In April, Apple announced a bold expansion of its Apple Music streaming service: It would move into 52 additional markets — including 25 in Africa — even amid the anxiety and belt-tightening necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic.
At the same time, Denzyl Feigelson — a former flower farmer whom Steve Jobs had enlisted years ago to help build the original iTunes Store — was working on tackling an even more ambitious project for the continent’s musicians. As co-founder/CEO of Apple’s artist services company, Platoon, Feigelson was about to start offering health insurance to his artists, a first-of-its-kind initiative that felt all the more urgent as the world ground to a halt. By May, the program began covering 30 artists in South Africa, with plans to roll out into more territories in the future — just one of a suite of services he’s putting together to help his acts. “It sounds a little altruistic,” says Feigelson. “But life’s too short to have what we call in the music business ‘agita.’ I like to sleep well at night.”
For the past three years, Platoon has been striking licensing and services deals with acts in countries like South Africa, Ghana and Nigeria, offering advances, distribution and support to 88 African musicians — and quietly becoming a major player amid an industrywide shift toward establishing a larger footprint on the continent. Feigelson also has been exploring new kinds of offerings that position the company as a one-stop finishing school that can make artists the CEOs of, well, themselves.