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The Afrobeats Revolution: The Transformative Influence of Technology on the Growth of Afrobeats

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The influence of technology on the growth of Afrobeats is profound. It's not only breaking boundaries, but also playing a major role in the growth of African music globally, opening up new avenues for exposure, collaboration, and creative expression.  From the rise of social media to digital distribution platforms, such as streaming services and online stores, technology has revolutionized the music industry. 

And it's blissful to see how platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube are level playing fields for African music artists to thrive without relying solely on traditional record labels or physical distribution. Unsurprisingly, in the past 2 decades this has contributed monumentally to the  revenue generated by Africa’s Entertainment and Media sector, specifically the music industry which is considered Nigeria's new oil. 

According to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa’s Entertainment and Media sector is poised for faster growth than the world’s average. Additionally, the report shows that in these three African countries the music industry accounts for the fastest growth and also the largest driver of growth in the Entertainment and Media sector. 

Interestingly, technology has always been a part of Afrobeats. For over the past 20 years, we'll notice the influence of the development in technology on the growth of afrobeats. From, emergence of 2 Baba's "African Queen" as the first international face of the Afrobeats movement to Burna Boy's unstoppable momentum from "Ye" off a search query coincidence on streaming platforms, Davido's "Fall," which became a crossover hit, and CKay's "Love Nwantiti (Ah Ah Ah)," which became the Despacito Moment for Afrobeats, there's no shortage of highlights in the Afrobeats revolution. 

So, what are the key drivers of this transformative influence of technology on the growth of afrobeats?

Youth Population, Internet Penetration and Afrobeats Revolution

Observers agree that the current exponential growth in the popularity of Afrobeats is driven largely by growth in youthful population and rapid internet penetration.

The youth population in Africa constitutes a remarkable 70% of the entire population and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) estimates that 29% of the world’s total youth population will reside in Africa by 2050.  This demographic fact positions Africa as having the youngest population globally, and its influence is strongly felt in terms of internet usage and access within the region. This is in turn having a significant impact on economic sectors, particularly the music and film industry

A report published by GSMA Intelligence projects that  there will be 700 million smartphone connections in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2025. The report further showed that the region will remain the fastest growing region for mobile connections as a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 4.6%.  

Also, McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) estimated that the internet’s contribution to Africa’s overall GDP will grow by at least 6% by 2025, contributing 300 billion US dollars, which is 10% of the region’s entire GDP. What this means for the Afrobeats is increased popularity and increased access and amplification which will result in increased revenue for artists and other stakeholders in the Afrobeats music industry.  

Additionally, this growth in popularity and revenue for the music industry has been possible partly due to increasing investments on Africa’s telecommunication infrastructure. Particularly, Chinese telecom companies are major contributors to the development of talent in the music industry in Nigeria. For instance, several Nigerian artists are brand ambassadors for smartphone companies like Tecno (Wizkid & Tecno), Infinix (Davido), Itel (Olamide), Samsung (Joeboy), Oppo (Rema). 

Also, Tecno launched Boomplay in 2015— an African music app that aims to efficiently serve the growing demand for African music and support African artists. This app has grown to become the biggest African music app with over 60 million subscribers in Africa.

Social Media, Streaming Platforms, Charts and the Growth of Afrobeats 

Social media and streaming platforms have become powerful tools for promoting and marketing African music globally. The internet and social media platforms acted as catalysts for the widespread dissemination of music, opening up new possibilities for Afrobeat artists to connect with fans beyond geographical boundaries.

Artists can now build their fan bases, share their music, and engage with fans directly through platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok. 

This direct interaction has helped African musicians establish personal connections with their global audience, leading to increased visibility and opportunities that allows them to influence global culture.  One of the most cited examples is CKay’s Love Nwantinti (2019) which became the most Shazamed song in the world thanks to the love it garnered on TikTok. At the height of its popularity, TikTok and Instagram users were making more than 10 million videos a week using the song. 

Also, Streaming services have played a crucial role in Afrobeats' global popularity. The ease of accessing music through platforms like Spotify and Apple Music facilitated the genre's expansion to diverse international audiences. 

African artists made about $300 million from streaming platforms in 2021. This number is estimated to reach $500 million by 2025.  Additionally, Spotify in a recent website launch reported that Afrobeats has recorded a massive 550% increase of streams on its platform since 2017 and over 13 billion streams in 2022. 

To date, one of the most streamed songs of all time is One Dance, an Afrobeats song by Drake, with a cameo from Wizkid which has surpassed 2 billion streams on Spotify. This is a reflection of the boost Afrobeats artists stand to get from working with American pop stars.

More instances include Wizkid’s Essence, featuring Tems, charting in the top ten of the Billboard 100 after a remix with Justin Bieber. Fireboy's Peru remix with Ed Sheeran and Rema's Calm Down remix with Selena Gomez are also major wins for Afrobeats aided by the rise of technology. 

The popularity of these songs amongst audiences in the UK and US has led to the creation of official charts like the Billboard Afrobeats chart— America’s first ever Afrobeats chart launched in 2022 by Billboard in partnership with festival company Afro Nation. This chart ranks the top 50 Afrobeats songs in the US based on streaming, airplay and physical sales. 

