Spotify launched in Kenya this week and it is something we have been waiting for a long time. The music streaming service is loved by people for its playlists and algorithm. That is why it has over 345 million subscribers with 155 million of those on Spotify Premium globally even before expanding to 80 more countries.
Spotify has grown over time where apart from the main Spotify app, they also have Spotify Lite on Android, Spotify for Artists and also Anchor for creating podcasts.
I had the opportunity to interview Kalle Persson, Senior Product Manager at Spotify’s Stockholm office to shed more light about Spotify’s entry to Kenya and talked more about the apps that Spotify has.
The Much Loved Algorithm
Spotify is loved for its playlists which is thanks to its algorithm and from human editors that curate these playlists. When they launched in Kenya, they had already made a Made in Kenya playlist, Gengetone playlist and much more. I was curious how they do that.
“We have over a hundred expertly curated playlists for all of Africa, which have been in the works for some time. We have a team of music experts that are highly skilled at looking at different markets, different genres, different cultures, and seeing what is the most popular content, as well as finding content that suits different moods and moments,” said Kalle Persson.
These playlists, according to Kalle are a mix between human and machine learning. There are more than 4 billion playlists in Spotify created by users, an editorial team and artists. The strength of their algorithm is also much loved around the world. In our discussion, he explained two of their popular playlists: Discover Weekly and Release Radar.
“Discovery weekly looks at the artists that you like, the songs that you play repeatedly and then analyzes other playlists that contain the same songs and shares what other songs are in that playlist to help you discover new music. This use of big data is definitely a pillar of our personalization strategy.”
“Release radar is very similar in the sense that it analyzes who your favorite artists are and what you listen to repeatedly. It then makes sure that you have the most recent releases from them in a single playlist that is unique to you. With this, you see the blend between a machine powered playlist, and also the editorial expertise that we have.”
“We also have daily mixes, which are based on various types of genres automatically generated for you so that you can explore different parts of your musical taste.”
Kalle also demonstrated how Spotify helps you in creating playlists. When you create one, there is a feature that lets you quickly search for and add songs to it. It also suggests songs you may want to add to it which is quite cool.
Spotify has steadily invested a lot of capital on growing its podcast empire. They have bought podcast companies and a podcast advertising company. Spotify’s intent is loud and clear: They want to be the only source of podcasts and they also want to make it easy for one to create a podcast through Anchor.
“We currently have 2.2 million podcasts, and that is not episodes, that is actual podcast shows on the entire platform,” he said. “We see a lot of content being created through Anchor and it’s been really great to see.”
He was confident of the uptake of podcasts in Africa through Spotify. “We are very excited about the potential of podcasts and how consumers in Africa can experience them on Spotify with Anchor, which is great for both distribution and creation.”
“My focus is on markets outside of Europe and the US,” he said to me in the introduction. “I’ve been bringing to market a pretty long list of products over the years, and most recently Spotify Lite which is also launching in Kenya and other markets in Africa,” he added.
Kenya is a developing market where the majority do not have expensive smartphones that can handle the full Spotify app. That is why Spotify has the Spotify Lite app; it’s made for markets like Kenya. “We know Africa is a huge market. It is a continent with many different markets and consumers and different needs. We know it’s very Android heavy compared to iPhone or other platforms, and we know that internet connectivity is [sometimes] a problem due to many challenges,” Kalle explained.
Kalle said that Spotify Lite had a simple goal. “We wanted to make the Spotify experience available for everyone regardless of their phone and data connection. So we built Spotify Lite from the ground up with a smaller footprint. It’s more basic than our main Spotify app, but it has the same core features of personalization, podcasts and music to create an entire audio experience.”
Spotify for Artists
Artists are usually paid for streams on Spotify. Each platform has their own figure and it is structured in a way that the more streams you get, the higher you get paid.
“Before coming to new markets in Africa, we’ve been in South Africa, Egypt, Morocco and others and it has been amazing to see how a lot of the local artists or local genres have been excelling outside of the continent.”
Amapiano was able to branch away from South Africa to other markets. “What was fascinating here is how it jumped and picked up in markets like the UK and US.” He added that during the pandemic, the number one streamed local playlist was Amapiano Grooves.
The Spotify team also talked about the Emerging Artist program Radar: “So far, we have 4 artists from Africa: Tems from Nigeria, Elaine from South Africa, Amapiano artist Focalistic, and the trap artist Willy Cardiac from South Africa. We’ve been supporting them by offering marketing support, and editorial support.”
I was curious as to how the payment system works. Spotify pays between $1 per 302 streams and $1 per 229 streams as of 2019. “We pay all rights holders in accordance with our licensing agreements. We recommend that artists speak to their distributors for details on your revenues. It varies based on their agreements,” Spotify says.
For indie artists, Spotify explained further about how their system works. “They can go through distributors where they sign up to have their music distributed on various platforms. We also have a dedicated website for Spotify for artists that actually has FAQs for artists.”
Will Spotify HiFi come to Africa?
During the Stream On event, Spotify announced that they will have a higher streaming quality tier called Spotify HiFi that I was pumped about. Currently, Premium maxes out at 320kbps so I asked Kalle if we will get that in Africa.
“Our current plan is to launch Spotify HiFi in select markets at the beginning of this year. We look forward to sharing more information about how this develops in the coming months, but it is great to know that there’s a fan in Kenya.”