Discover more from unicorn chats
🦄 vol. 66
sash chats about the rise of amapiano 🎹
just like that, we’ve brought 2022 to a close… and as we did last year, we’ll be taking a well deserved break for dezemba.
so without further ado, here’s the final piece for 2022!
amapiano to the world 🎹
If your social media feeds are anything like mine, you’ve probably been flooded with “Spotify Wrapped” posts over the past week – a genius user-generated marketing campaign, where Spotify users are given an easy-to-share summary of what they’ve been listening to in the past year.
And while I wasn’t surprised to learn that Claude was in the top 0.01% of Drake listeners, or that amapiano star Kabza De Small dominated the South African charts… I was pleasantly surprised to notice a lot more amapiano featuring in my international friends’ Wrapped posts this year.
It really got me thinking: Is 2022 finally the year that amapiano took off to the rest of the world? 🚀
Amapiano, the basics 🧱
Directly translated to “the pianos”, the South African born amapiano is best known for its iconic log drum sound and its viral dance challenges. But instead of wasting precious word count on breaking down the backstory, I’d recommend diving into the following:
SHAYA! - A short documentary that does a great job of recognising the roots of amapiano.
This is Amapiano - A short BBC documentary about the rise of the sound.
What Business Can Learn from Amapiano - An article I once wrote for a few publications… and upon doing research for this piece, I discovered that DJ Maphorisa himself tweeted it too! 😂
Self-plugs aside, I want to take a slightly different angle this time around: What are some of the factors that have contributed to amapiano’s ability to scale globally?
The secret sauce? 🥫
Not everything is rocket science. Amapiano’s success has been built upon a solid foundation:
👍 A good product: Of course, the precursor to being able to scale anything is actually having a good product / service (with clear differentiation) to start with. Amapiano, generally speaking, ticks both boxes - the bar for production quality is high (thanks to a competitive local landscape) and the music definitely has a unique sound.
🥵 Work ethic: The artists themselves have been relentless too. Whether it’s the sheer volume of singles and albums being released (something new basically drops every damn Friday), or the kind of international touring schedules that’d have SARS sniffing around… there’s a clear hunger and desire to push the movement to new heights.
📂 Access: And of course, we now have access to platforms like Spotify and Apple Music which make music discovery and consumption so much easier. Let’s give credit where it’s due.
But in my opinion, amapiano’s scalability has been amplified by a few key marketing principles…
Build with / for Gen Z 👶
📲 Channels and content: Short-form video platforms (TikTok, Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts) are enabling the active participation of Gen Zs to craft the culture. With over 5.7 billion views on the hashtag #amapiano on TikTok, we’ve seen heaps of viral dance challenges accompany some of the biggest songs (see #UmlandoChallenge with over 320 million views). Naturally, artists have taken notice and have started producing songs with TikTok and dance challenges in mind.
✨ Representation: Gen Zs are at the forefront of the movement. Teenagers like Uncle Vinny are leading with the dance moves and dictating what’s cool and what’s not. And in historically male-dominated space, many of the most relevant DJs in the game are women: See Uncle Waffles (who Drake happens to be a big fan of) and DBN Gogo.
Create the platform, ride the wave 🌊
🚪 Opening doors: Kabza De Small and DJ Maphorisa (arguably the 2x biggest names in the game) have shared their platform and launched the careers of many young artists through features and co-production.
🔌 The plugs: Major League DJz (the former hip-hop DJ duo) had one of the smartest pivots during the COVID pandemic. The duo had the vision to take a bet on amapiano, and used their (now popular) YouTube channel to livestream a series of Balcony Mixes, featuring some of South Africa’s biggest amapiano DJs and producers. They’ve since taken Balcony Mixes to a host of different countries and have subsequently become synonymous with amapiano.
If you want to go far, go together 🤝
🇳🇬 x 🇿🇦: Instead of hogging amapiano for South African artists only, artists like Kabza de Small, DJ Maphorisa and Focalistic have famously collaborated with 🇳🇬 afrobeats global superstars like Wizkid, Burna Boy and Davido - a power move, which has no doubt accelerated amapiano’s global appeal.
Naturally, from a business perspective, I think there’s a host of transferable lessons to be learnt. If you’re looking to scale a product or service, here’s a few amapiano-inspired thought starters to chew on:
Am I building for (and with) Gen Zs? Gen Z makes up ⅓ of the world’s population, and 25% of Gen Zs will be in Africa by 2030. The sustainability of your product / service is on the line.
Who / what are the enabling platforms in my ecosystem? If they don’t exist, how can I become one? The power of the network effect cannot be underestimated.
How can I strategically collaborate / partner to reach a broader audience? Joining forces can often get you there faster.
What’s clear is that amapiano is bigger than any one individual. It’s a movement, and it’s taking over the globe.
That’s all for this year. See you in 2023. 👋🏽
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