Before YouTube and Spotify were a thing, keeping up to date with pop culture news, and more specifically music releases, required slicing two hours out of your day to sit in front of MTV and watch what the hot tracks of the moment were. In the region, people would switch channels to Rotana Mousica, a free-to-air satellite TV channel, part of an eponymously named network.
Considered a real beacon of culture, the iconic station was one of the, if not the, main apparatus broadcasting all of the latest tracks to have been produced in the Arab World. With little to no competition, the Saudi-founded musical hub reached a state of near-monopoly over the industry, generating millions while simultaneously playing a catalyzing role in any given artist’s career.
Capable of propelling an emerging singer to fame in a similar manner, and pace, to TikTok today, Rotana is consensually perceived as one of the beating hearts of the Middle East and a chronicle of 2000s pop music from the region.
Recently, Spotify licensed the rights to that exact almanac of songs, finally making them available to stream through their platform. Additionally, it has also been reported that Spotify will be curating several tailor-made playlists to promote some of Rotana’s biggest hits across the decades and the most popular tracks from associated artists.
Bringing over 10,000 songs to the Stockholm-based app, introducing many past chart-topping compositions to the digital era, the catalog will feature music from Amr Diab, Wael Kfoury, Tamer Hosny, Shereen Abdalwahab, and more.
Since the beginning of the year, Rotana’s deal with Spotify comes after a first agreement with TikTok with similar terms and conditions which also involve the inclusion of the Saudi channel’s roster on the ultimate Gen Z portal.
“The creative culture in (the Middle East and North Africa) is so vibrant and diverse, and this agreement will enhance the exchange of music content while promoting and supporting local artists on a proven leading platform for short-form videos,” commented Rotana CEO Salem Al-Hend.
So far, the region’s go-to platform to listen to music has been Anghami, who also struck a deal with Rotana in April 2022, giving them a clear advantage through their extensive sonic offering, but given the recent news, one can only wonder whether Spotify will take over and knock their regional competitors off their perch. Now able to provide almost identical services and repertoires of music, personal preferences might be the only defining factor left for consumers when brought to pledge allegiance to one of the pay-to-stream sites.
With that being said though, it seems as if Anghami’s local presence coupled with its understanding of the region’s listening habits still preserves their edge in the industry. Despite increased competition from global players, Anghami’s team members, who are scattered throughout the Middle East, have a unique insight into what music will resonate with audiences and what may be constrained by cultural limitations. In fact, Anghami’s board members themselves don’t seem too concerned with about it as focusing on promoting and elevating regional artists still remains their main goal.
“It’s not like I’m afraid of competition from Spotify or Deezer or whatever,” Elie Habib, one of Anghami’s founders said in a 2019 interview. “I’m much more interested in competition with piracy and how we can actually help people or get people using a legal service.”