Google is opening shop in South Africa’s crowded digital music market

Google Play Music will feature local content as well as international fare.
Google Play Music will feature local content as well as international fare.
Image: Reuters/Rogan Ward
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Where Apple goes, Google will follow. Well, perhaps only this one time. The search giant introduced its Google Play Music in South Africa on Tuesday (Dec. 8) entering a competitive market for on-demand music streaming services that also includes Apple Music.

“Starting today, local music fans will have an unlimited pass to a huge library of music, on all of their devices, from all the major record companies, as well as top local and independent labels,” Google South Africa said in their announcement

That “huge library” houses a reported 35 million songs which includes local artists alongside international stars. And as a way to compensate for its relatively late entry into the market, Google is offering early adopters a subscription price of 49.99 rand a month ($3.50) until Jan. 26. Eventually, the cost of the service will jump to 59.99 rand ($4.00) after the initial 60-day trial like it is in the US.

South Africa has the most advanced digital media market in sub Saharan Africa and that’s reflected in a fledgling but busy digital music market. Apple Music launched there in June, offering its service at 59.99 rand ($4.00) after a free three-month trial. French-owned streaming service Deezer and LINE’s Mixradio service are also available.The leading local player is Simfy Africa.

Google Play Music is available on both Android and IOS, and also on, and users will be able to curate their own playlists, similar to every other streaming service out there. What’s slightly different about Play Music, though, is that the service allows listeners to upload their own tracks, up to to 50,000 songs in fact, for free. And users will also be able to access certain content offline, including tracks downloaded as MP3s.

The increasing availability of such streaming services, albeit primarily in South Africa, is a recognition by tech firms of the business viability of mobile in Africa, especially of users with smartphones. As Quartz has reported before, estimates suggest millions of smartphones are being shipped in Africa and by 2019, more than 70% of mobile phones on the continent will be smartphones.

Africa is a growth area for Google with Android-enabled devices dominating the smartphone market. In the first quarter of 2015, 89% of smartphones shipped in Africa were Android. Increasingly, users are looking for added services on their phones. With Play Music, Google is feeding that hunger.