JOOX is South Africa’s newest streaming service, but how will this new challenger carve out its own frontier while battling the heavyweights? We chatted to Tamara Japp-Shama, head of business development for Tencent Africa, for the full story!
Though titans such as Apple Music and Google Play Music have touched down in South Africa, there’ve been few local endeavours that have managed to marry together the convenience of a digital streaming service while offering unparalleled access to the local music scene. 2017, however, has introduced us to one such new player in the form of JOOX.
Backed by Tencent (the same company behind WeChat) JOOX has staked its claim by focussing on local music tailored for the South African market and even offers one of five online radio stations explicitly for this purpose.
To better get the inside track on how JOOX plans to carve out its own frontier in South Africa and usher in a rich new offering for fans of local music, we fired an array of questions at Tamara Japp-Shama – head of business development at Tencent Africa.
Tell us a little about the history behind the decision to launch JOOX in South Africa.
The decision to launch JOOX in SA was spurred on by the desire to bring a music streaming service that speaks to the local South African market. We are able to capitalize on trends as they go viral. Prioritizing local music benefits not only for the artists but users as well.
For our listeners new to JOOX; what’s the key value proposition and why should they be interested??
Content curation is without a doubt the Number One feature in JOOX – we have a dedicated team that engages and participates in local music culture – what is currently trending and making waves in South Africa. A great example of this is the track ‘Tholukuthi Hey’ from Killer Kau which trended on social media as it was being co-created together with Euphonik and their fans on Twitter. The track was finalised on a Friday night and released on JOOX before any other platform first thing Monday morning.
What differentiates JOOX – beyond featuring local content – from international services such as, say, Google Play Music?
As our tag phrase ‘Live Your Music’ suggests, we offer music streaming as an experience! JOOX offers users rich multimedia experiences including video interviews, album reviews and behind the scenes footage from studio to concerts.
How is JOOX tailored for the South African market?
Our home page (the ‘Discover’ page) is merchandised to first and foremost feature local content and any international content mirrors that, playlisted on local radio or trending on social environments. JOOX prioritises playlists that are comprised solely of local content across various popular genres and music eras.
Our partnerships with local artists mean more in-app promotions while user generated playlists, which includes bespoke and curated views on sub-genres, have their own section. We are in the process of launching user-generated playlist competitions as well promoting these on our social media channels.
How is JOOX structured between free and paid for subscriptions?
Free users are limited in functionality in that track-skipping is limited to 6 per hour and users can only listen in shuffle mode. Audio adverts are also present within the ‘Freemium’ user experience.
Paid VIP users have full functionality and most importantly, can save their favourite tracks and playlists in an offline mode which enables access to music without having to connect to Wi-Fi.
What have been some of the earliest challenges in launching JOOX on our shores?
Without a doubt data costs and the education around how to manage data has been the biggest challenge. We are investing in ways to help customers pay for their music bundles without having to rely on credit or debit cards.
Let’s talk local.
How is JOOX gearing up to work or showcase local artists?
JOOX believe in empowering local artists to engage in a more valuable way with their fans. Using social media campaigns, competitions and future multimedia functionality, The service will become the preferred way for fans to engage with and follow their favourite local artists. Our ambition is for super fans to make themselves known to local artists and be rewarded for their passion, commitment and loyalty.
How has Tencent Africa studied the listening habits of South Africans? What interesting findings have been revealed?
Based on our market research, which included surveys and focus groups, we believe South African music tastes include a variety of both global and local content, however we’ve realised users would like to discover more local content through curated playlists. For instance, our range of ‘Mzansi’ playlists are becoming increasingly popular.
What focus has been made for South African charts? How have users thus far reacted to the presence of specific streams such as Afrikaans or Gospel music?
Our JOOX users have a diverse taste in music and because of this we have curated differently themed playlists focusing on key South African genre/culture specific tastes. That said, as the JOOX audience grows we look forward to engaging with our followers and finding out what other specific music tastes (for instance Choral Gospel as opposed to Southern Gospel) they have and how we can better deliver content.
On the subject of platforms:
Beyond Android and iOS, will we see JOOX available on other operating systems in the future? Specifically, can we expect to see JOOX land on the desktop?
JOOX will only be supporting iOS and Android users for the time being, but will be launching JOOX on desktop in the upcoming months.
In South Africa, the high price of data remains an issue – how is JOOX approaching sensitivity for data-strapped consumers? Are there any deals afoot between mobile networks, or could the service one day be zero-rated?
Yes, within two months of launching JOOX, we’ve partnered with Vodacom through their ‘Meg Your Day’ campaign and continue to find new and innovative ways to educate customers about managing their data for music streaming, and how to benefit from great data deals. JOOX encourages its users to stream their music playback on Low, Mid or High streaming quality depending on their data needs.
In the future…
Now that JOOX has launched, what’s next on the horizon?
JOOX aims to be the first application that comes to mind when users think ‘local music’. If you love a song, artist or band we want to be top-of-mind when users want listen and connect with their favourite artists. The service will be launching additional multimedia capabilities in the app and are also looking at launching in other African markets in the next fiscal.
How will JOOX absorb feedback from subscribers and listeners in building and developing its product?
We have a dedicated Customer Care team that liaises with the various departments within JOOX relaying user feedback, comments and requests. A great example of this is our lyrics request feature which we monitor weekly and can prioritise which tracks to overlay lyrics onto. We also have established processes to read through user comments on social regarding everything from ease of registration to naming of in-app sections, playlists and albums which are reviewed.
Can we expect to see JOOX involved in the development of local artists in the future?
Absolutely, this is something we take very seriously and also have a dedicated partner, TurnUp Music, who assist us in discovering up and coming local artists.
Have your say!
What are your thoughts? Do you plan to subscribe to JOOX? Can the service successfully establish itself as the new go-to destination for local music in South Africa? Do you plan to subscribe? Be sure to share your thoughts with us in the comments below!