How Have Podcasts Contributed to the Rise of Afrobeats?

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By Ncebakazi Manzi

The rise of Afrobeats over the past decade or so has been nothing short of remarkable. From the streets of Nigeria and Ghana, it has become a global phenomenon, with some of the world’s biggest artists collaborating with Afrobeats icons and emerging artists alike.

In a sign of how rapid the ascent of Afrobeats has been, Spotify recently held events in Nigeria celebrating 13 billion streams of the genre. The growth of Afrobeats is unlikely to slow down anytime soon either, especially as streaming continues to grow across Africa. According to research firm Statista, the continent’s streaming market is set to grow from US$362.5 million this year to US$513.2 million in 2027. Combine that expansion with significant diaspora populations and you have the ingredients for further inter-continental pollination and growth.

But there are other forces advancing the growth of Spotify. Podcasts in particular are playing an increasingly important role. That’s true not just on the African continent, but around the world too.

Africa’s podcast growth 

Before looking at how podcasts and music streaming services have complemented each other to drive Afrobeats’ growth, it’s worth providing some additional context around the evolution of podcasts in Africa.

Thanks to rising smartphone adoption and increasingly affordable connectivity, the medium has seen significant growth across the continent. In fact, podcast listenership in Nigeria grew by an astonishing 222% between 2021 and 2022.

Unsurprisingly, it’s not just listenership that’s grown but production too. While it’s difficult to get an exact idea of how many African-produced podcasts there actually are, you only need to open your podcasting app and type a few continent and country-specific search terms in to see how much choice there is today. These podcasts cover a growing number of niches too, including Afrobeats.

At the recent Afrobeats celebration events that were held in Lagos, Nigeria, the first day featured Spotify for Podcasters sessions which were focused on empowering creators and showcasing top podcasts. These events included a workshop on the basics of podcasting followed by a panel discussion with Nigerian podcasters. Next were live podcast recordings of a Spotify for Artists Masterclass on “Afrobeats Intelligence” and “I Said what I Said” featuring Afrobeats artists, Pheelz and Nissi. The day ended with a surprise performance by Pheelz bringing Afrobeats lovers and the expanding community of podcasters together.

Spreading the word about Afrobeats 

There are a number of high-quality podcasts with an Afrobeats focus that not only highlight tracks from the genre but also delve into meaningful discussions related to the music.

Take Afrobeats Intelligence, for example. Founded by award-winning Nigerian music journalist Joey Akan, the podcast is a spin-off of his newsletter of the same name. And while it may be rooted in Nigeria, the podcast celebrates creative excellence from across the African continent.

Terms and Conditions by Pulse, meanwhile, dissects worthy culture-related conversations with insights and varying perspectives. Hosted by Neo Akpofure, ex-BBNaija housemate, Oyindasola Chekwa ESQ, a lifestyle influencer and content creator and Sayo AK an artist, planner, and entrepreneur. The podcast was launched in 2021 and also provides invaluable insights into the music industry from people who’ve been in the thick of it.

An older offering comes in the shape of Loose Talk, hosted by the trio of veteran media and music journalists Osagie Alonge, Steve Dede, and Ayomide Tayo. Founded in 2016, when the African podcasting scene was still in its infancy, the show discusses all things music and culture. After a three-year hiatus, Loose Talk started putting out new episodes this year.

Complementary mediums 

That these and other shows have built sustainable offerings not only demonstrates the hunger to learn more about Afrobeats as a genre but also their potential to grow the genre’s popularity both in Africa and around the world. That shouldn’t be too surprising either. Being audio-driven mediums primarily, podcasts and music can be incredibly complementary mediums.

This ability to act as a promotional vehicle is underlined by our own Spotify data. It shows that the country with the highest number of Afrobeats podcast listeners is the UK, beating out Nigeria, with the US in the third spot.

For listeners, it’s easy to imagine how this symbiosis between streaming and podcasts comes about. They might have a friend recommend an Afrobeats artist or have their curiosity sparked by a song featured on the soundtrack for a movie or series. Once they’ve listened to those songs, they’ll likely want to find out more about the artist or to discover other, similar artists.

Podcasts offer them a convenient way of doing that (especially if they can access said podcasts from the same app), while also providing insights into the genre and news on the latest artist releases, collaborations, and developments.

Afrobeats and beyond 

While Afrobeats has undoubtedly been one of the biggest beneficiaries of Africa’s podcasting explosion, there is no doubt that other genres are benefitting and will benefit in the future too. As more and more African producers launch their own podcasts and smartphone penetration and connectivity continue to grow across the continent, that symbiotic influence will only keep growing.

Ncebakazi Manzi is the Podcast Manager at Spotify Sub-Saharan Africa

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