With tens of millions of songs on global music streaming platforms, playlists have become a key tool in getting music heard by new audiences. Afriquency has just launched a series of African music playlists designed to get more ears on the music. Russell Southwood spoke to Titilope Adesanya, Afriquency about what the playlists cover and what they want to do.
With global digital music streaming services, it's like going into a huge multi-storey record store that can offer as many as 40 million songs. You know who you like but how do you find new things to listen to? One of the key tools for users is playlists and these are not only useful to music listeners but allow musicians and their management to expand sales and understand more about what's being listened to and where.
The challenge for African music and musicians is that the huge global digital music "stores" are not easy places for finding the continent's music. Playlists are the equivalent of listening to a sampler album or hearing tracks played by a DJ. Statistics from digital music label Kobalt have shown that being included on Spotify-sponsored playlists can generate an increase in plays of 50-100%, with a 20% lasting increase following the initial rise.
Taking this to heart, Afriquency (a part of digital music company Africori) has put together a series of African music playlists that may yet become the key channels for African music discovery. Launched in 2016, afriquency has hosted live shows in Johannesburg and London with performances from artists like Sauti Sol, M.I. Abaga and Silvastone.
"Afriquency has curated African playlists because it's trying to bring a variety of musical choices to people. People usually just access the music they know about because of the ease of getting one type of music. For discovery, it's about hearing people you didn't know about before. The playlists are designed both for the African and global markets".
According to Adesanya:" You can't have success in this (African) music space if you don't make it come to life. So it's not just Africori's artists. For example, on this week's Afro Fresh playlist there's only one of our artists".
Playlists include: Afro Fresh Friday, La Fête, Afro Vybz, Serenade, Afro Jazz, Afro Hip Hop and The New Collective. Afro Fresh Friday features the week's new releases and Afro Vybz features "upbeat vibers". La Fête is a Francophone African music focused playlist:"So often the artists featured elsewhere are just artists based in France. This playlist has artists based on the continent making local music from countries like DRC, Togo and Cote d'Ivoire."
The New Collective Playlist is for "artists who are about to blow" and is not just focused on the usual countries like Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa. We're trying to change that. It includes music from less well known places like Burundi and we check territories right across the continent."
Adesanya estimates that 60% of the interest in the playlists is global and 40% African:"Africa is still catching up with streaming on a large scale and we've only just started to push the playlists." The playlists on Deezer are performing best because it puts the playlist in front of people and there are lots of plays from European countries. The playlists on Apple Music only went live last week and Spotify is only available in South Africa.
It's early days but one playlist on Joox has 61,000 and out of its own playlists, one has 10,000 users:"The number of users is currently in the thousands but I genuinely believe we will get into the tens of thousands in future. We're already getting interest from tastemakers using the playlists." Can people pitch to be on the playlist?:"No, we're doing it ourselves. You can't pay to play."
The playlists are drawn up by a wide group of people including: DJs (dance, techno and hip-hop), radio broadcasters, managers and music lovers:"They use their wealth of knowledge to create playlists. It's not just about taste, it's about what the market's consuming.:
"African musicians need to be on playlists to make sales globally. But they also need to understand which playlists to target and to help them broaden their knowledge of the music space."
A recent news release from Spotify confirms the power of playlists in South Africa. As of February 2019, Spotify now powers an average of 11 billion artist discoveries per month on its platform. Listeners are very curious and wide open to expanding their taste in music. In fact, 18 to 24-year-old listeners are particularly limitless when it comes to era of the artists they decide to stream for the first time.
The list of most discovered artists by 18-24-year-olds in the past 60 days in South Africa is (in descending order): Nomani, CHVRCHES, Mahalia, Boogie, Brent Fajyaz, dvsn, Luther Vandross, Elevation Worship, Tamia and FKJ. If you're not on the playlist chances are they won't find you.