Warner Music Group Signs Licensing Deal With African Streaming Service Mdundo

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Warner Music Group has signed a licensing deal with African music service Mdundo to stream its catalog in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Nigeria. Mdundo, which has nearly 2 million monthly active users and says 10 million people use its app each year, has built a following over the past five years largely with local musicians, with 40,000 African artists’ music on the service. A hybrid download/streaming company, with both ad-supported and paid streaming tiers, Mdundo will make WMG's catalog available to stream for its users.

"There's a huge demand among African music fans for international, as well as local, repertoire," said Mdundo CEO Martin Nielsen in a statement. "This deal makes our service more attractive and that will benefit our users, our African musicians and our commercial partners."

The deal marks the latest expansion by a major label into emerging markets, following Universal Music Group's agreement in May to license its catalog in China with digital music platform Tencent. It also arrives amid a growing interest in the music and artists of Africa in the U.S., with artists like WizKid and Davido, among others, landing major label deals with Sony Music Group of late, for example.

And as streaming and digital music continues to break down the traditional boundaries of distribution around the world, new services and companies have begun the process of standardizing and organizing the music industries in markets like India, Africa and China, which have struggled with piracy and technological hurdles in the past. In its 2017 global music report, the IFPI reported that streaming revenue grew 334.2 percent in South Africa alone in 2016, for example, with smart phone proliferation also helping drive those numbers.

In that global music report, Warner Music South Africa managing director Tracy Fraser, who announced the Mdundo deal alongside Nielsen, was optimistic about the potential that exists across the continent.

"We’re seeing smartphone penetration rates start to climb in key African markets, such as Kenya and Nigeria, where it is now close to 50 percent of the population,” Fraser said in the report, which was released in April. "As handset and data prices continue to come down, this growth should accelerate across the continent, which represents a huge opportunity for digital music services and opens the door to more investment in local music by international record companies. At the moment, the music market is not formalized across Africa, but there is masses of activity and a vibrant live scene, with many artists releasing music independently.

"What is particularly exciting for us is the interest shown by A&Rs worldwide in African music," she continued. "Producers are coming here looking for new beats and we’re seeing interesting collaborations and artist signings. It’s a very exciting time for African music."