Communicate spoke with Claudius Boller, Managing Director for Spotify in Middle East and Africa to understand what to expect in the world of audio streaming in 2021.
Could you give a wrap up on the listening habits and behavior of Spotify users in the MENA region in 2020?
2020 was a year unlike any other. One that, despite its unique challenges, inspired creativity too. Many found ways to come together with resilience and as a community, so it comes as no surprise that 2020 also sounded differently. Throughout it all, audio acted as a companion, helping us power through the year, strengthening our connections with the world around us and giving us hope. This is what made our 2020 Wrapped results so special.
If we go on a quick tour around the Middle East and North Africa, we will see how each country had its own sound. In the UAE and Saudi Arabia, BTS claimed the most-streamed artist category. All this is to say: that K-Pop continues to be huge and we certainly expect its global domination to keep going strong. Meanwhile, Egypt’s audio trends revealed a different story. Egyptian rapper Wegz took the top spot in the most-streamed artist category - a testament to the meteoric rise of local hip-hop in the country. His song “Dorak Gai'' was the most-streamed song in 2020 in Egypt and he was the only artist with five songs in the most-streamed songs category. In Morocco, hip-hop also took the crown, with ElGrandeToto becoming the most-streamed artist of 2020.
We also saw a surge in mood playlist consumption, serving as a calming escape and a reminder of better days ahead. One of the most prominent trends we observed was the rise in demand of mood-boosting and serotonin-inducing tunes. In fact, globally, streaming of playlists with “serotonin” in the title increased by nearly 180% from 2019-2020, and streams of Spotify’s “Mood Booster” editorial playlist increased nearly 120% between 2019-2020. Many, of course, turned to trending tracks to help lift their spirits as they adjusted to the ‘new normal’. Streaming of upbeat, “confidence”-themed playlists around the world increased by more than 120% from 2019-2020, dominated by female artists including Lizzo, Hailee Steinfeld, Ariana Grande, Beyoncé, and Rachel Platten.
At the same time, music for the blues gained popularity. Streams of Spotify’s emo feelings playlist, “tear drop” increased by nearly 150% from 2019-2020, and playlists with the word “sad” in the title were streamed more than 616 billion times in 2020 - an increase of roughly 40% compared to 2019.
Just as user preferences evolved to adapt to the changing reality, we also saw listening habits branch out across a variety of devices. With more people staying indoors, unsurprisingly, we saw an increase in the number of people streaming music from their home devices. But what truly helped us get to the next level was observing the way people engaged with us while gaming. With an increasing number of connected game consoles in more homes across the region, we saw game-console streaming rates mark a new high score - a true reflection of the success of our ubiquity strategy, ensuring we are able to create a truly frictionless experience for our consumers, wherever they are, in any environment. To this end, between 1 January and 14 November 2020, we saw a global increase of 55% and an increase of 133% and 148% in UAE and KSA respectively in gamers streaming Spotify through their consoles. Whether they were exploring new worlds, teaming up with others in battlegrounds, fighting crime, or spying on super villains, more and more players set out to personalize their winning soundtracks on Spotify.
Would these changes/behaviors be carried forward into 2021 as well?
Definitely, especially local hip-hop. We are excited to witness how it will continue to evolve and how it will travel both regionally and globally. At the moment, we are seeing fans from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Morocco hooked to "Sheil El Beid", a Trap single by emerging Saudi rapper Barry. We are also seeing Moroccan rapper Inkonnu making it to number seven on our Global Top Debut Albums charts.
It also appears that mood playlists will continue to rise in popularity. We are already seeing this with our users starting 2021 with an eye on serotonin - with more than 7,500 serotonin-themed playlists being created in the first 11 days of the new year.
What are your predictions for the world of audio streaming in 2021?
Audio is the future and will continue to connect us. The role of audio in our lives is more important than ever - inspiring us, entertaining us, motivating us and keeping us company.
We know that now more than ever, listeners expect highly advanced personalization. And as this expectation continues to grow in 2021 and beyond, we remain committed to enabling our listeners discover audio that they will love by building and refining playlists and audio experiences for every imaginable moment, mood and situation. As an audio-first company, our goal is to help make audio accessible to everyone and give creative artists the opportunity to take their art to billions of fans around the world