© Anghami / anghami.com

The first legal music streaming service established in the Middle East has taken the industry by storm. A hub for all things Arabic and International music, Anghami has over 73 million users and is dominating the scene in the Middle East and North Africa.

The platform stood in the face of global competitors like Spotify and Apple Music, and took the reins from faulty and illegal local applications to establish a regional foothold over the last ten years. 

We’re here to find out the ins and outs of Anghami’s popularity, and what makes it the go-to streaming service for most people in the MENA region today.

Humble beginnings

When the app was first in development by Lebanese founders Ellie Habib and Eddy Maroun, the music streaming scene was almost entirely controlled by Apple’s iTunes, and the newly-launched Spotify was quickly gaining momentum.

But Anghami’s founders spotted a gap in the market: none of these international streaming applications offered a sufficient Arabic music catalog.

The Arabic-loving audience had no legal platform to search, download and enjoy their music. They were turning to illegal applications which are littered with ads and offer no revenue to the artists. 

Anghami’s wide catalog of international and arabic music | © Anghami Screenshot

To build their own music catalog, Anghami partnered with local labels  to license songs from across the region. They also reached out to international labels to expand their library.

But just because the app is catered to serving its Middle East and North African audience, doesn’t mean it ignores other international music. In fact, Anghami has a range of language-based categories, including African, Latin, French, and more.

Appealing to the audience

 © Anghami app / App Store

The creators of Anghami knew that the general population was sceptical of international streaming services and the idea of subscription. To gain the trust and confidence of potential users, Anghami also partnered with zonal telecom companies to provide special offers to customers as part of their mobile plans. 

At the start, the app was completely free with imposed ads, but it soon introduced the options for paid subscriptions. Calling itself a ‘freemium’ service, the app allows its users to listen to unlimited music for free – with the inconvenience of ads.  Paid subscribers can benefit from complete ad removal, and a whole lot of features like downloading music, reading lyrics, replaying, attending live shows and more.

One interviewed Anghami user says that “most regional users are unhappy with paying $10 per month to stream music from Spotify, for example, especially with a limited Arabic library.”

Anghami started offering a lower subscription fee compared to other streaming services. A monthly subscription with Anghami Plus can go for $4.92. Cheaper offers are also available for longer subscriptions, with a yearly membership costing only $45. 

Meanwhile Spotify and Apple Music’s premium monthly subscriptions are $9.99 for the average, non-student user. This adds up to a whopping $120 a year. See the difference?

A sense of community

Their Live Radios feature creates an audio-visual space where artists and listeners alike can connect over their love of music.

© @anghami / Instagram

According to Wael Hourani, a product Manager at Anghami, “Any user, including artists, DJs, content creators and music influencers, will be able to talk alongside playing songs, playlists and podcasts from Anghami’s library of over 57 million tracks.”

They have both local and global stars hosting these Live Talks.

This interaction gives  fans and listeners a much more intimate setting than studio-recorded sessions or radio interviews. Regular subscribers can also host their own listening parties with their followers and friends, adding a unique community feel to enjoying music.

Supporting local talent

The Middle East and North Africa’s music scene is budding with emerging local talent looking for ways to break into the industry. 

Anghami for Artists allows artists to introduce their music to the world, to monetize it and connect on a more intimate level with their fanbase. Similar features already exist in other streaming services, but this is the first of its kind to target regional, Middle Eastern and North African talent.

A Jordanian events planner who has also been a long-term user of the app expressed the importance of spotlighting regional artists and giving exposure to their music.

When it comes to recruiting singers, musicians or bands for local events, Anghami ‘shows how popular the song / artist is, and this helps with my job.’

The algorithm itself pushes local talent into the spotlight. Playlists with emerging regional artists are often featured on their socials and in-app recommendations. Anghami also creates automated customized playlists based on a user’s preferences, which helps them discover new people to listen to.

A feature of Regional Artists on Anghami’s instagram | © Anghami

The only way to go is up

Anghami has only continued to grow since its launch barely ten years ago.

Recently, it relocated its headquarters to Abu Dhabi and became the first MENA-based tech startup to be listed on New York’s stock exchange, NASDAQ.

© Scenenoise / scenenoise.com

However, some users have expressed the app could use a few improvements to elevate their listening experience. One of these comments included wanting the ability to organize the music in their own library, while another one hoped for more features to be available for non-paying listeners. 

The streaming service is constantly evolving to add new features, expand its library and deepen the connection between fans and artists. While many services offer the same, Anghami stands out as the first of its kind to recognize and support the rise of contemporary MENA sounds – changing the playing field for music streaming globally.