One year on from its regional launch in 2018, we talk to Spotify managing director MEA, Claudius Boller about Arabic trends, its Wrapped series and why the next big global star could soon arrive from this part of the world.
What interesting trends have you noticed in the Middle Eastern market?
Earlier this year, we conducted a global research study called Culture Next. The study reveals all the cultural, technological and behavioural trends that are shaping the Millennial and Gen-Z generations. On a regional level, we collated insights from individuals and influencers across markets including the UAE and Egypt to get further localised insights. Culture Next and the insights it revealed was truly an eye-opener - I did not realise so many people from within these generations are in touch with their emotions and unafraid to express themselves freely, or the fact that they crave discovery, finding new things, ideas, music, hobbies and experiences. What I found interesting is that although they may appear to be spending plenty of time on their screens, they value audio and see it as an escape from visual stimulation overload. One of the things that I found truly fascinating in the past year is the fact that users in this region are exploring and are deeply engaged with music from all over the world. For instance, Korean-pop in Saudi Arabia is widely popular and this was very evident in October when K-pop sensation, BTS came to perform in the Kingdom. The fact that K-pop comes from a totally different culture and is in a completely different language, its catchy and fun rhythm and style has mesmerised millions of people around the world. There is also Egyptian Mahraganat being played elsewhere, Maghreb (northern African) hip-hop is big in France—and trap is booming in both MENA and Latin America. We have music coming from the Levant and Egypt trending in Brazil. With more than 3 billion playlists on Spotify, we are here to let everyone discover new and different music cultures from around the world.
Who's the most popular Arabic artist on Spotify?
Each market is quite unique when it comes to listeners’ taste and streaming habits. In Saudi Arabia for instance our “Wrapped 2019” data revealed that Iraqi singer, Aseel Hameem is the Kingdom’s top streamed artist, with her hit song ‘Al Mafrood’ also becoming the number one most streamed track for the year. In countries like Morocco, where Urban music sees most popularity and demand, artists such as French duo PNL topped the Wrapped 2019 list, followed by Algerian star, Soolking. In Egypt, on the other hand, the number one most streamed artist for the year 2019 was Amr Diab - whom we recently had a great and successful collaboration celebrating his legacy and global impact in Times Square. This just goes to show how diverse and rich this region is. There’s plenty of potential for the next big hit to come out of MENA.
What are the future plans for Spotify in the region?
Going forward, we will continue being dedicated to perfecting the experience of our users on our platform. Spotify is the world’s most popular audio streaming service -- giving you access to all of the music that you love anytime, anywhere. But we are not just access to audio. We help make it easier to discover new music that you’ll love through a truly personalized experience which we are always revolutionizing. We also see the world dividing into multiple platforms, and Spotify is the only player that works across all of them, globally. So as listeners use different devices in different parts of their lives -- phone, speakers, cars and so forth -- Spotify will continue being committed to being accessed on all, making a seamless and connected listening experience throughout the day. As we get into 2020, we will continue being committed to connecting artists and fans in ways that weren’t possible before, building a community of mutual discovery and inspiration. We are here for the long run and our ultimate goal is to help make music accessible to everyone by giving a million creative artists the opportunity to live off their art and billions of fans the opportunity to enjoy and be inspired by it.
What three tracks would you have tucked into your device if you were stranded on a desert island and why?
Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen: This is one of the greatest pieces of modern art and also one of the most diverse songs ever. Did you know that this song does not have a chorus? But instead it has a wild mixture of sections, a ballad segment, an operatic passage, a hard rock part and more.
November Rain by Guns N’ Roses: What a masterpiece. The original song was written by Axl Rose and was 25 minutes long and was edited down to 9 minutes. It brings back tonnes of memories from the 90s, I remember seeing Guns N’ Roses for the first time performing their “Use Your Illusion” tour in the Munich Olympic Stadium.
Labantwana Ama Uber by Semi Tee: This is one of my latest discoveries, a powerful song from the super-trending African genre Amapiano. You simply cannot resist moving to the beat.
END OF INTERVIEW