In the time of lockdown and social distancing due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, people have been spending more of their lives online. With no film theatres or live concerts to attend, we’re changing the way we consume online entertainment, and music streaming is no exception.
CEO of music streaming service Deezer in MENA and Turkey region, Tarek Mounir, said more than 50% of the region’s population are under the age of 25, and keen to embrace the latest global trends. This youthful demographic, coupled with high smartphone penetration levels, has created ideal conditions for growth across a range of digital offerings.
Mounir said in an interview with Daily News Egypt that they noticed an increase in the streaming of mood-driven content. On a regional level, the popularity of the platform’s ”Chill at Home” playlist grew by 40%. Meanwhile, streaming figures for the “Happy Hits” playlist increased by 200%, while “Work from Home” increased by a huge 400%.
How do you see the growth opportunities of the entertainment industry in Egypt and the MENA region?
Egypt has always been home to a vibrant entertainment scene. What we are seeing today is a shift in how entertainment is being consumed. Across MENA as a whole, there is a strong appetite for both local and international offerings. More than 50% of the region’s population is under the age of 25, and keen to embrace the latest global trends. This youthful demographic, coupled with high smartphone penetration levels, has created ideal conditions for growth across a range of digital offerings.
As part of this shift towards digital entertainment, we want to establish Deezer as the home of audio streaming in the region. We aim to achieve this by offering listeners the best, most locally relevant experience. Deezer also works closely with artists and labels to help them reach more fans, further supporting the growth of the local music business. Our offering was further strengthened recently with the launch of our new ‘Shows’ feature, which places a world of international and locally produced podcasts at listeners’ fingertips. On the whole, we can see that the future looks very bright for the region’s entertainment industry.
Do you think the weak purchasing power can affect the music streaming market?
We believe that purchasing power should not be a barrier to people being able to access the music they love. This is why we operate a scalable business model with a range of entry points. When users sign up, they are given a free trial period. If they like what they hear, they can either choose the subscription package that best suits their needs or switch to our free service and enjoy an ad-sponsored experience.
Deezer is also focusing on partnerships with telecommunications providers to create more convenient payment options for customers who don’t have access to a credit card. Here in Egypt, we have teamed up with Fawry and Mondia, while in the wider region we have entered into partnerships with STC and Turkcell. It’s all part of our vision to bring the music to the people.
How did the coronavirus impact music streaming consumption?
We have seen several interesting trends among listeners, many of whom are now working from home or living under some degree of lockdown. Here in Egypt, streaming levels dropped initially, and then levelled out after the first week of lockdown. Our data indicates that people took an average of around 10 days to adapt to their new circumstances.
With less commuting, gym-going, and on-the-move listening taking place, weekday peak hours have shifted from 8:00-9:00 to around 11:00-12:00. Previously, Thursdays had the highest streaming figures of the week. However, this was no longer the case after social activities stopped. For the first time, every day began to look quite similar. We have also witnessed a significant increase in afternoon streaming on the weekend, which is definitely something new.
In addition, increasing numbers of listeners are turning to their home devices for music streaming instead of their smartphones. The use of Android TV increased by 66% across the region, and tablets and desktops also registered significant growth.
Is there a peak in a specific genre?
We have noticed an increase in the streaming of mood-driven content. On a regional level, the popularity of our ‘Chill at Home’ playlist grew by 40%. Meanwhile, streaming figures for our ‘Happy Hits’ playlist increased by 200%, while ‘Work from Home’ increased by a huge 400%.
In Egypt, the most popular genre over the past few weeks has been Arabic pop, including recent releases such as Elissa’s “Hanghani Kaman W Kaman”, Shereen Abdel Wahab’s “Mesh Ad El Hawa”, Mahmoud El Esseily’s “Tamtheleya”, and others.
We have also launched a special ‘Stay at Home’ channel. This allows listeners to find everything they need in one convenient place, whether they are working, studying, cooking, or simply wish to relax. Despite spending more time indoors, it seems that people are continuing with their exercise routines – our ‘Home Workout’ playlist has been among the most listened to in the region.
Does Deezer offer religious content? If yes, has the consumption rate of religious content changed since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak?
Deezer’s library features a wide range of religious content. This has been further expanded with the recent addition of our new ‘Shows’ tab for podcasts, which includes a dedicated ‘Spirituality & Religion’ category. While demand for such content does not appear to have increased significantly since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, things were different in Ramadan. This is a time when listening habits change markedly.
Also, in keeping with local traditions, there was less consumption of music overall throughout the holy month and more people listened to religious content. This trend can be seen in Saudi Arabia and Morocco, and Egypt, but is less pronounced in countries with more diverse populations, such as the UAE.
Deezer’s revenues depend mainly on advertising and subscriptions. Will this be impacted by the economic situation caused by the coronavirus?
While the current situation is undoubtedly having a considerable impact on the global economy, I believe we are well placed to continue on our upward trajectory. Worldwide, music streaming penetration is still relatively low. Here in MENA, for instance, it currently stands under 2%. However, as discussed earlier, the region has huge potential to flourish.
When we look at the patterns observed at the beginning of the lockdown period, streaming witnessed a significant decline initially. However, numbers recovered after around a week. With people now spending more time at home, music consumption will continue to play a big part in their lives. We have every reason to be optimistic about the future, both in the region and beyond.
There is a fierce competition in the music streaming market, what is Deezer’s competitive edge?
At Deezer, our entire team shares a genuine passion for music. Everything we do is truly a labour of love. We wish to be the streaming provider of choice for discerning listeners, whether they prefer to keep their fingers on the pulse of local music or enjoy the latest global breakthrough artists.
This is where our huge content library really comes into its own. With 56m tracks to choose from, there is truly something for everyone. Deezer is also the only streaming service in the region where people can find all their favourite artists. For instance, we have an exclusive digital audio distribution arrangement with Rotana, the Arab world’s biggest label.
Our music editors in each market have an in-depth knowledge of their local music scenes. This ensures our playlists and music curation offer up-to-the-minute relevance. Their expertise is combined with listening data from each country to create the most localized music streaming experience in MENA.
We also strive to connect with listeners on a personal level. Deezer is the only streaming service with Flow, a unique feature that uses data to create an infinite, ever-changing mix of music. Flow learns and adapts in real-time based on each user’s individual listening habits. It’s a wonderful way to connect music fans with old favourites and fresh recommendations we’re sure they will love.