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Nigeria’s music industry is regarded as the most popular in Africa considering the numerous continentally acclaimed and globally heard music superstars that are filling halls and stadiums in several parts of the world. Even though the stars are largely regarded as wealthy, much of their wealth doesn’t come from album sales since it has been largely difficult to get people to pay for music, forcing the artists to focus on making money from endorsements, events and other franchises.
The proliferation of platforms such as NotjustOK.com and NaijaLoaded.com, where individuals could easily download music tracks and albums for free, make it even more difficult for companies trying to make money from online music sales to do so. This is evident in the launch and re-launch of platforms such as Spinlet and iRoking. But there is a new platform emerging and its founders are hoping to make money by offering users access to songs that best match their mood.
It is called Vuga.fm, co-founded by two guys with a vast knowledge of the Nigerian music industry. Ralph Amachree used to be in the same music group as the late hip-hop sensation Da Grin; he has been a music manager and has worked with some of the big names in the industry. His partner, Christopher Okekeze, is an award-winning event promoter and artist manager at Davido’s record label, HKN Music.
“In early 2012, I was working on my master’s degree thesis titled ‘a business module on bringing the big three labels into Nigeria’, in Media Business from the University of Westminster, which was when I realised there wasn’t a professional music streaming platform. Using all the knowledge I had picked up along the way, I set out with my co-founder and we began to build the platform in early 2013 and we are almost ready to release a beta version,” Amachree told Ventureburn from Orlando, Florida.
He says he realised the majority of music platforms didn’t offer music streaming platforms; according to him, they were more geared towards blog-style postings with NotJustOK being the largest.
“I decided to use my understanding of the process of music production along with my understanding of music composition, along with the help of some music theory students in the United States to create an extensive metadata list that helps to characterise music. Then Vuga was born,” he says.
How does it work?
To make use of the platform, a prospective user would have to logon and decide whether they want to listen to songs about love lost or love gained, or any metadata they prefer.
“All they have to do is select a song they know has those attributes then click and listen or the user can click on our suggestions or metadata and the system will help the user find what they are looking for. The user then ends up listening to only songs that have those musical attributes,” says Amachree.
When it comes to sub genres, he says a user might want to listen to American-influenced hip-hop rather than indigenous hip-hop.
“Our algorithms will take that into consideration while selecting songs for the listener. Note that all a user has to do is select a song or artist they like and Vuga will do the rest, they do not have to come back to the platform — only if they want to like or dislike a song according to their taste. The user also gets detailed biographical information along with details on where to legally purchase those songs, while also providing the detailed metadata information.”
Uniqueness, expected impact and deployment strategy
Amachree sees Vuga as very unique in the industry, describing it as the first music discovery platform that allows users to listen to music according to their mood.
“This is something that hasn’t been done by any Nigerian or African platform. We also offer detailed and accurate information about every artist’s personal life via our sister company Afrobios, including social media information amongst other things. We are also the first music platform to characterise African music based on over 400 metadata points and offer the information to the general public for free.”
Considering the numerous failed attempts using different approaches, the co-founder believes Vuga would succeed as long as they can grow their number of users to a certain level. Furthermore, they are initially focusing on users in the diaspora:
Once we are able to penetrate that market through lean growth, we will be sure to achieve success in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. Another thing you need to take into consideration is a lot of startups have failed because they were ahead of their time or wanted overnight success, or didn’t test what worked and what didn’t work, or most importantly weren’t persistent which is a hindrance to survival in this ecosystem.
“It’s either you bootstrap and grow your company at a marginal rate and then seek funding to take your business to the next level e.g. Spinlet or Iroking which in its case already had the funding to grow at a fast rate,” he says.
The platform already has a seed investor and together with the co-founders they are planning to organically grow the platform to a certain level before seeking angel or equity investments. They intend to monetise the platform primarily by displaying ads and geographical audio advertisements. There could also be subscription-based services although he said this option would not come into effect until the platform has grown for some years.
“We are banking on reaching roughly between 40 000 registered users and 8 000 active users within a year after official launch. We have a team of over 15 staff, 9 of who are currently in Nigeria working to ensure everything works as planned. We also have a strong IT team working out of the UK. And we have partnerships with a solid social media campaign company here in US. Ensuring we have a smooth launch will be our goal.”