It’s early 2018, Nigerian Lawyer, Adeyemi Adetunji sent a message to his favourite Nigerian music curators that he had started curating Nigerian music for Audiomack - then a fledgling home of mixtapes.

In March of the same year, Audiomack entered the top 1000 streaming platforms in the world just as iHeart Radio filed for bankruptcy in an increasingly challenging streaming space. On the face of it, Audiomack felt like another Soundcloud and in many ways they were similar. But Audiomack had a plan; focus on Hip-Hop and a select number of genres.

As David Ponte, Co-founder of Audiomack told Thinknum, “Audiomack does not have any confusion on [genre focus]. We do not intend on being a full service streaming service. We want to focus on new artists, younger artists and emerging artists. We pick a genre and focus on that genre to grow it.”

At different points in 2019, Audiomack became one of the most downloaded apps in Nigeria on Google Playstore. The reasons were simple; Eminem had exclusively released ‘Killshot,’ his reply to Machine Gun Kelly on the platform in September 2018.

This showed most music lovers what many had known for years prior - Audiomack had rich potential. Importantly, it was also paying artists off freemium listening from ads. This helped it see off competition from the troubled Soundcloud.

In Africa, the freemium listening was an incredible attraction to many citizens/music lovers from underdeveloped nations who could barely afford to get by, let alone pay for premium music. Audiomack also became an attraction for artists who could reach their large non-premium fanbase from a platform that pays them. This also quickened the slow death of African music blogs.

Around the same time, Adeyemi Adetunji was joined by another Nigerian, Olive Uche and Kenyan Content and Branding professional, Charlotte ‘Char’ Bwana in working for Audiomack from Africa. What Audiomack did with the three of them was lay down pointers to understand the workings of Afro-pop, a persistent source of attention for global music [business].

Adeyemi Adetunji, Audiomack. (Audiomack)
Adeyemi Adetunji, Audiomack. (Audiomack)

Adetunji says, “When I joined Audiomack, I was making these playlists that were getting great responses and we were collaborating more. We did the YouTube FineTune series with Davido and Mr. Eazi.

“We also did the Trap Symphony with Burna Boy and I felt like something was going to happen with Audiomack and the African market. When Afro Nation happened, I knew something was coming and I just really wanted to position myself.”

Nonetheless, Bwana jokes, “Ade stop lying, it was when you met me [in November 2019] that you knew [laughs].” She continues, “We were more aligned in our goals, vision and dream as to the impact Audiomack could make in terms of moving African music forward. We knew that we needed to be a team to make things work.”

Audiomack Africa

On July 16, 2020, Audiomack announced the establishment of its Nigerian office. Adeyemi Adetunji was announced as Head of operations and commercial partnerships; Charlotte Bwana was tasked with business development and media partnerships; and Olive Uche as manager of content strategy.

At the time, Audiomack was the sixth most downloaded free app as well as the No. 1 free music app on Apple’s App Store in Nigeria.

Adetunji says, “It’s been really interesting to see. Nigerians have been really receptive to it with positive messages like, ‘It’s about time.’ A lot of artists have always been very receptive to Audiomack, we are just trying to show that we have more in store and to make an impact.”

Why Africa?

This comes at a time when multiple streaming companies have started moving into Nigeria. Over the past one year, Netflix, sections of Apple Music and very soon TIDAL will have an office in Nigeria. According to Adetunji, Audiomack always had a plan to move to Nigeria and Africa.

He says, “Nigeria is one of our biggest contributors on the platform. This was just a way for us to connect to the African space and show that we are really serious about moving music forward. Audiomack is very strong in Ghana, Tanzania and Nigeria. So, this was a no-brainer.”

Bwana buttresses that the order is Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, Senegal, South Africa and Kenya.

What matters to this streaming service?

In most of these African markets, behavioural patterns are mostly similar and so are demographic representations and behaviours. Thus, it is easy for Audiomack to analyse a potential market, even though commitment to premium offers might different by country.

According to Bwana, the most important thing to Audiomack is, “The artist. We are very artist-centric. We have to align with creatives - for example in Tanzania, artists had to align with us. When they understand that our goals align, we establish a trust and they come to us. When that happens, the power of an artist plays a role.

