7 startups hitting the right note with Africa’s musicians


There are a lot of music tech startups popping up across Africa. It shouldn’t be that surprising when you look at Nigeria, which boasts the largest music industry on the continent. According to CNBC, the country’s industry produces 550 albums of different kinds of music annually. It’s even said that the entertainment industry would pass the US$1-billion mark by 2016.

Similarly echoed in other parts of the continent, Africa’s music industry faces many obstacles like an ever-changing infrastructure, piracy, and lack of investment to empower both the producers and the artists. Having said that, there are still a lot of opportunities being taken advantage of, like innovative smartphone distribution mechanisms and the general lack of monopolies.



Often referred to as the iTunes of Africa, Spinlet is a web and mobile music download and streaming service for African content. With a focus on media distribution and monetisation, the service last year September hit 650 000 subscribers with a bold target of 50 million by 2016. The company supports mobile payment services like M-Pesa and charges 1 000 Naira (about US$6) for a one-month streaming subscription, and 60 Naira for a single track.



With a focus of empowering local artists and curbing online piracy, Waabeh launched in 2013 and today claims the title of being the go-to place for Kenyan artists to easily upload and distribute their music. Less so than a platform like Apple’s online music distribution service, iTunes, Waabeh keeps 30% of the royalties. As of March this year, the startup had managed more than 10 000 downloads and also seen more than 330 000 streams.


MuZik was chosen as one of Demo Africa’s top 40 local tech startups earlier this year. Hailing from Cameroon and founded in 2011, MuZik takes a unique approach by allowing people to get music via their mobiles without having an internet connection. Using virtual assistant technology platform VIKI, it relies on an SMS system whereby a user text information to a number, after which they can listen to the a track.



Grumi launched late last year in Nigeria. The startup wants to create a social music consumption platform for better fan engagement. The platform allows people to search and download local music, engage in conversations about shared music interests, and listen to Grumi’s online radio station.



One of the arms of Nigerian media company, iRoko Partners, iRoking offers on-demand streaming, playlists and online radio services. Last year, iRoko Partners attracted a nice US$8-million investment from Tiger Global Management.

It’s arguably one of Nigeria’s most popular online music services. Similar to iRoko Partners vision, the service has over the years relied heavily on Africa’s diaspora in order to help generate revenue for its artists. This, however, is starting to change with more focus on the continent’s local consumer base.



BIGxGh puts Ghanaian music on a global map. It also features Nigerian artists and focuses on creating a community by sharing music, events and news. Some features include the ability to make your own online playlists and a section for unsigned artists to market themselves.



Orin is like Africa’s very own Spotify — it’s an on-demand music service for smartphones. By relying on a subscription service of US$3 a month, the Nigerian-based allows listeners to stream unlimited music of their choice. With an obvious focus on Nigeria’s booming music industry, Orin also includes a daily chart of curated African music. Unlike Spotify or iTunes for that matter, the tech startup ads a unique gamification flavour by introducing badges for users that unlock achievements and the ability to view music videos from inside the app. It’s currently only available on iOS.

Let us know which are your favorite.

Image by Debajyoti Das via Flickr.

Jacques Coetzee: Staff Reporter


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