Yala Music is a unique hybrid music service featuring Arabic music. Though developed for the Middle East and North Africa, Yala's listenership has grown most strongly in the U.S. Yala offers streaming options but is currently focused on ad-supported downloads with Pepsi as their first sponsor. In addition, Yala offers services to artists including management of YouTube channels and Facebook pages.
I spoke yesterday with Camille Moussard of Yala Music, who is now based in France but previously worked in New York at The Orchard before becoming Yala's U.S. country manager. She is now focusing on other projects and so was able to give me an overview of the company as well as a number of interesting details regarding their unique operation.
Yala's Development Based on Listening Habits of MENA Region
Yala was founded in 2010 by CEO Patrick Chassany who began signing licensing deals with Arabic music labels and artists. Moussard informed me that they now have deals with all the major Arabic labels and around 450 agreements with independent artists. Yala has worldwide rights for these labels which has made them the world's largest Arabic music service.
Yala's focus began with the Middle-East and North Africa (MENA) and the company has developed in relationship to listening habits there. Typically internet and mobile access are inconsistent and online payments are not an established practice so music tends to be owned and is widely pirated. Though they do offer ad-supported streaming and are developing a premium product, they're making big strides with ad-supported downloads.
Pepsi is Sponsoring Downloads
Yala's first sponsor is Pepsi and, in late January, they began offering DRM-free MP3 downloads after watching a Pepsi video ad. This allows for offline listening via desktop or mobile. Yala provides a variety of apps for mobile phones, tablets and desktop.
They're also addressing the issue of web piracy by reaching out to sites affected by Google's plans to cut off advertising in the hopes of encouraging them to link to legal music via Yala. So far they haven't had any takers but this effort is in its infancy as are Google's stated plans.
Despite their focus on MENA, Yala's largest user base is in the U.S. among its sizable population of Arabic music listeners. At the same time, they've signed deals with such companies as EMI, The Orchard and Warner for the MENA region to provide other forms of music. Though iTunes and Deezer are entering the territory, Yala's in a strong position there both as an early entrant and as a culturally attuned company.
Yala Also Offers Services to Artists
Yala is a unique music service in other ways as well with direct relationships with and services for artists and managers. In particular, though they do have a YouTube channel, they've been focusing on managing Arabic artists' channels. They basically take care of centralizing artist assets on their channels and helping them build their YouTube following.
Yala also has a presence on Facebook and manage some artists' Facebook pages as well. These often include the Yala music player featuring the individual artist's music.
Yala's Hybrid of Music Service and Services to Artists Worth Watching
Yala Music is an impressive hybrid, one made possible by direct licensing with a focus on a huge segment of music and an underserved market. Their development of alternatives to piracy is notable as is their approach to building with an understanding of user listening habits.
The combination of music service and services to artists is especially interesting. The overall picture that emerges is of a company well worth watching.
Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch/@crowdfundingm) also blogs at All World Dance: Videos and maintains Music Biz Blogs. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.