If there is one thing the COVID-19 pandemic has done was to show the creative industry the importance of connectivity.
It has never been as important to remain connected with favourite artists and fans. A recent panel discussion at the Botswana International Music Conference (BIMC) looked at the next route of the recording industry during an era where music streaming has been popularised.
Let’s not talk about CDs and other physical records because they have not been the top choice for music purists over digital downloads for quite some time.
Even Clicks Group recently closed its music store, Musica because the latter was unable to keep up with the rise of digital streaming and online entertainment.
Since streaming spells the end of the ‘ownership’ era of music, panellists at the BIMC event did not speak about Batswana being not ready to let go and losing the emotional connection and sense of control that comes with having a physical copy of a song. Instead one of the panelists, Massie Hule an industry veteran acknowledged that COVID-19 has opened people’s eyes and contributed to the development of technology in the creative sector.
“Now this is all about being able to access music globally at the palm of your hand,” he said. Hule added that even though the current situation in Botswana is all about consuming content people have stored in their devices the future is all about streaming. “People will no longer have to use memory on their phone but instead access it online and this will happen when internet connectivity becomes better,” he further said.
For his part, musician Vee Mampeezy who has seen it all from selling cassettes to CDs said streaming is good but Botswana market is a bit tricky when it comes to issues of being online and accessibility. “We have people from villages like Gumare and Etsha 6 who don’t even have internet, our population is two million so that means we need majority of the people to access internet and consume our music so if they don’t we make money,” he revealed.
The Taku Taku hitmaker also highlighted that if Batswana had cheap internet then music streaming and selling music in online stores such as Amazon would really work.
He further said the only solution for him at the moment is to penetrate other markets in other countries because they have better internet access.
“My music on iTunes sells in Botswana yes but it is better in other countries because they have better resources. In America most people use iPhones but in Botswana we use Android phones therefore majority of the people here don’t have iTunes. It is not that they don’t support us but it’s just that they don’t have the platforms and
Founder of Musicians Emporium (YME) Group from Lesotho, Sechaba Mokoqo said he has heard people complaining about music not being sold and problems of distribution channels. He said it was the same thing they were experiencing in Lesotho because they are a small country with limited resources when it comes to access and selling music online. “We are a small economy, we do not have the same economic infrastructure as SA, so we have similarities with Botswana,” he said.
Mokoqo added that they came up with an idea of a music platform that will not only use the banking system but also mobile money services. “This is the most accessible way for people to get the music.
We are caught in an era where people are streaming, in Lesotho we don’t have proper internet so people needed permanent downloads not streaming. In this way we can distribute direct to the people who support us on the ground,” he said. Mokoqo announced that he has already talked to Botswana Musicians Union (BOMU) so that they can use the same platform, because streaming won’t work in these two countries where internet is expensive and inaccessible to people who want to support musicians.
But as the society is shifting from ownership of digital downloads to music streaming, enabling greater connectivity should be number one on the to-do list in country like Botswana where customers who afford internet often complain about poor service quality.
While The Botswana Fibre Networks (BoFiNet) says it has achieved its target of improved broadband coverage and connectivity as outlined in the National Broadband Strategy which began in 2018, the cause of Botswana’s internet deficiency is, predictably, cost.
The overall vision of the Broadband Strategy is to connect every citizen, business and communities to a high-speed broadband infrastructure at appropriate quality of services and affordable prices.
It is not just Botswana but Africa as a whole has the most expensive internet in the world. So, having streaming platforms such as Spotify which was recently made available in Botswana is going to be difficult because these platforms are mainly available in countries with better economic conditions and low data prices.
Obviously there are factors such as large differences in internet access between rural and urban areas, so streaming in a remote village would not be the same as in Gaborone.
Africa as a whole get by on download speeds of less than 1 Mbps – placing them in the bottom 8% globally in terms of internet quality and speed. While these online streaming platforms could help artists secure their incomes, challenges like this remain.