Music streaming service Simfy has had social networks and websites buzzing following news that it would be launching in South Africa.
Rivals such as Zune and Spotify have yet to launch in South Africa, so there's never been a better time to launch a comprehensive streaming service.
We caught up with Davin Mole, CEO and co-founder of ExactMobile, dishing out more details about the service.
1) What makes Simfy different to Spotify?
In pure functionality and features, the services are very similar. What is and will continue to make Simfy Africa different is that we are combining all the great features built by team Simfy in Germany with a host of ways to make the experience convenient from a South African perspective.
For example we are working very closely with the SA music industry to ensure that instead of just having say, a 'token' African offering of the mainstream artists available, over a period of time we aim to ensure that every single (South) African artist is represented.
In every territory local music accounts for a large percentage of the music people actually listen to and hence getting this right is a big priority for us at Simfy Africa.
2) What will the service cost? Will there be a free, ad-supported option too?
The service will cost R60 per month for the full service. There will not be a 'free' ad supported option for two reasons.
Firstly, the local digital advertising market is not large enough to generate sufficient ad revenues to make this model viable.
Secondly, we anticipate the majority of South Africans will want or need the mobile (and especially the offline) features and these features are not included in the various ad-supported models that operate elsewhere in the world.
3) What is ExactMobile’s role in the Simfy relationship? How did it come about?
We as Exactmobile have been watching the evolution of the digital content space carefully, as this is our core business, and we realised some time ago that music streaming was the future of music consumption.
We therefore spent a considerable amount of time last year talking to and visiting many of the leading streaming providers and in the end we selected Simfy as they had the best combination of technology and functionality.
4) Offline listening is a big advantage, especially in South Africa, so how does it work? Are there any limitations to this?
You simply select the 'Offline' button on your mobile device for a particular playlist and then the device will automatically download the songs in that playlist to the device for listening to later (without the need for an internet connection).
You can select up to three mobile devices to use in offline mode and you can reset your mobile device choice twice a year. Hence on device one, you can have all your playlists set to offline and on another device, you might only have selected playlists available.
There is no limit to how many songs you can have offline, other than the storage capacity of each device, of course. We are fully anticipating people to have hundreds, or thousands of songs stored offline.
5) Bandwidth and the price thereof is still a challenge in SA. Can we expect partnerships with mobile carriers and ISPs, such as Simfy being included as a value-added extra?
We have already been actively involved in discussions with all the SA carriers for some time about how to work with them in terms of reducing the cost of the mobile bandwidth and/or to provide Simfy Africa as a value add-on to their customers.
6) Further to this, can we expect a lower quality option from Simfy to reduce data consumption?
This is something that we have considered previously (and we have certainly not ruled out) but we do feel that our streaming rate of 192 kbps is about the right level for SA at present because it provides a quality stream at a rate that will be increasingly affordable as unlimited and bulk data packages continue to drive down the cost per Mb.
7) We’ve seen other music services, such as Apple’s iTunes and Microsoft’s Zune shun South Africa. Why has this been the case? What hurdles are there in getting legal music downloads to the country?
South Africa (and Africa as a whole) is never seen as a priority by say, US or European companies, as they don't generally have the understanding or the inclination to understand the potential of the marketplace.
It is also difficult practically if your decision-makers are sitting on the West Coast of the US to set up the right local teams in Africa to drive things forward on the ground. Also many of the issues you mention in your other questions – such as the bandwidth costs and handset constraints – are issues that have up to now made the business case for Africa less attractive than it is in other parts of the world.
Whilst we know that there are many challenges ahead in terms of fully overcoming these obstacles, we also know that South Africa (and many other parts of the continent as well) are winning at dealing with these issues.
Therefore as Simfy Africa, instead of waiting until everything was perfect, so to speak, before launching, we have decided to launch now and to work hard at making our service accessible to all as the last few barriers are overcome.
Many of us have been using Simfy Africa in SA for some time on normal office, home and mobile networks and it really works and works well! It is also not expensive to operate if you are smart about how you connect to the internet.
8) What has the local reception to the service been like thus far in terms of pre-registration?
In just under three days we have surpassed the 1000 registration mark easily and they are continuing to come in constantly. We are also especially happy with the quality of the registrations as it appears that anyone and everyone who knows their music is scrambling to pre-register.
We have even had people trying all sorts of tricks to get past the pre-registration process to start their 14 day trials early!
9) In the press release, you mention that direct debit, credit cards and EFT are just a few of the supported payment methods. Will mobile payments be an option?
Yes it will [users can pay via their mobile phone accounts - ed].
10) For unsupported devices (Symbian, Windows Phone), can users still listen to tunes via the mobile website?
No, they cannot as there are so many different variants to deal with on the mobile websites that the user experience would be compromised.
We will however consider, if we pick up the necessary level of customer demand, creating a Nokia and Windows Phone app in the future.
Disclaimer: ExactMobile and iafrica.com are both owned by Primedia.