VENTURES AFRICA – Spinlet’s Group CEO and Chairman, Eric Idiahi, is one of the guest speakers at the Mobile Web West Africa 2012 Conference, taking place today in Lagos Nigeria. Described as Africa’s iTunes, Spinlet is a company focused on meeting the needs of music lovers by bringing the latest music in Africa to user-friendly mobile platforms. In this interview, Mr Idiahi sheds more light on the brand “Spinlet,” its ambitious goal to maximize the mobile space and expand the music industry on the Continent. Enjoy!
Thanks so much for helping us coordinate this (Andrew Mowbray at All Amber and Nwando Ebeledike at Spinlet).
Mr Idiahi, one of your goals at Spinlet is to provide Africa with the combination of music content and mobile devices. How does this work?
Africa has over 700 million mobile phone users. The mobile phone is considered the device of choice in Africa as there are many more mobile phones than computers or TVs, hence we believe the best way to deliver music to the African consumer is on a mobile phone.
We understand that Sami Leino and Ville Leino founded Spinlet in 2006. Why do you think it took so long to break into the African market?
They developed it with the intention of it being in operation outside Africa, they had no local market knowledge or understanding of the potential in Africa. On the other hand, the team at Verod Capital identified the opportunity to distribute music digitally in Africa and acquired the Spinlet platform to execute this.
What role do you currently play at Spinlet?
I am the Chairman.
Prior to joining Spinlet, you worked at Verod Capital, an investment firm you co-founded in 2008 that was instrumental in giving Spinlet its financial backing. What would you say endeared in Spinlet to have drawn your investment?
One of the biggest attractions to the company for us was Finland where it was founded. Finland and America are probably the two best tech hubs in the world. Leveraging on the track record of innovation in these countries to further develop Spinlet for the markets we target was a big plus for us.
How viable is the business? What is the marketing strategy for Africa? According to your website, services are not available in the West African region (i tried it here). Why is that?
Any new business or new ideas face many challenges, and there is certainly always a risk of failure. On paper the business makes a lot of sense. Itunes, Spotify, deezer , etc have successfully done it in other markets. Of course we can’t use the same formula they have used in those markets for Africa, but with our tweaks we hope it will be successful. Spinlet has not officially launched yet so it is not available for download anywhere.
People are of the opinion that most young Africans would rather prefer to download free music using other software than downloading from Spinlet at a fee. From your experience so far, would you agree with this view?
I have a teenage brother who also happens to be one of the savviest people in getting content online primarily using his mobile phone. When I first brought up the idea of Spinlet to him, he laughed at me with the same reaction, “Why would anyone in Africa pay for Music”
In the development of our strategy and technology for Spinlet, we made it a point to seek out consultation from people like my brother, who could access and download almost any music they wanted for free on the Internet.
Spinlet is user friendly, fast and convenient platform. It gives users access to a vast array of music with the click of a button. We offer a combination of models where users can listen to tracks for free (supported by Advertisement), pay a monthly subscription for unlimited downloads, or buy individual songs at affordable prices.
We also offer other social features like the ability to create a playlist of songs that can be shared with friends, and the ability for users to interact with their favorite artists.
Who are Spinlet’s major competitors in the market and what will you say is your competitive advantage over them?
A few companies like Hibuzz, and Zoodrums amongst others have started within the last year to sell or stream music on the web. Spinlet focuses on selling music on mobile phones, as we believe there is a broader market for that
Spinlet, described as ”iTunes” for Africa is focusing its services in Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana and Kenya. Why these countries? And what strategies are you putting in place to expand to other African countries?
Spinlet is for Africa and we’re expanding all over; we are starting off with these countries because they are currently the top 4 countries in Africa for music. In expanding to other countries, we are employing staff there to gather content and maintain relationship with the artists.
How will you describe your relationship with African artistes and record labels so far, considering Spinlet was branded in the music video of Magician Remix by Ice Prince ft Gyptian, and Bez is prominently featured on your brand platform.
I will like to think that we have a very good relationship with the artists, for us the artist interest always comes first. We constantly look for opportunities that could enhance the artist growth home and abroad. This is evident by events and shows we have done outside Nigeria in the past, like the Africa Showcase at Midem and South by South West.
Are record labels and artiste responding to your services? How do you engage them in the process?
Yes they are; we have secured content from a good number of records labels/artists; they understand what we are trying to do; we are providing them with a platform where they can easily sell their songs and they also have visibility in order to track how much sales are being made.
You also recently sponsored Mobile Web West Africa 2012. What informed your decision to partner with the conference organisers?
MWWA is a networking seminar that is organized for people that have applications on mobile devices; it is very good networking and an excellent venue for business relationships to be forged.
Piracy is one of the factors militating against the growth of the music industry. How are you fighting the piracy markets in Africa?
We have been trying to reach out to all other similar businesses that sell digital content legally for us to put resources together to legally fight pirates by way of lawsuits, or to lobby government to put in place stricter anti-piracy measures. We certainly can’t do it alone.
Looking at the mobile space and technology in Africa, there seem to be an increase in the number of technopreneurs emerging from the continent. Do you see a backlash in this trend, considering the fact that there is no form of control or monitoring agency?
Not at all. I think it is an excellent thing. I am totally against putting in place any form of regulation, etc. It will do nothing but stifle growth and creativity.
As someone who is business savvy, with a keen interest in the music industry, what are some of the opportunities you see in this sector?
There are endless opportunities in the music industry as there is still room for growth; one of the biggest opportunities is in the Music Publishing business, but I think I will leave it as that.
What is your take on International artistes/record labels signing up more African acts?
I am extremely excited about this trend. I can’t wait to see the M.I’s, Bez’s, Wiz Kid’s, D’banj’s etc of Africa become major international superstars.
Who is your favorite artiste, aside Fela Kuti?
I am in love with music from Africa; I hear songs everyday and discover new artists that are very intriguing
For more information about the Spinlet, Visit: http://www.spinlet.com
Also checkout: Building the African dream: Interview with Isis Nyong’o