Phiona Okumu is the Head of Music, sub-Saharan Africa at Spotify, a global online audio streaming subscription service. In this interview with SAMSON AKINTARO, she speaks on the company’s launch in Nigeria and its plans for the market. Excerpts:
Spotify is new to Nigeria. How has the journey been since your launch?
It has been great and we’re blown away by the reaction so far from the artist community and the fans. Now that we are here, the sounds and stories that once remained local will have access to a global audience of fans across 170 markets. We are here to amplify the art of Nigerian creators locally and globally. We look forward to supporting their artistic journey every step of the way.
Internet connectivity/quality is still very much an issue in this part of the world. Does Spotify have a plan to make the experience on its platform enjoyable regardless of this?
Music is meant to be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of your network connectivity, data plan and whether or not you have the latest phone. That’s why we built Spotify Lite. Lite is a small, fast and bandwidth-friendly version of our unparalleled music experience that works much like the main Spotify app. We are aware of the internet connectivity challenges in Nigeria and when we launch in any market, we do our homework and look at a number of metrics to determine how we best approach a specific market, including internet and smartphone penetration, to name a few. We developed Spotify Lite to serve music lovers using Android phones in areas with limited bandwidth. Our listeners in Nigeria will now be able to focus on finding their next favourite track and not worry about data.
Building a true borderless audio ecosystem takes a lot of hard work. How is Spotify moving to bring this to fruition, and what are your future expansion plans for the rest of Africa?
Launching in over 80 new markets that represent a billion people is huge for the existing creators on Spotify – the opportunity is to drastically expand their audiences across the globe. This is our broadest market expansion to date and is part of our on-going commitment to building a truly borderless audio ecosystem — connecting creators, listeners and content. It also opens up 70 million songs, over 2.2 million podcasts and four billion playlists to listeners all over this region.The potential for developing the continent’s music industry is massive, driven by cross-genre talent and a music-hungry fan base that is young and mobile-friendly. Africa is home to amazing artists and emerging talent and what’s exciting for us at Spotify is that there’s so much more room to grow in Africa, as well as globally. We’re really focused on doing that. Africa has become such an important cultural centre and we are seeing the impact African music is having on the world. It is even more exciting to tap into these markets that are so influential in music. And listeners around the world will have the opportunity to discover and fall in love with more unique local voices and cultures.
What investment plans does Spotify have for the Nigerian market? Should we expect a Nigerian office soon?
We don’t have an office in every country in which Spotify is available, but we have a dedicated team working on offering the best possible audio streaming service to music fans in the continent. As you may have heard, we recently introduced Work From Anywhere (WFA) – a new way of working that allows Spotifiers to choose where they do their best work. Through this distributed-first mentality, we are giving Spotifiers the opportunity to elect whether they’d prefer to work mostly at home or in the office – called their Work Mode – as well as their geographic location.This new way of working is backed by our belief that effectiveness can’t be measured by hours physically spent in the office, and that giving people the freedom to choose where they work will make great people more effective.
Spotify has a rich repository of content with over 70 million international and local songs, 2.2 million podcasts and over four billion playlists. What plans do you have for local content creators and partners in Nigeria?
At Spotify, we are focused on one thing: Making the best audio service for creators, partners and consumers. From a creators’ perspective, it is not only about bringing international artists to Africa, but taking African artists to the world. We’ve spent a fair amount of time with our partners, including the labels and artists to educate them on how to make the most of their music on Spotify’s global platform. For instance, we have Spotify for Artists that basically helps artists track in real-time how their music is performing; who their audience is, if they’re gaining popularity in different parts of the globe, where they are going to be successful, and so on. This will really help inform their marketing strategies and, hopefully, when the world opens up again, artists can use the data to determine where they should tour next.