Mdundo passes 1m users; nails music-on-demand model for Africa

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Kenyan online music platform Mdundo has passed the one million user mark on the back of successes in new markets, and believes it has found the right model for music on demand in Africa.

Launched in Kenya in 2012 by seed accelerator 88mph, Mdundo provides a music streaming and download service available via Android app or online, dedicated to showcasing Africa’s musical talents.

The startup quickly began to expand organically, with music artists from across Africa signing their work up to the platform.

In October 2015, the company officially opened offices in Uganda and Tanzania, and chief executive officer (CEO) of Mdundo, Martin Nielsen, says the expansion move has paid off: the startup has surpassed the one million monthly active user mark, with the two new markets accounting for 55 per cent of the total user base.

According to Nielsen, Mdundo’s expansion plans have been guided by the idea of creating a “borderless” market for music across East Africa, and the continent.

“One of the challenges for a musician is to grow a fan group big enough to sustain his or her business. We find that the majority of companies and initiatives in the music industry are primarily domestic, which can make it hard for musicians to grow beyond borders. As a result of this problem, we have made a borderless music service within East Africa and this is making our value proposition to the musicians very interesting,” Nielsen says.

The startup has further expansion across Africa in its sights, with new office launches planned for next year, and an ambition of growing its user base from one million, to 10 million.

While there has been much debate over which music on demand models will ultimately be successful in Africa, Nielsen believes Mdundo has already found the answer to the question.

“Since we settled on our business model in 2014 where users can access an ad-supported free tier and pay for a monthly premium tier, I haven’t had any doubts about that model will work in Africa,” he says.

“Considering the different market dynamics – data prices, devices and especially payment methods – I think that this is the best model for the music industry. Attracting a mass audience and convincing a share of them to pay for premium content and features is the way to achieve highest possible total revenue on the recordings.”

The startup is currently experiencing growth in streaming, rather than downloads, which Nielsen says is thanks to the lower data prices in the East African region. However, he says preference for streaming or downloading is dictated completely by local market characteristics.

Through its model, Nielsen says Mdundo is succeeding in making headway against music piracy in Africa, and making the music industry sustainable for the continent’s artists.

“Mdundo’s goal is to make music easily available to Africa in a sustainable fashion. We are already experiencing a big shift from illegal platforms to Mdundo in the markets where we are present, and thereby we’re reducing piracy,” he says.

“We are looking looking forward to the day where musicians across Africa are experiencing that Mdundo is contributing significantly to to their finances. We believe that 2017 will be a very exciting year for Mdundo as well as music in Africa.”

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Inspired and excited by the African tech entrepreneurial scene, Gabriella spends her time travelling around the continent to report on the most innovative tech startups, the most active investors, and the latest trends emerging in the ecosystem.

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