Spotify for Africa? Senegal launches homegrown music download service

(CNN)Music fans in Senegal can now access their favorite songs at the touch of a fingertip thanks to a brand new service.

MusikBi, which bills itself as the first legal music sales platform in Africa, allows customers to buy songs by sending an SMS with the code of their chosen song. An account is automatically created, and users receive a download link via text message.
Developers say MusikBi - which means "music" in the Wolof language widely spoken in Senegal and neighbouring Gambia - was created with the aim to promote local artists, help them get properly paid for their work, and protect them from widespread piracy.
"The idea came because there was a very big need from artists for a way to show their music," says Moustapha Diop, CEO of Solid, the Dakar-based IT company which launched the service.
    "I am a musician too and I was sensitive to that issue. Artists can't really benefit from their albums because of piracy and the lack of a good distribution network," he adds.

    50 cents per song

    Each song costs between 300 and 500 CFA (approximately $0.50 and $0.80) depending on the artist. The amount is deducted from the customers' phone credit as is the case with many other services across the continent, bypassing the problem of low banking penetration.
    "Other solutions we have seen before depended on bank payments, via visa or MasterCard, but in Senegal most people don't have a bank account," says Diop. "However, everyone has a cell phone and it's easy to buy music with it, that was the particularity of our solution," he adds. Payment is also possible via PayPal.
    The revenue is divided between the artists, MusikBi, and the phone service provider, which pockets between 30 and 70% of the amount.
    "It's a lot, and artists think it's too much, but it's still better than the alternatives that were available before," says Diop.

    A growing appetite for digital music

    Africa's music scene has recently started attracting attention from global giants. This week, Sony Music Entertainment announced it opened an office in Lagos as part of the wider strategy to expand its presence across the continent. The Nigeria office is designed to serve as a hub for all West Africa operations, and Sony says it's also registering to do business in Kenya's capital Nairobi, which will anchor its East Africa activities.
    MusikBi officially launched on Wednesday, but has been operational and growing steadily since mid-November, accruing more than 1,000 downloads to date.
    So far it lists about 600 songs from a diverse group of artists, including internationally renowned musicians like Coumba Gawlo Seck and Duggy Tee, one of Africa's most famous hip hop stars.
    The platform has been developed entirely by Diop's company, which means they can customize their service depending on customer response.
      The artists get real-time reports of whenever their song has been downloaded: "If someone buys a track, the musicians see their revenue on our platform at the same time the sale is done," says Diop.
      The entrepreneur says that after a successful experience in Senegal, his company is planning to introduce the service to Ivory Coast in the next few months, with Mali lined up next.