Similarly, Official Charts Company created UK's Afrobeats Chart compromising the UK’s biggest Afrobeats songs of the week based on sales and streams across a seven day period. This buttresses the influence of technology in pushing Afrobeats as the fastest growing genre in Western pop culture. 

Technology and Afrobeats Marketing 

The rise of technology has also had a major impact on the landscape of music marketing. In the past, music marketing was largely focused on traditional media outlets like radio and television. However, the rise of online platforms has led to a shift in focus towards digital marketing. 

Digital marketing strategies for Afrobeat artists and labels now include things like social media marketing, influencer marketing, and paid advertising. These strategies have helped to increase the visibility of Afrobeat artists and their music, and have led to a significant increase in the genre's global popularity.  

Also, the entire marketing cocktail of Afribeats is now supported by data. Independent artists, their teams, and specialized creators have benefited from this. In the Afrobeats scene, technology has proven crucial to marketing campaigns for live performances and tours. Even emerging bands can now sell out venues in the most remote regions of the globe thanks to data-driven business decisions! The outcomes can be seen in numerous underdog success stories, such as rapper BlaqBonez's use of TikTok and relevant content to score a number of hit recordings, sell out a headline event in the center of Lagos, and secure numerous brand sponsorships.

As a result of the rise of online platforms, Afrobeat has become one of the most popular genres of music in the world. In 2022, Afrobeats was the most-streamed genre of music on Spotify in Nigeria, Ghana, and Kenya. It was also the third-most-streamed genre of music in the United States pointing to the influence of data/technology-driven marketing. 

As technology advances, more digital marketing tools would evolve which would help play a significant role in spreading Afrobeats globally. These platforms and tools will continue to provide opportunities for artists to reach wider audiences, connect with fans, and showcase their creativity.

Technological advancement and the Afrobeats music revolution

The music industry has undergone a dramatic transformation due to technological advancements. From vinyl records to digital downloads, the timeline of music technology has continually evolved. The digitization of music allowed for easy access and distribution, empowering artists to reach global audiences with their work. 

Also, technological advancements in music production tools and recording equipment have empowered African artists to create high-quality music independently. Affordable digital audio workstations (DAWs), virtual instruments, and home recording setups have reduced the barriers to entry, enabling artists to produce professional-sounding music from their own homes or local studios. This has contributed to a surge in creativity and diversity within the Afrobeats music industry. For instance, the new surge of Afropiano— considered the hybrid of West-African Afrobeats and South African Amapiano— has technology to thank for its growth. 

Furthermore, technology has expanded the reach of African music festivals and live performances. With live streaming capabilities, audiences from around the world can experience African music festivals and concerts in real time, creating a virtual global community. This exposure has not only increased the visibility of African artists but has also attracted international audiences to attend these events in person, leading to economic and cultural exchanges.

The impact of technology on Afrobeats has also democratized opportunities and increased its profitability. It has successfully eliminated the middlemen. Without having to travel great distances, producers, songwriters, instrumentalists, A&Rs, distributors, and artists can collaborate globally. Services can be paid for without a lot of red tape and label complexity. 

There's no denying that advances in technology have had a transformative influence on Afrobeats' rapid rise from underground obscurity into one of today’s most popular genres - making it accessible anywhere anytime!

However, there are still some challenges concerning access to finance and breaking even in the industry. 

Afrobeats and Challenges Associated with Technology

The Afrobeats digital transformation has not been without its challenges for Afrobeat. Issues of copyright infringement and piracy have posed threats to artists' livelihoods, requiring new solutions, especially government-backed policies to protect their intellectual property.

For several decades, these challenges have reduced returns on investments and minimized the revenue levels of artists, music producers, and many stakeholders participants in the music industry. 

Furthermore, striking a balance between preserving the genre's traditional elements and embracing modern technology has been an ongoing debate. Moreover, the impact of social media on artists' mental health and public image calls for responsible and ethical use of these platforms.

Also, which is major in recent discussion, is the streaming farm epidemic. The sheer desire for streaming statistics to prove success has become a norm, giving rise to desperate backdoor measures. Streaming farms also connected to the routine practice of buying likes, comments, and retweets on social media in a bid to increase their commercial appeal. Although this hurts artists' overall impact, it has become a sought-after solution to indicate progress. 

Conclusion : The Future of Afrobeats and Technology

From tools that create the melodies, to larger label strategic decisions, to playlisting, branding, and music marketing campaigns, technology is having a seismic impact on the growth of Afrobeats across the globe.

Looking ahead, technology will continue to shape the future of Afrobeat. Emerging trends such as artificial intelligence-generated music and virtual reality experiences hold potential for enhancing the genre's creativity and audience engagement. Predictions for Afrobeats' growth suggest that it will further solidify its position as a global musical force, while maintaining a deep-rooted connection to its cultural authenticity.

As the world becomes more connected through technology and digital platforms, Afrobeats artists will have increased opportunities to collaborate with international artists, resulting in more cross-genre fusions and global hits. This exposure will continue to broaden the appeal of Afrobeats and solidify its position in the global music industry.

Posted by Abdulazeez A Shomade | Published on 2023-10-31 09:45:00