It's easier to set up an African music streaming or downloads platform than it is to attract users. Russell Southwood spoke to musician Mamadou Dione about the platform he has launched - JokkoText - and the challenges he faces in the Senegalese market.
Music download service JokkoText was launched by Senegalese musician Mamadou Dione:"When I was making a lot of songs, I was thinking about the best way to sell music in West Africa. I looked at the available solutions and there was no proper distribution. The only online solutions available needed credit cards."
"In terms of physical CDs, there are not a lot of record shops in Senegal or elsewhere in West Africa. But all music listeners have a mobile phone and I thought about selling via mobile."
To overcome payment issues, he has devised a number of different means of payment which allows the use to pay either by SMS or credit card. It uses a short code number and once payment has been made, the user gets a download link. Dione has not partnered with mobile operators.
At present, there are only 120 tracks on the platform:"It's mainly hip-hop because I'm known as a hip-hop artists. In future we will go out to all artists, including people like Youssou Ndour." Current artists include: Reenfly, Dika Pung, Older Teps, Kemton J and Iveka. He is about to sign a contract with aggregator Horus Music that will add 300,000 tracks to the platform.
So far the service has had 350 downloads:"I've only just started the service and I need to increase the amount of promotion". He plans to raise investment to help him market the service more widely.
Artists are able to open accounts on the platform to track sales and revenue and they can also choose whether to allow users to stream their tracks for free or set it so that the user can only hear a snippet of the track. Prices for tracks and albums are chosen by the artist. For a track, it varies between CFA200-2,000 and for an album between CFA2,000-20,000. Artists in the USA see the prices for their tracks in US$.
According to Dione, there are 5 other music platforms including iTelecharge (5 euros a month) and Musik Bi. Rapper Akon bought 50% of Musik Bi in July 2017 for an undisclosed sum. Best known for his singles "Locked Up" and "Smack That", Akon has devoted more of his time in recent years to his Lighting Africa solar energy initiative and other charitable pursuits. He launched his latest single "Khalice", a collaboration with Senegalese superstar Youssou Ndour, exclusively on Musik Bi.
More than 200 internationally famous musicians, along with younger rappers, jazz artists and Christian and Muslim vocalists, initially agreed to put their music on Musik Bi, where users can download it using their phone credit.
CEO Moustapha Diop, whose company Solid pioneered the project, said ongoing disputes with phone companies over their cut of revenues had hindered Musik Bi's reach. "We have the ambition of developing across Africa and being 'the' musical distribution platform in Africa. The profit made by the operators is problematic because it goes against the interests of the artists and the platform in general. We will keep pushing to get a reasonable deal," he added.
After mobile operators took their share, artists keep 60 percent of their income from the service, while Musik Bi take the remaining 40 percent. The platform also hopes to broaden into a music festival, television channel and a streaming service, Akon said.
According to JokkoText's Mamadou Dione:"The Youth are definitely listening to music on their mobile phones. There has been a boom in low cost smartphones among the Youth and even those with less money. A smartphone is now almost a necessity. Mobile is the new way of consuming music. CDs are almost dying"
So does Dione earn most of his living as an artist from live shows?:"I've stopped writing and performing songs because I was developing the JokkoText app. Other musicians earn their living from live shows because their music will not be well distributed. If JokkoText is successful, this will change. That's our main goal. We want artists to be able to earn a living from their music, particularly as piracy is very big in Senegal."