Video did indeed kill the radio star in the 1980s, and the compact disc replaced the traditional vinyl record. And although the CD is not yet dead, Africa has now joined the global trend of going digital to get its music.
Frances Moore, CEO of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, recently highlighted the increasing importance that the international recording industry places in Africa:
It is a region that is seeing fast economic growth and the spread of technology is enabling our members and their business partners to reach vast new audiences
The CD’s days seem numbered. In 2014, the recording industry’s global digital revenues increased by 6,9% to US$6,8bn. It received the same amount of income from digital channels (46%) as physical format sales (46%).
CD sales in three key markets on the continent — South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria — are showing a heavy decline as music lovers ditch them for digital downloads.
It is forecast that digital’s share of total spending on recorded music on the continent will rise to 67% by 2017. Music sold in the digital format in Nigeria in 2012 was around 49%. In Kenya, it is expected that consumer spending on digital music will overtake physical spending this year.
Digital sales in South Africa remain low because of the country’s poor broadband penetration. They are expected to account for just 14% of South African recorded music retail sales by 2017.
But the appetite of South Africans for CDs remains. CD sales, which make up the bulk of physical recorded music sold in South Africa, shrank from 15,9m units in 2012 to 12,2m in 2013. Physical sales are forecast to drop to 12,6m by 2017, almost half of the 23m sold in 2008.
But how much are these music markets worth in total? South Africa’s music market was worth $177m in 2012, down from the 2008 revenue of $209m. Annual revenue is forecast to grow marginally, remaining relatively flat at $179m in 2017.
Kenya’s music market generated revenues of $19,8m in 2012, up from $16,5m in 2008. Annual revenue is expected to go up in 2015 to $20,7m, but drop slightly by 2017.
Nigeria’s music market generated revenues of $51,3m in 2012, up from the 2008 amount of $45m. Annual revenue is forecast to reach $53,8m in 2017.
Even though these numbers are low compared with other regions, Africa is expected to become one of the most lucrative markets for the music industry with the expectation of fast economic growth over the next few years. The industry has acknowledged the huge potential and has appointed a specialist to work in emerging markets on the continent for this purpose.
Previously, Africa was not considered a key market by the recording industry because sales did not come close to bigger markets on other continents. That has changed since the smartphone explosion in Africa. Digital technology is enabling the recording industry to effectively reach mass numbers of consumers across Africa for the first time.
The recording industry has wised up to the smartphone as a marketing tool for music. This makes sense, since the growing trend internationally has been for digital music and streaming, both of which appear to be the perfect fit for the average smartphone user.
Across Africa, the consumption of music looks set to develop and grow parallel to the growth of smartphones. There were 778m mobile subscriptions in Africa at the end of June 2013. The continent’s mobile subscription count will reach one billion during 2015 and 1,2bn by the end of 2018.
While cashing in on the technological revolution, the industry across Africa and internationally faces the growing challenge of music piracy. This remains the single biggest threat to the livelihood of artists.
Apart from depriving artists of the royalties they deserve, it means one cannot obtain a true reflection of what has been sold. Globally, the music industry has embarked on a number of initiatives, including teaming up with Internet service providers to curb the problem.
- Karendra Devroop is professor of music at Unisa
- This article was originally published on The Conversation