Music streaming services in Africa are on the increase. Next to global players such as Spotify, Deezer, Google Play or Apple Music, pan-African content platforms are rising where artists are making a killing from consumers generally concerned with the affordability and amount of music offered.
With Simfy Africa, Spinlet and iRoking, just to mention a few, continental artists or aggregators upload music and receive money generated from the sales while a small percentage goes to the company. Malawi has its own similar platform.
Mvelani.com has been operating for slightly over a year now and can best be described as a baby born out of frustration.
“I started Mvelani early 2015 with the purpose of connecting artists to music lovers. When I initially started Mvelani, it was out of frustration that I couldn’t find Malawian music on the internet having moved to the UK in my late teenage years.
“I could see from social media that there was new music coming out of Malawi but couldn’t find a single resource to listen, discover that music. Mvelani was born as one way of solving this problem,” says Dumisani Kapanda, the brains behind mvelani.com.
However, what started out of interest quickly proved to be a big thing, according to Kapanda.
“I quickly discovered that there were a lot of people in a similar situation—not just outside Malawi, even within—who wanted to discover old and new music; our endeavour to solve that problem is what has got Mvelani to this stage.
“We are solving a problem that exists, not just in Malawi but other African countries. More and more people as they get connected to the internet are interested in consuming good and quality content—music is a part of that.
“Mvelani wants to be part of that solution by helping people listen and discover, but most importantly share the music they love with others easily from their devices. We hope that one day we will be the biggest catalogue of African music available on mobile and the web.
“On the other hand, we are making it possible for any artist to get heard. If you are an artist with Mvelani, you don’t need to be signed to a record label as one still has access to fans via our platform. We are cutting out the middle man by allowing artists to go directly to their fans. This is the reason we get so many emails daily from independent artist who are interested to put their music out there.”
The platform is working with a backlog of artists, at least 300 in Malawi, 4 000 in Nigeria with plenty more coming. The target is to have over 50 000 songs on Mvelani by the end of summer.
While music is the initial focus of Mvelani, there are plans to get into videos, as it aims at having so much content for users.
“It’s not just music videos but good quality African themed videos content that can be accessed using new media such as your mobile phone and/or tablet on demand. The traditional means of consuming music and video via radio and television are losing prominence in today’s society with numbers likely to continue to drop as more people are interested to access on-demand entertainment. This is due to life demands and Mvelani will be part of that solution. We want to produce, distribute our own African themed quality content,” he said.
Since the launch, the music platform has been growing and next on the line is a mobile phone application which aims at increasing user experience.
“70 percent of our users (not just in Malawi) access Mvelani using their mobile phones and the majority of those are using android phones. The Mvelani app is a way of increasing our user experience. We want to make it so convenient and easy for our users to listen, discover and share music and we are launching this product to achieve this.
“Over the last year we have learnt that people are concerned with the increased cost of streaming music to their data bundles, we have listened and with our app we will have functionality that will help people listen to songs offline this means that you are not connecting to the internet and therefore eating to your bundle. Another feature that we are excited about is that with our app, you will be able to create playlists and organise your music in a way that will make it easier for you. If you like songs, you will be able to add it to playlists, queue them and play them on repeat. This is currently not possible via http://m.mvelani.com,” he stated.
For every song that get streamed on Mvelani. artists get loyalty payment, claims Kapanda.
“Cosoma [Copyright Society of Malawi] does not yet have a policy for music streaming royalty distribution. As a UK registered company, we work with PRS for Music Limited where we pay the loyalty fee to them; the expectation is that this gets distributed to Cosoma who then passes it to the artist. We know this may not happen and we have a standby solution which is to work with a music distributor in Malawi who works with the artists to give them their loyalty payments. We are working with Ndefeyo Entertainment in that regard,” he said.
In an interview, Cosoma senior licensing officer, Rosario Kamanga, confirmed having an agreement with Mvelani.
“We indeed have an agreement with Mvelani through PRS. I cannot say much on the calculations of the loyalties but PRS has its own standard rates. As you are aware laws are territorial. The company is registered in the UK hence the applicable laws are from there,” he stated.
Soon, according to Kapanda, Mvelani will be giving out loyalties for the year 2015.
Through its expansion drive, Mvelani has received financial support of $57 000 from an Angel investor.
“This is an investor who provides financial backing for small startups. The capital they provide can be a one-time injection of seed money. As we grow we will be looking for venture capital to help us expand. Our drive to grow is rooted in providing a user experience consistent with our values as a company and brand – our users want variety of music and convenience of use among other things – this means we will have to expand and enter new markets as well as launch innovative products.
With time, Mvelani also wants to help small businesses reach potential customers.
Says Kapanda: “Our app will give businesses the ability to promote their products to consumers that matter the most. For instance, if you are in Lilongwe Old Town and you are using our app, you will only be able to hear adverts for business near you. We are calling this ‘localised advertising’ and it is in response to our users who have been wanting to place audio ads on our platform.”