I love music, and African music in particular. Some years back, while in Campus, I ran a Google+ collection to share music from different artistes across Africa. I was doing it because then there was no way to find a good curation of music from Africa. The collection went on to have 48,000 followers.
When I heard Safaricom was launching a music app, from last year, I really hoped they wouldn’t screw up by launching something that won’t make sense. I am glad they haven’t. This is a good app.
‘Songa’ is Swahili for move, which is kind of the tagline Safaricom are going with for this product. The app is currently on Google Play Store only, but from their website: songamusic.com, it will be available on the App Store soon. So for now, only Android people get to enjoy.
This isn’t the first app we’ve seen from East Africa (or from Safaricom) for music. There’s Mdundo, there’s Mziiki, there’s Wasafi, TECNO’s Boomplay, a couple more, and even Safaricom’s now dead app that was known as Safaricom MyTunes.
It will be exciting to watch and see how Safaricom approaches the market, and if they can convince people to pay for music.
This was easy as the app allows you to Sign Up either with Facebook or with Google, though they still request for your mobile phone number.
After signing up, you get to “personalise” the experience by randomly picking from a list of options which genre of music, or which artiste you like.
If you’ve used Apple Music, you know this looks really familiar. Someone somewhere decided to imitate even the colour scheme. I like that there’s dark and light theme mode for the app though.
One of the things that make me like Deezer and Spotify, better than Apple Music is because of the way the apps allow one to discover new artistes and new music, and the way they know which music you will actually like.
I had hoped something like “Flow” from Deezer would appear on the home page of Songa, but I haven’t seen that. Instead on discovery we get to see
- Featured Content (currently new music from Sauti Sol, Mercy Masika and Nyashinski),
- New Releases,
- Recommended Playlists and Artistes, and
- Most Popular this Week (basically what the team who’ve been testing this app have been listening to LOL).
I don’t know if there’s a proper listening experience in terms of recommendation based on what genres and artistes you like (because I’ve used the app for just a few minutes as of writing this), but I hope someone somewhere is writing good algorithms for a good experience, and that there’s a team working on playlists because right now…
The playlists are still really bad. For me it seems some people were tasked with creating playlists and they threw in songs here and there and titled them stuff like MCM and TGIF. I hope these playlists get better. Algorithms won’t do it all at first. They need people to listen and then a set of music lovers to curate the lists. And to do so in a constant manner that pleases listeners.
They should borrow a leaf from Spotify and Deezer who have a team of curators paid to listen to music and make playlists. Or they can borrow some of my playlists.
The main website claims there’s over 2.5 Million tracks. Which I cannot confirm or dispute. And as it will hit you at first when you sign up, Safaricom has put a lot of resources into this venture, because the music library contains both local and international artistes.
I remember writing about Mziiki back in 2016 when I felt like they were the future of African music, the app to watch. They went ahead to disappoint spectacularly by failing to diversify their library and then also failing to get a good subscription model.
Songa is off to a really really good start with the library they have. But I’ve noticed there’s artistes I expected to be on board that are missing. Diamond Platnumz’s Wasafi Records don’t seem to be on board, yet they enjoy the most airplay in East Africa.
Me kama Diamond na Wasafi Records artistes hawako kwa music app I don't subscribe ??
Hopefully soon eh…
— Dickson Otieno (@DicksonOtieno) February 12, 2018
Hopefully Safaricom is working on getting more Record labels on board, because certain people won’t sign up for such a service if certain artistes’ music isn’t available.
If the Songa library can be trusted to have a wide library of both new, trending and old music, then this will be a really good app, and the cash per month will be worth it. For now though, this is a really good start with bad pricing.
Here’s a breakdown of the charges: (Note that you get 14 free days Trial before paying).
- Daily – Ksh. 25
- Weekly – Ksh. 150
- Monthly – Ksh. 499
I find that the subscription model is good, though a bit weird with daily and weekly payments. Maybe their research has proved that will work well for them. I say the model is good because I believe in paying for streaming rather than paying per song.
As the app is currently only available for Safaricom users (bad move), one pays using airtime. So say you pick the Monthly Ksh. 499 option, you need to have at least Ksh. 499 on as Airtime on your phone which will be slashed to get you the subscription. Really weird move.
I would have hoped for an open app that allows one to pay using a card, or Paypal, or better yet Lipa na M-Pesa.
Although, coming to think of it, this payment model allows Safaricom to constantly slash your airtime if you choose Weekly or Daily.
Note: Yes, I find the subscription model to be good, but I wouldn’t pay any time soon. Why? The library doesn’t have enough to warrant me to pay the same amount I pay for my Deezer monthly. Deezer has almost everything I need, plus really intelligently curated playlists and costs Ksh. 500 a month. So does Apple Music, which has literally all the music in the world, plus original shows. 500 a month is way too much when I can find better service at the same price from elsewhere.
You need your own data to stream or download. That Ksh. 25/150/499 doesn’t mean you can stream or download without a data bundle. So you have to buy internet bundle separately. It would have been really enticing to have the subscription charges carter for free streaming as this is a product for Safaricom users only.
- Design feels good – Disclaimer app is currently unstable but the design is better than what we’ve been seeing
- Library is good for a start – if they don’t add music soon then nope
- Radio – you can listen to live Radio (Kenyan radio stations only right now)
- Dark and Light Theme
- Languages – App is available in English and Swahili (Kenyan and Tanzanian Swahili LOL).
What’s not Good?
- Available only for Safaricom customers, really? Then how does it scale up to be Africa’s No. 1 Music App?
- Limited methods of Payment
- Playlists and Arrangement of Discovery is a mess
- Expensive – Content available versus amount requested don’t really match
- Bugs – like a notification every time a new song plays (but this is expected as this is still an unstable version).
- Trial period is too short – Apple Music gives 3 Months free use. Deezer gives 3 months at Ksh. 100. Why is Safaricom giving just 14 days trial?
What are your thoughts? Are you ready to pay for music (if you never have), or to switch from your current app to this one? Do you think this is a good thing going forward?