Hey! This update covers what to expect from Nelly and Country Grammar in 2020, Anghami’s digital streaming partnership success in the Middle East, and how Beyonce and J. Lo’s absence from the Oscars will likely affect ratings.
Middle Eastern DSP Anghami is all about partnerships
Middle Eastern music streaming service Anghami is assessing its options for the business, including a potential sale to Dubai-based pay TV network Orbit Showtime Network, according to people familiar with the matter.
Anghami, Arabic for “my tunes,” could be valued at as much as $400 million if a deal goes ahead and several conditions are met, the people said, asking not to be identified as the discussions are private.
The company is also considering hiring investment bank JPMorgan Chase & Co. to raise fresh capital as another option to fund its expansion, they said. Anghami, OSN, and JPMorgan declined to comment.
Here are some quick stats on Anghami:
- Founded in 2013. First legal DSP in MENA (Middle East, Northern Africa)
- Was launched to combat music piracy
- Over 20 million monthly active users and over one million paid subscribers ($1.99/mo)
- Co-founder Elie Habib considers YouTube a bigger competitor than Spotify or Deezer
To date, Anghami has succeeded on the strength of its partnerships. It teamed up with Wavo to stream the final season of “Game of Thrones.” It also promoted GoT playlists and podcasts as part of this deal. It’s a pretty big move considering the popularity of the show. Most music DSPs have stayed out of the TV and movie licensing business. The closest comparable is Tidal which has some memorable movies available like 2002’s Paid in Full, but nothing as popular or currently as HBO’s former flagship show.
Anghami also made partnerships with over 20 telecom partners to bundle its app with its services, no different than Spotify/Hulu or Verizon/Disney+. The streaming service also had strong results from its Facebook Login integration. Other partnerships include Shazam competitor ACRCloud and media company MBC Group which gave the music streaming app exposure on the popular show, Arab Idol.
The company’s rise is a twofold case study. Anghami has done well in its growth partnerships. Launching a streaming service that’s potentially worth $400 million is no easy feat. Each partnership was an incremental step in thoughtful customer acquisition. (Once again, much like Tidal, Spotify, and other standalone DSPs).
But conversely, Anghami was started in part to help curb music piracy in the Middle East, which has been a much tougher problem to solve. “I’m much more interested in competition with piracy and how we can actually help people or get people using a legal service,” Habib said in a 2019 interview with Music Business Worldwide. Content piracy costs the Middle East entertainment industry $500 million annually. That’s higher than Anghami’s valuation!
The next owner(s) of Anghami will likely be excited about the business opportunity but might consider which types of partnerships it can form to combat the piracy issues.
Nelly’s “Country Grammar” tour
When the Bonnaroo lineup was announced last week, there was little discussion about the headliners. Most articles focused on the third line of Saturday’s set which read, “Nelly performing Country Grammar.”
It was a nostalgic moment for the 45-year-old rapper who will celebrate the 20th anniversary of his debut.
I waited to write this because I expected a “Country Grammar Tour” announcement but got nothing. But announcement or not, it seems like the St. Lunatic is going for it. He’s doing an old school hip-hop reunion tour in the UK and Europe, then heading to Pharrell’s Something in the Water, Bonnaroo, the Sangamon County Fair in Illinois, then the Twin Cities Summer Jam. I bet there’s more to come.
2019 was a tough year for Nelly’s live performance gigs. He had canceled shows and trouble filling a relatively small venue. But this anniversary event should help bring the yeehaw agenda out in droves for their boy who put his Midwest city (and his squad) on the map.
There are a few fascinating things about both Nelly and Country Grammar that are relevant to today’s game. First, the album’s path to Diamond status was unconventional. The album didn’t debut at #1 on the charts. It took months to get there. And although “Country Grammar,” “Ride Wit Me,” and “E.I.” were popular, they never felt as big in the moment as other albums that came out around that time, like Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP (which also went Diamond) or even Nelly’s second album Nellyville. Country Grammar felt much closer to Ja Rule’s Pain Is Love, which also had memorable hits but will never reach Diamond (sorry Ja).
For better or worse, Country Grammar got a boost from a high profile Universal Music Group payola scandal. It also benefits from the longevity of “Ride Wit Me.” The hit single isn’t Nelly’s biggest hit (which is “Hot in Herre”) but it’s the one most likely to end up on playlists, get played at pop music clubs, and get promotional features. It’s the complete opposite of a song that was HUGE at the time, but folks stopped checking for soon after, like 50 Cent’s “Candy Shop,” and to a broader extent, that entire The Massacre album.
Remember when Nelly teamed up with Honey Nut Cheerios for a “Must Be Tha Honey” remix? That happened in 2013 and it will live on in infamy. It counted as an official remix, which likely helped boost the album to its 2016 Diamond certification.
Most 2020 summer festivals are actively securing lineups if they haven’t done so already. The piqued interest in Nelly’s anniversary may land him higher guarantees for more 2020 festival appearances. With a few standalone concerts in his most popular markets, he can call up his fellow Lunatics and brand it as a tour.
How Beyonce and J. Lo’s absence will impact Oscars ratings
The Academy Award nominations were announced today. Two of the biggest celebrities with the potential to be nominated—Beyonce and Jennifer Lopez— didn’t get any. They will be watching at home like the rest of the world. This isn’t a “they got snubbed” take. You can read that anywhere else today. Instead, this is an acknowledgment of reality and its impact on viewership.
Both Beyonce and J.Lo are huge stars that draw in crowds across the world. Their significant others, Jay Z and Alex Rodriguez, are celebrities who draw in viewers too. People want to see them on the red carpet. Fans want to see their faces zoomed in on when the nominations are announced. One of the biggest Golden Globes headlines was about how The Carters showed up late and brought their own champagne to their table! But now The Academy and ABC will get none of that attention. The ratings will suffer even more than already expected.
A ratings decline was already inevitable as media consumption patterns continue to evolve each year. But J.Lo and Beyonce’s absence will reduce social media engagement. Their respective hives will have nothing to tweet about on Oscar night, besides their snubs, and are now less likely to watch the awards.
As much shit as The Academy gets (deserves) for its myriad of issues—especially in the 2010s—the voters do deserve credit for not sacrificing integrity at the expense of viewership.
But this praise might be short-lived. The Academy is still thinking of how best it can connect with the pop culture zeitgeist. The “Popular Oscar” idea flopped, but that doesn’t mean it has given up. And since hip-hop has such a heavy influence on today’s pop culture, its likely that the absence of entertainers like Beyonce and J.Lo is the exact thing that The Academy will want to avoid in the 2020s.