EXCLUSIVE: What The #TIDALxMTN Partnership Means For The Ugandan Music Industry.

By Byaruhanga Felix (@TheNinjaFelix)

Back in May I had a discussion with an entertainment lawyer friend of mine about traditional radio versus the internet radio and the discussion got to streaming services. At the end of it we agreed on two things; data is expensive in Uganda but getting cheaper as we move forward & secondly for someone to survive in an African ecosystem like Uganda via the internet he/she needs to partner with ISPs (internet service providers) and in this case the telecoms ‘cause they could develop cheaper data packages for the end users (customers) that one is targeting with his/her product that requires the internet as the driving force. Fast forward to August and TIDAL has announced its partnership with the leading telecom MTN. The partnership was first executed in Uganda and will later be rolled out in other African countries that MTN is operating. What does this partnership mean for the Ugandan industry?

Before we go ahead, let’s make sure we’re on the same page. Download TIDAL in the play store or App store, then dial *165*66# to kick off your 30 day free trial. The few people I’ve engaged with are skeptical about the partnership. First off this kind of partnership isn’t new for either parties involved. We saw TIDAL last year partner with Sprint in the United States and back here on the continent we’ve seen MTN partner up with Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd to push MTN Music Plus on which customers in Nigeria access African music. The main difference this time is that MTN clients get to access global catalogs of music, exclusive TIDAL content like the RapRadar podcast, the different shows and concerts/festivals that weren’t available on MTN Music Plus. However much this partnership isn’t new as such it comes with some unique qualities and it addresses a lot of issues perfectly when it comes to a major moving into an African territory/market.

One of the challenges major streaming platforms have faced in moving into the African territory has always been the mode of payment. The TIDAL partnership with MTN addresses this through their mobile money mode of payment. There are majorly two issues that mobile money solved ever since it was introduced that is financial inclusion and convenience. MTN subscribers will be paying for the TIDAL streaming service using their mobile money accounts and it doesn’t get easier than that. No email or card number required. Before one had to get a bank account, convert the money from Uganda shillings to the U.S dollar and add an extra charge for the transaction that goes to the bank (2% of the transaction depending on the bank one is using). With mobile money one cuts through all this noise. Secondly, data is expensive but it’s getting cheaper by the day as we’ve seen the telecoms introduce various packages such as MyPakaPaka, Gaga Wednesday, Night Shift. With the data price tag in their mind the two parties address it with a fee that covers both the subscription charge and the data. This puts MTN at an advantage in that it puts the customer’s worries about the “MTN crocodile” at ease; TIDAL data is different from any other data package one purchases.

This partnership sets precedent for any other major moving into the African territory ‘cause they’ve simplified the process for the end user who is going to be spending on the product. Addressing these two major issues (payment method & data price) and aligning itself with MTN puts TIDAL ahead in an African market. They’ve adapted to the African structures instead of them coming in trying to set up their own which in the long run becomes expensive on TIDAL’s end. Addressing all this comes after research and TIDAL sending its people such as Biggs (Jay Z’s cousin) to the continent to study the music landscape. TIDAL aligning itself with MTN puts the streaming service in front of over 200 million potential paying subscribers before they even spend a significant amount of their marketing budget.  We saw this same move pay off to Huawei when they launched MTN Music Plus in Nigeria where MTN controls 35% of the market share.

Now let’s look at the flip side, the artists and creators side. I say creators ‘cause TIDAL goes beyond streaming music. Personally, I would love to see TIDAL take it beyond creating Ugandan playlists on the platform to acquiring/sponsoring local content such as Ugandan podcasts, the internet shows, and the local concerts. This way they’ll be adding value onto the Ugandan industry while they increase engagement between Ugandans and the streaming platform. For artists again it has provided convenience in that they no longer have to jump hoops to get their music added on a global streaming service through a third party (digital music distributor) which in the long run has their money chopped up. Having a major like TIDAL moving into the country means it’s time for the Ugandan industry to get organized and structured properly. We can’t have artists managing their managers if we’re to succeed. For the longest we’ve had major record labels or anything continental such as TVs pay little or no attention to the Ugandan industry for various reasons. May be a move and partnership like #TIDALxMTN is what we need to attract more major players into our industry. On September 27th TIDAL holds its first artist conference in Uganda and we wait to see how the artists/creators can further benefit from the global streaming platform.

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