Leading African music streaming service Boomplay has expanded its licensing agreement with Merlin, which represents licensing rights for more than 20,000 independent labels and distributors, to 47 additional countries on the continent, the companies tell Billboard.
Merlin and Boomplay’s first licensing deal, reached in 2019, covered 11 African countries, including Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
Countries covered under the new deal include Mali, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, Liberia, Malawi, Burundi, Gambia, Angola, Somalia, Botswana, Equatorial Guinea, Namibia, Mauritius, Lesotho, Guinea-Bissau, Cabo Verde, Seychelles, Sao Tome & Principe, Eswatini, Eritrea, Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Comoros, Congo Brazzaville, DRC, Djibouti, Gabon, Guinea, Madagascar, Mauritanie, Niger, Tchad and Togo.
Boomplay, which currently boasts over 60 million monthly active users and hosts more than 65 million tracks, also has licensing deals in place with the three major labels. “Obviously, we hope to expand all of our existing partners into those [additional] territories as well,” Boomplay director of content and strategy Phil Choi tells Billboard.
“Merlin has identified a simple trend: as digital services expand into new markets and make our members’ diverse catalogues accessible to new audiences, we over index on market share,” says Merlin COO Charlie Lexton. “Consequently, Merlin is always looking for regional partners to help our members establish presence in new markets. The expansion of our deal with Boomplay is a reflection of that strategy and positions our members to succeed as African digital markets continue to mature.”
The expansion comes as the global influence of African music continues to skyrocket. Over the past couple of years, African artists including Burna Boy and Wizkid, both of whom hail from Nigeria, have begun rising to international prominence.
“In the same way the advent of digital music has made North American and European music more easily accessible in Africa, the same is true for African music on the world stage,” says Lexington. He adds that subscription streaming has also enabled increased investment in local talent – and that more independent labels and distributors in the region have also begun to crop up as a result. “As those local businesses join Merlin, they plug into our deals, their music becomes available globally – and, hopefully, we see a feedback loop where that then drives more investment back into local markets.”
Within Africa, streaming activity has risen with the growing penetration of smartphones, says Choi. He adds that the company’s partnerships with telcos have also eliminated certain “pain points” for African consumers, including by allowing Boomplay users to pay for their subscriptions without linking to a bank account or credit card (which many people on the continent don’t have access to). These factors, among others, have allowed the popularity of streaming to grow at a faster pace in Africa than even he expected.
“[It’s] a pleasant surprise to see the speed at which it’s come about,” says Choi of the Merlin expansion. “We were expecting things to be happening maybe a year or two later.”