With over 17 million subscribers on its app, Boomplay that recently made a foray into the music market has not only made a success in its line of business but also won an award beating top contenders across Africa. Its Regional Director, West Africa, Oye Akindeinde speaks on the ‘magic’ of their success and future plans.
You have a plum job, what is your background?
My background is in Computer Science, Information Systems, Project Management, Business, Music Business. I studied Computer Science in University of Lagos and also in Information System at the University of Hertfordshire, UK. I’m currently in Bertsy School of Music, doing MS, in Music Business. I have also done short courses.
It’s like you knew the direction you are going from day one?
When I was younger, I loved music. I actually tried my hands in music. It was when I was doing my Masters in the UK that I realised that music is not for me. I used to rap but when you realise that you can be part of the music ecosystem but not directly, then, you can do something else within the system.
I tried channeling my career towards music. I knew that digital was the future and that was why I read Computer Science. I’m also a partner of a blog that has also helped me. That is what put my feet in music very well. That is what opened the way.
I went to Spinlet after which I joined here. Here is amazing, the idea is to have what the Americans have like itunes; itunes came with iphones. We decided to partner with phones under the group, first was Techno phones, then, we now made it public, if you have any other brand of phone, you can get Boomplay music. The popularity immediately grew because as of today, we have over five million installations with Google.
It has been a journey that started in March 2015 and it’s grown beyond my wildest dreams. We work as a family. Everyone knows what to do. We have never had language barrier. Beyond the Chinese, Ghanaian, Kenyan’s team, we all work together. The idea is to build a team that loves music first and also do business. We built trust and a system of transparency so that content providers could see what we do like what is trending where, how many downloads and so on.
We have interesting features and we plan ahead. We know what we would do in 2020.
You don’t have any challenge in this line of business?
We do. The biggest challenge is pirates. The other is data. Most of those that consume music are the youths. With their data plans, they are competing what to use it for whether for whatssap or to download a song. Hopefully, in the future, we will see a situation where universities have hotspots where Internet is free. That will help users. At the onset, the biggest challenge was to get license for the content. Those that trusted us from the beginning trusted us, some others get convinced by users.
What is unique about Boomplay music?
It is the ability to find everything in one place. Even with the way we create, you would know that it is not by struggling, we know what’s up in the music scene. We can tell you what song would drop in two weeks’ time and we go after it. We also know what song users would buy. Because it’s a mobile phone, there is hardly space but we know how to keep their app not so big. We know how to do different versions of the music; there is a live version, there is also a premium version with the same amount.
We know that students are conscious of their battery as well. It’s all about optimising the app to suit our target audience.
Talking about apps, you just won an award, beating one from Ghana, South Africa, very popular ones, what was the magic?
When we saw the category, I was panicking. All the apps were amazing. I felt we had done our home work well enough and we were well received. At the time we received the award, we had 16 million users, now it’s 17 million users. I remember when I was talking to some artistes in September 2015, that we have 200, 000 users, so imagine going from 200,000 to 17 million. We knew there is a criteria for the market, things like battery life, size and so on, but when I saw the other nominees, it was frightening.
My worry was, why didn’t they just put us in one entertainment category and let us be the king there? It was amazing. When they called us up, it was too good to be true. I didn’t even believe it. We are already happy being nominated but winning was the icing on the cake. It shows how much hard work we have put in and how much resulted to success.
For us, this is the beginning. We still have a large gap to fill. As at the last count, Nigeria is 160 million minus those in the diaspora, so when you add those, you would understand. We are just scratching the surface. The work has just started. And we will live up to the expectation. The hope is that we can retain what we’ve done and win many more awards.
How much impact has technology had in the industry especially in Nigeria in terms of generating content?
I would say a lot. I won’t explain the percentage but it’s been amazing. Through technology, we have been made to understand that the business in showbizness is needed. Now, we have things like speech sheet, you have people understand that beyond writing songs, they can make money from publishing and composing. I envy the likes of Banky W whose song was put into ‘Wedding Party 1’. He is going to make a lot of money. Technology is the in-thing even down to licensing and education.
There was an artiste I had a conversation with and asked him why he has water down lyrical songs, he said because that is what sells. And I agreed with him. You have to know what your audience wants. In Nigeria, if your beats are not catchy enough, you would have to do a lot of marketing and airplay. As much as people love Adele, an Adele for Africa would be missing. Adele globally was fed to us.
What exactly are you trying to do as you came from Spinlet, how is the competition like in Nigeria now and what difference are you going to make?
Competition is healthy. For us, everyone is a competitor. If there is a new competitor and he has only 20,000 users, it is painful to us because they ought to be on our own platform. We look at our own expectations down to Whatsapp because they are taking our data. That is why we try to make our app better and easier to give the users a reason to use us.
Globally, can you give us an idea how the company structure is like?
It is Africa first. We have a managing director who sits at the top and travels to West, East Africa including our Hong Kong office. We have a regional director in East Africa, his name is Chinasa. He is Nigerian by birth but married to a Kenyan. Our strongest points are Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania.