I love music, and African music in particular. A few years ago, while I was at Campus, I led a Google+ collection share the music of different artists across Africa. I was doing it because at the time there was no way to find a good African music curation. The collection continued to have 48,000 subscribers.
When I heard that Safaricom was launching a music application, Last year, I really hoped they weren’t wrong in throwing something that didn’t make sense. I’m glad they didn’t. It is a good application.
‘Songa’ means Swahili for movement, which is sort of the slogan that Safaricom uses for this product. The app is currently on Google play store only, but from their website: songamusic.com, it will soon be available on the App Store. So, for now, only Android users can enjoy it.
It’s not the first app we see from East Africa (or Safaricom) for music. There’s Mdundo, there’s Mziiki, there’s Wasafi, TECNO’s Boomplay, a few others, and even the now-dead Safaricom app which was known as Safaricom MyTunes.
It will be exciting to watch and see how Safaricom approaches the market and if it can get people to pay for music.
This was easy as the app allows you to sign up with either Facebook or Google, although they still ask for your cell phone number.
After signing up, you can “personalize” the experience by randomly choosing from a list of options the genre of music or artist you like.
If you’ve used Apple Music, you know it sounds really familiar. Someone somewhere decided to imitate even the color scheme. I like that there is a dark and light theme mode for the app.
One of the things that make me love Deezer and Spotify, better than Apple Music, is the way apps let you discover new artists and new music, and the way they know what music you’ll actually like.
I had hoped something like Deezer’s “Flow” would appear on Songa’s homepage, but I haven’t seen it. Instead, on discovery, we get to see
- Featured Content (currently new music by Sauti Sol, Mercy Masika and Nyashinski),
- New versions,
- Recommended playlists and artists, and
- Most popular this week (bBasically what the team that tested this app listened to LOL).
I’m not sure if there’s a good listening experience in terms of recommending based on what genres and artists you like (because I only used the app for a few minutes at the time of writing this), but I hope that someone somewhere writes algorithms well for a good experience, and that there is a team working on playlists because at the moment …
the playlists are still very bad. To me it seems like some people were tasked with making playlists and added songs here and there and titled them stuff like MCM and TGIF. Hope these playlists get better. Algorithms won’t do everything at the start. They need people to listen to, then a group of music lovers to organize the lists. And to do it in a consistent way that appeals to listeners.
They should borrow a sheet 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 are over 2.5 million leads. What I can neither confirm nor dispute. And as it will strike you at first when registering, Safaricom has put a lot of resources into this endeavor, as the music library contains both local and international artists.
I remember written on Mziiki in 2016 when i felt like they were the future of african music, the app to watch. They went ahead to disappoint dramatically by not diversifying their library and also failing to get a good subscription model.
Songa is off to a great start with the library they have. But I have noticed that there are artists that I thought were missing on board. Diamond Platnumz’s Wasafi Records don’t appear to be on board, but they enjoy the biggest circulation in East Africa.
Hopefully Safaricom is working on getting more record companies to join, as some people will not sign up for such a service if some artists’ music is not available.
If Songa Library can be trusted to have a large library of new, trending and old music, then it will be a very good app, and the money per month will be worth it. For now though, it’s a very good start with bad prices.
Here’s a breakdown of the fees: (Note that you get a 14-day free trial before you pay).
- Daily – Ksh. 25
- Weekly – Ksh. 150
- Monthly – Ksh. 499
I find the subscription model to be good, although a bit odd with daily and weekly payments. Maybe their research has proven that it 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 application is currently only available to Safaricom users (bad luck), we pay using airtime. So say you choose the monthly Ksh. 499, you must have at least Ksh. 499 as airtime on your phone which will be reduced to get you the subscription. Really weird movement.
I would have hoped for an open application that allows you to pay with a card, or Paypal, or better yet Lipa na M-Pesa.
Although, come to think of it, this payment model allows Safaricom to consistently reduce your airtime whether you choose Weekly or Daily.
To note: Yes, I find the subscription model to be good, but I won’t be paying anytime soon. Why? The library does not have enough to guarantee me to pay the same amount that I pay for my Deezer monthly. Deezer has almost everything I need as well as some very cleverly curated playlists and costs Ksh. 500 per month. The same goes for Apple Music, which offers literally all the music in the world, as well as original shows. 500 per month is way too much when I can find better service for the same price elsewhere.
You need your own data to stream or download. This Ksh. 25/150/499 doesn’t mean you can stream or download without a data plan. You must therefore purchase an Internet package separately. It would have been really appealing to have the subscription fee cover for free streaming as it is a product only for Safaricom users.
What is good?
- The design is nice – The Disclaimer app is currently unstable, but the design is better than what we have seen
- The library is good to start with – if they don’t add music soon, then no
- Radio – you can listen to live radio (Kenyan radio stations only at the moment)
- Dark and light theme
- Languages - The app is available in English and Swahili (Kenyan and Tanzanian Swahili LOL).
What is not good?
- Only available to Safaricom customers, really? So how is it evolving to become the # 1 music app in Africa?
- Limited payment methods
- Discovery’s playlists and arrangement are a mess
- Expensive – The content available for the amount requested does not really match
- Bugs – like a notification every time a new song is played (but this is expected as it is still an unstable version).
- Trial period is too short – Apple Music offers 3 months of free use. Deezer gives Ksh 3 months. 100. Why does Safaricom only offer a 14-day trial?
What are your thoughts? Are you ready to pay for music (if you’ve never done so) or switch from your current app to this one? Do you think this is a good thing for the future?