“It’s almost important to know that anybody who has content dreams can just sit at home, upload their content and reach their audience through Audiomack. It’s also important that we aid them through playlists - they are our currency to artists to join us.

Audiomack premium

While freemium was a good way for Audiomack to gain ground across developing and underdeveloped terrains, freemium might not be a sustainable business model. Neither is it a cogent means of income generation for artists. In 2019, Digital Music News reported that an artist would need 2,133,333 YouTube streams to make $1,400 per month.

With Audiomack, rumours were that it was slightly around the same range or even lower. Audiomack Africa came with an announcement of Audiomack premium at an affordable monthly charge of $1.38-a-month or about N555-a-month. Mind you, Audiomack will still retain its freemium feature to be powered by ads - this still helps African artists in a number of ways.

Nigeria is not known for being the greatest premium market, yet Jason Johnson, Vice President of Marketing and Brand Strategy at Audiomack excitedly and enthusiastically says, “Why not Nigeria? [laughs]”

Adetunji adds, “Afrobeats has been making giant strides on the global stage and African acts have an incredible sellable brand. From a brand and business viewpoint, it makes sense to implement business models in Africa - Nigeria is already one of Audiomack’s biggest markets. With a wealth of artists who need and gravitate towards a platform like ours, why not?

What determines the price?

As noted earlier, Audiomack aims to present its premium feature at $1.38-a-month or about N555. This price is in a competitive stead with the existent premium plans in Nigeria. YouTube Music offers premium services for between $2.44 and $2.99-a-month. Apple Music’s prices are around the same ballpark.

Boomplay Premium $1.5-a-month, it is ad-free and it offers unlimited download of songs and videos. MusicTime offers a unique user-based model while UduX offers premium services at $1.38-a-month.

On the pricing, Johnson says, “Audiomack operates a global mindset, regardless of where we are. Honestly, it’s all about finding the balance between what’s right for the artists and the fans. It’s not necessarily about the competition or the business. Without artists and the fans, there would be competition and business, anyway.

“What’s right for the artist and the fans makes sense to us. For Audiomack, we’d be nothing without the fans and the artists. When they have great experiences and we create that balance, everything can spring from there.”

Does Audiomack anticipate a reduction in users due to the premium feature?

Bwana notes that the first step is that Audiomack would still be cheaper than everybody else. So if customers were going to run, Audiomack remains the platform with the best freemium and premium features for fans and artists alike. Bwana also notes that the fact that Audiomack is first in line in terms of first-time encounters for fans could also lead to brand equity.

She continues, “We are about creating ‘those’ experiences - we can still create exclusive content that keeps people coming back. People have shortened attention spans, but they will stay just about enough for good content that suits their interests. For example, Generation Z is suited to creating the next line of African superstars.

“They will come to Audiomack to find the next big superstar. For the artist, not a lot will change. For fans or users, it’s just a decision on the type of experience they would want.”

Johnson says, “We don’t anticipate a slump. From the look of things, it looks like patronage might actually increase. The difference between us and other platforms is the experience and the experience we can provide.

“With us being on the ground and the partnerships we’ve developed over the past few months, our users might actually increase over the next three months?”

Johnson also adds that pricing is determined by the internal sharing formula of revenue by Audiomack vis-a-vis the business of it all.

Battling fake streams

A cursory look through Twitter and you will find accounts that promise Audiomack streams for a token.

On identifying the problem, Adetunji says, “We’ve discovered that they do it just how anybody can game any system. We’ve been working hard to get rid and ban these guys. Everyday, we go through dozens of emails to better understand this and combat it. It’s unfortunate, but we are battling them by the day.”

Value proposition

As head of business development and media partnership, Bwana is tasked with some of the value propositions that creates visibility and opportunity for Audiomack while aiding African music. Some of these include but are not limited to media partnerships with recognizable brands, conferences and even training and workshops for creatives.

With the ongoing battle between Spotify and songwriters, Johnson buttresses by adding that internally, Audiomack has been working on ways to better enhance the chances of songwriters and producers on its new premium offering.

In the end...

Going forward, plans are in place to also explore more of podcasting and in-app video content. Audiomack wants to tell stories that unite Africa and teach people what we represent via our music.