There are several reasons why the global music industry will benefit from an Abu Dhabi-based streaming app in the coming years
The Anghami brand is a great example of how the music business is being gradually transformed from outside its major centers in New York, Los Angeles and London by outside players.
The founders of a digital music service in Lebanon, Elie Habib and Eddy Maroun, began developing the service back in 2012, with modest ambitions in mind. At that time, Apple’s iTunes Store was the dominant player in the global digital market, with 20 billion songs sold by September of that year; Spotify had launched its U.S. service just 12 months earlier with just five million subscribers. With the aim of recapturing the record store or lounge experience for users, the founders set out to create a product that would allow them to share the music they loved with friends in a convenient way.
The company has been in business for a number of years, but it’s now based in Abu Dhabi, and its mobile app, Anghami, has become a vital part of the development of the music industry in the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA). With over 70 million registered users and a collection of nearly 60 million songs, it has a huge user base. With the help of a $220 million merger with Vistas Media Acquisition Company, it is also possible for the company to become the first Arab tech startup to go public on New York’s Nasdaq stock exchange.
The journey of Anghami has also provided a chance to look closely at how the global music industry is gradually being transformed from outside its core centers of New York, Los Angeles, and London, as well as a case study of how that process is happening.
A high-profile battle between the majors – Universal Music Group, Sony Music, and Warner Music Group – has been raging for most of the decade from the late 1990s to the late 2000s in the United States and other Western markets, where internet-enabled music pirates are using technology to steal music. Nevertheless, the Middle East music industry was primarily composed of indie labels, including Rotana Records, the biggest label in the region, and Sout El Hob Records in Egypt, where there was not much other than piracy whenever it came to digital music options. Having started with the goal of out-pirating the pirates, Habib explained the plan to me. There are many kinds of piracy that exist in the region, from the sale of knockoff CDs to downloading music files off of unlicensed websites.
It is important to note that from the beginning of the platform’s launch, all the music has been licensed. In order to attract customers, the company offered these features free of charge for the first few months until it introduced a paid subscription service. Originally, the company offered a deep catalog of songs, smart song recommendations, and a good user experience, all at an affordable price.
In the early 1990s, there were not many digital libraries of digitized music from the region available at that time. With the help of local label partners, Anghami has been building a catalog of songs from across the region. The company has also been negotiating licensing deals with major international labels. A little more than 60 million songs comprise its library today and it serves customers across the region, including its three biggest markets of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, where it has just under 60 million songs. Only about one percent of the songs in global music libraries are in Arabic, but Habib estimates that they account for more than half of the songs streamed on Anghami each day, which is a majority of the songs in Arabic.
It may not sound revolutionary to think that a Middle Eastern music streaming service such as Spotify may serve the Middle East, but it can be a journey away from the way the global music industry works so far in terms of how content is accessed. The big labels in the past spent a lot of their energy pushing Western hits into emerging markets and trying to attract their attention. As a result of this change in tide, things are different now.
Anghami, the leading music streaming service in the MENA region, announced that it has reached 1.4 million active users and 70 million songs streamed since its launch in 2012. The company also announced a new round of funding led by Saudi Telecom Company (STC) Ventures, with participation from other existing investors such as Crescent Ventures, Hummingbird Ventures, and Wamda Capital.
“This round of funding will fuel Anghami’s expansion plans in the region and globally,” said Anghami CEO Eddy Maroun. “We are very pleased to have STC Ventures on board given their regional reach and expertise in telecoms.”
Anghami is available on all mobile platforms including iOS, Android, Windows Phone 8, BlackBerry 10 and Firefox OS.