Meet NicheStreem: SA’s curated streaming service for music lovers

Just two blocks up the road from where she pitched her latest startup at a Seedstars World event, sits the headquarters of NicheStreem — entrepreneur Catherine Lückhoff’s music- streaming play.

Launched in March this year, NicheStreem has developed a technology that enables it to provide unique, curated music streams for specific markets around the globe and looks set to make waves in the global online music industry, one niche community at a time.

The idea that “niche doesn’t necessarily equal small” resonates strongly with the startup’s business philosophy.

Its first product app is a proof-of-concept called Liedjie, which will focus solely on the Afrikaans market — a target market that’s made up of more than 7-million native speakers in South Africa.

These niche markets are full of opportunities which online music heavyweights such as Spotify, Apple Music or Pandora aren’t really taking full advantage of.

Rather than trying to capture one large market, NicheStreem wants to cater for multiple small ones.

Read more: Does South Africa’s ecommerce future really lie with niche players?

Planned for Android, iOS and as a web-client, Liedjie for example will feature curated playlists from South Africa’s favourite Afrikaans artists. Lückhoff tells Ventureburn:

We’ll hire a local team for each stream. The tech product side is run by NicheStreem whereas the marketing and content side is run by each individual stream. Liedjie has its own head of content, head of marketing and so on. We’re effectively white-labelling each stream.

Liedjie proto2

A preview of the Liedjie app by NicheStreem
“The key differentiator lies in the localisation of the content and the user experience,” notes the entrepreneur. “From the human curated playlists that tap into cultural nuances to the fact that across the board the service is offered and promoted in Afrikaans.”

Connections, connections, connections

With an air of excitement, Lückhoff believes the possibilities around partnerships are nearly endless. With such a strong, defined market, a platform such as Liedjie shouldn’t be too difficult to sell:

We’re lucky because our marketing is so targeted. We can work with ATKV, KykNet, Media24 — that’s the other really powerful thing about niche is that you can get in there and don’t have to throw mud against the wall to see what sticks.

NicheStreem is chatting to SA Rugby for instance: “Imagine Victor Matfield puts a playlist together of what he listens to while you’re watching the game on a Saturday, in between you braai and put on Victor’s playlist,” she envisions.

Liedjie prototype

Lückhoff has a strong background in the communication industry and was voted one of the Mail and Guardian’s top 200 Young People in 2010. Around this time she exited local PR agency Mango OMC and started heading brand strategy and business development for Bozza, which is a content discovery platform with Africa’s creatives close at heart.

A few years later, the entrepreneur founded HQ Africa — a consultancy firm for companies looking to launch and expand in Sub-Saharan Africa, which she still runs as CEO.

“The best thing now is that I get to wear Converse to work everyday,” she quips when asked about Cape Town startup life.

“The biggest difference is that I used to consult; help other people come up with cool ideas and get the right partnerships. Now it’s really taking an idea and seeing it come to life. It’s so amazing. First there was nothing, and now there’s this app.”

NicheStreem team2

Some of the NicheStreem team, from left to right: Haddad Viljoen, Johan Jacobs, Catherine Lückhoff, Jason Norwood Young.
“Everything can still go belly-up,” Lückhoff reminds herself. “We’re a startup — you never know what can go wrong. But we’re having a lot of fun!”

Read more: Vuga: Africa’s smart music-streaming service for your every mood

NicheStreem raised US$250 000 from a group of undisclosed angels, both locally and internationally. After Liedjie rolls out, Lückhoff hopes to secure another US$350 000.

Endless possibilities

“With Liedjie we’d really like to look at the expat market; UAE, UK, Australia. There are a lot of homesick Afrikaans people out there,” she says pointing out the success of DSTV’s online channel for Afrikaners called KuduClub.

Other markets of interest include Metal, Schlager music and Naija Gospel, which is enjoyed by many of the 85 million Christians in Nigeria.

“There are many things that define a niche,” the founder explains. “It’s not necessarily language based or territory based. For us it’s any market where the music and the culture are intrinsically linked and which has the potential to be very lucrative.”

Asked about one of music streaming’s biggest obstacle for emerging markets — data costs — Lückhoff says that NichStreem is building an offline caching mode so that you can have songs and playlists available offline. Moreover, she adds, data costs are coming down.

The company isn’t limiting itself as a B2C startup in that it’s also considering building a white-label solution for some of the big retailers in South Africa for instance.

Jacques Coetzee: Staff Reporter


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