TuneCore’s Chioma Onuchukwu talks about the pros and cons of the African music industry
According to a 2022 report by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, streaming in sub-Saharan Africa grew by 9.6% last year. Africa is expected to generate around $500 million in streaming revenue by 2025, with Afrobeats hub Nigeria as its torchbearer.
TuneCore, a global digital music distributor owned by Believe, says its vision for the African music business is to enable independent artists to reach global audiences. The company, which distributes to more than 150 stores worldwide, is also committed to facilitating career opportunities for independent artists. Its latest initiative in this regard includes recently announced annual packages.
“We want more independent African artists to succeed as independent artists, whether they choose to be independent or not in the long term,” said Chioma Onuchukwu, the company’s head of East Africa. and West, at Music In Africa.
In the interview below, Onuchukwu, who has been confirmed as a speaker at Music In Africa’s ACCES music conference in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in November, discusses TuneCore’s role in promoting global acceptance of African music and areas that need urgent repair in the local music sector.
MUSIC IN AFRICA: How is the African music business different from trade elsewhere?
CHIOMA ONUCHUKWU: On the one hand, the music infrastructure continues to grow compared to developed markets. Music streaming is slowly picking up in Africa but has yet to reach its full potential. There remains the problem of the instability of the Internet and its high cost. Operating in this market requires a lot of consideration and adjustment to serve this market. That being said, our local talent and international traction is growing exponentially, which makes this market very attractive.
What are some of the factors that have led to the global acceptance of African music in recent years, and what has been TuneCore’s role in this?
One of the factors determining the global acceptance of African music is the availability of good African music. Music cannot be accepted or loved if it is not accessible. If audiences can’t browse a playlist, search, or discover your music through social platforms like YouTube, TikTok, or Instagram, it won’t go global.
In 2020, TuneCore launched a global promotion that allows musicians to upload their music to TikTok for free. Where do you think TikTok fits in the music ecosystem, and what is the value of partnerships like this?
As part of our new pricing plans, artists now have the option to distribute their music only on social platforms like YouTube and TikTok at no cost but with a small commission. We have found that social platforms like TikTok are a great way to discover artists, especially through viral content. It’s a great way to get exposure to a global audience and something every artist should prioritize. We always want to create opportunities for our artists, so why not make it easier to get your music out on these and future discovery platforms?
What are your observations on music distribution strategies, particularly in East and West Africa, and what impact do you think TuneCore will have in the sub-region over the next few years?
Many African artists have no idea how to distribute their music and how easy and possible it is. Many focus only on the creative part. Some want a team but can’t afford it. Then there are others that only focus on distribution without marketing, or focus on marketing without distribution.
Part of our goals for the market is to educate and inform African artists through boot camps, masterclasses and other speaking opportunities on how and the importance of treating their music. like a business. We want artists to succeed and we do our best to bridge any gaps. We recently launched our new unlimited price plan, which will be beneficial for a price sensitive market like Africa.
What transformations in the music scene here have impressed you the most and how well are entertainment companies leveraging opportunities for the African music industry?
The streaming business is starting to grow, albeit slowly. South Africa is leading in terms of streaming revenue and Nigeria is gradually growing. More international digital service providers like Spotify now have operations in Africa. Of course, part of this transformation is the incredible music created by Africans. We are gaining popularity internationally and are now winning international awards.
For many, high data costs and a lack of mobile phone penetration are preventing the African streaming industry from reaching its full potential. Still, how do you assess it as a means of consumption, and how can artists really leverage digital tools and the streaming space to support themselves?
Since the pandemic, mobile and internet penetration has increased significantly. What we have seen is that Africans have more than one mobile device with more than one network or internet service provider in order to run their businesses and stay connected on social media. For artists, it is important to look beyond Africa and think globally. We have seen African musicians gain popularity with global audiences simply by having their music distributed around the world. It happened a lot. It should be a goal. To do this, we need to distribute and promote your music.
What areas need urgent attention in the music sector in Africa?
There is a music piracy problem on the continent, and we have seen that artists frequent these sites hoping to gain popularity and promote their music, which never happens for them: they don’t gain popularity and don’t make money. It’s important to provide education and information in areas such as digital music distribution, as well as treat their music like a business. The music streaming culture, while improving and growing, has not fully taken off as Africa is a price sensitive market with unstable and high internet prices.