Hitting the Right Note in MENA

The global music streaming industry must remain in tune with local sensibilities to unlock the region’s tremendous growth potential, says Deezer CEO for MENA & Turkey, Tarek Mounir.
Home to a young population eager to adopt the latest technologies, the Middle East and North Africa is a land of exciting opportunities for the music streaming sector. Looking at Egypt, for example, more than 52% of residents are under the age of 25. The country’s mobile penetration rate of over 101% creates ideal conditions for the rapid uptake of services that hit the right note with listeners.
Despite making significant inroads, music streaming remains in its infancy both in the region and across the globe. Penetration currently stands at around 20% in the US and 15% in the UK, while in the MENA region it is below 2%. Although this number may seem low, the opportunities speak for themselves. To fully realize the promise of this emerging market, the industry must first consider the region’s unique dynamics.
MENA is composed of more than 20 individual nations, each with their own distinct dialects, cultural contexts and musical preferences. With this in mind, a highly localized approach is central to growing the region’s streaming industry. In a competitive digital landscape, teaming up with leading local record labels to offer exclusive content represents an effective route to achieving product differentiation, standing out from the crowd and attracting more subscribers.
Scalable business models that offer a range of entry points are also helping to boost adoption in the region. Today’s listeners have grown accustomed to ‘lean-back’ experiences that offer endless streams of content and recommendations tailored to their individual preferences. Giving users the opportunity to experience streaming services for free enables them to discover the world of benefits waiting at their fingertips. If people like what they hear, many will happily subscribe to access additional features such as ad-free streaming and offline listening.
One issue providers have faced in the region is a lack of available payment options. For instance, here in Egypt, less than 5% of residents have access to credit cards, creating a significant barrier to growth. Partnerships with telco operators offer a highly effective solution by providing convenient payment gateways that users can access without having to rely on cards for transactions. As the uptake of digital payments continues to accelerate, the future is looking ever brighter for the industry.
While by no means unique to the region, illegal downloading also remains a concern. Although this issue is unlikely to ever be fully eradicated, steps to make it increasingly difficult for listeners to find pirated content are yielding encouraging results. In addition, convenience has emerged as a number one priority among the new generation of music fans. The majority of listeners are willing to pay for high-quality services that fulfill their needs, rather than spending hours scouring the internet in search of content from questionable sources that may pose security hazards.
Ultimately, users must feel value from, and valued by, streaming services. Safe and secure payment systems, a highly personalized experience and easy access to locally relevant content are crucial to achieving harmony with the needs of listeners. Combining these core elements creates an attractive proposition that will pave the way for growth and ensure that the streaming industry hits the right note with MENA music fans.