create at home, our music talent marketplace Sound Better waived its revenue share and cloud-based audio recording platform Sound trap to also offer extended free trials for educators. On a global level, we also partnered with other music industry organisations to launch MusiCares’ COVID-19 Relief Fund, which works to help ease the financial burden for affected artists.

What are Spotify’s partnership and expansion plans?
Earlier this year, we announced a huge expansion into over 80 markets across the globe. Many of these were in SSA, giving access to millions of people on the continent with the world’s youngest population. More recently, we have also announced the expansion of Spotify to the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Republic of Congo.

In March of this year, we unveiled the EQUAL hub, to foster equity for women in music globally. Spotify has since taken that promise one step further with the launch of the EQUAL Global Music Programme. So far, African artists such as DBN Gogo, Ayra Starr and Ssaru have been announced as EQUAL artistes.

For the music community, we launched a feature called the Artist Fundraising Pick in partnership with PayPal.me, which allows artists to add a verified fundraising source to their profile on Spotify. The fundraising effort could be for themselves, their crew or for a separate charitable initiative.

Aside from that, the music team has continued to support and promote local artists and genres on the platform.

EQUAL was launched by Spotify to highlight the women creators on its platform and to help foster equity for women in the audio industry. Every month, the Spotify team chooses a female artist who is the EQUAL Artiste of the month, and the November artiste was 19-year-old Afropop Singer, Ayra Starr.
  
Additionally, Spotify added EQUAL local playlists and a best of Global EQUAL playlist, all housed under the EQUAL hub on Spotify.

Do you listen to Nigerian artists? If yes, who is your favourite and why?
Of course! The artist and the era depend on my mood though. Lately, it’s been quite a bit of Omah Lay and Wurld.

Original article written by Eniola Daniel for The Guardian

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