“The idea behind the service is to do something unique for Africa,” Francis Keeling, Universal Music’s global head of digital business, told Billboard.biz, fresh from coming offstage at the Kleek’s ‘soft launch’ in Cape Town. So in order for us to [generate] growth and to provide a service to the millions of potential African music fans, [we needed] to actually have a service that was built for Africa and focused on African content and music.”
Keeling continued: “What we have recognized for some time is that [Africa] needs a service where the whole industry is behind it and that gives consumers what they want… You can’t simply take an international service and plonk it on Africa and expect it to be successful. The idea of the Kleek [as a] brand, a service, is that it will provide the kind of unique, experience-focused recommendations on artists that are relevant to the Nigerian consumers, the Ghana consumer, the Kenyan consumer, as well as the South African and Angolan consumer.”
Similar in design to existing mobile streaming services from Spotify and Deezer, Kleek will enable users to have access to have access to a wide range of music content, including artist, genre and celebrity playlists, exclusive album previews, artist diaries and charts. License agreements are in place with a large number of local labels throughout the African continent, according to Keeling, as well as one (unnamed) major. Due to ongoing negotiations, Keeling was unable to disclose the identity of the major. He did, however, emphasize that Kleek’s main focus at launch would be on the domestic African talent which dominates the continent’s radio stations, as opposed to international repertoire.
“One of the key objectives of the Kleek is to focus on local domestic artists and help break them through Africa and ideally around the world,” says Keeling. “Clearly we are going to be putting our full catalog behind it. But the demand at the moment in Africa is about local artists. [African consumers] love the big R&B, urban U.S. and international acts, but as well as having those artists available, the focus of the Kleek is on local artists and to get as many local labels signed up.”
“It’s very much an industry initiative,” he continued, stating that the service’s free to access price point would continue for an unspecified time to help facilitate growth. “We want the whole industry to be behind the Kleek and to help us to develop and encourage investment in Africa,” Keeling stated.
In a statement accompanying Kleek’s Cape Town launch - which was accompanied by a live performance by Eastern Cape singer-songwriter Zahara - Randall Abrahams, managing director, Universal Music South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, added: “With the Kleek, we are not just delivering the best local and international music, we are providing all of Africa with a unique and bespoke user experience. The service will also help us focus on developing future stars from across the continent.”
Max Hole, chairman & CEO Universal Music Group International, additionally commented: “By investing in the Kleek we’re providing a platform for the very best of African talent to reach a wider audience. With the explosion of smart phones and other mobile devices, the Kleek has the potential to attract tens of millions of music fans across Africa.”