The convenience that music streaming services offer to music fans has led to their widespread adoption. It is now possible to listen to music from the convenience of one’s own home without having to go out of their way to track down a physical copy of an artist’s album. Unfortunately, the nation was still behind the curve on this trend. Slow internet speeds, among other things, were stifling development in this sector.
Throughout the past few years, music streaming applications such as Awtar, Elff Plus, and many others have made their way onto the market in Ethiopia. Last October, Sewasew, a new streaming service platform, debuted on the market and quickly became a popular option.
Sewasew Multimedia is not only a media streaming application but also a recording label with the ability to recruit artists and record albums, which are then made available to the public through the application.
The head of the music department at Sewasew, Habtu Negash, explained that the company combines music streaming with a record label and injects creativity into the music industry.
“It is a part of the Creative Kingdom project. It has two basic wings, the first of which is the music streaming platform, and secondly, there is the recording label,” Habtu said.
According to him, the record label acquires and develops content by purchasing albums, producing and recording new music, recruiting new artists, and adding their work and songs to the streaming platform. The streaming platform plays the technological role by streaming the content it has created and acquired using a Spotify-like concept and set of features.
The challenges of launching a fully digital product in Ethiopia, where technology is still developing and is not widely accepted by the majority, are many. However, Sewasew has been able to attract attention since its launch, becoming a preferred choice.
Habtu says launching an application in Ethiopia, given the country’s technological level, is exceedingly challenging. But based on his past experiences, he believes there is a stark contrast.
“Within a month of its release, it had more than 100,000 downloads, and for three weeks, it was the most popular free music and audio application in Ethiopia on the Google Play Store.”
The fact that artists and their content were easily accessible through the technology, which was straightforward and user-friendly, was one of the factors that drew people to the application and facilitated their attachment to it, Habtu says.
Currently, the platform has close to 500,000 subscribers, who have the option of using the services for free or purchasing subscriptions to access additional application-based services. Three of their artists have surpassed one million streams in the past few months, in addition to their subscriber base.
The album “Tekebeying” by Abenet Agonafir, which was released on the platform a few weeks ago, reached over 1.5 million streams within a week of its release. This, according to Habtu, is evidence that the digital streaming service has gained sufficient users and fans.
Habtu claims the recording label aspect of the multimedia company is where musicians can reap the fruits of their labor, as the company pays its artists very well for their services and efforts.
Historically, the music industry was dependent on video clips, without which the audio could not stand alone and leave a lasting impression. Habtu explains that through streaming applications such as Sewasew, musicians can release albums without the need for supporting singles or video clips, and fans and music lovers can still access them via their mobile devices. This has given the music industry a new lease on life, according to him.
“There are over a hundred artists who have signed with us and are now able to release their music and albums through this platform,” Habtu said.
“The artists are a mix of newly signed artists, which consists of 60–70 percent of the list, and long-time artists like Teddy Afro, Abenet Agonafir, and Aster Awoke, who all have music available on Sewasew,” Habtu said.
Soba, a recent album by Aster Awoke that Sewasew produced and spent 250 million birr on, is an example of the content for which the streaming service was widely recognized at the beginning of the year.
The Sewasew team also includes managers who work with the newly signed artists. Habtu believes these are the next generation of musicians who will bring their own artistic sounds to the music industry.
“A lot of mind-blowing new and up-and-coming artists have joined us and are working to showcase their work with us soon,” he said.
The streaming service provided by Sewasew is accessed all over the world, not just in Ethiopia. According to Habtu, 40 percent are international users.
Sewasew’s mission, which is summed up in the slogan “rewarding creativity,” is to provide a space where creative and talented individuals can come together, ignore distractions, and produce high-quality work for appropriate compensation. It also seeks to boost the nation’s creative economy.
“The music industry has already changed, and it is an industry that has boomed over the past couple of years, and many artists are already creating great things. Through Sewasew, we want to create a space where artists can create freely and push them to showcase their own sound,” he said.
Habtu hopes that Sewasew will become an ideal place for Ethiopian music lovers and fans to listen to the songs of their favorite artists.