Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

The Middle East: Where iTunes And Pandora Fear To Tread

Posted by Tom Foremski - October 7, 2010

Photo: L.A. Reid, CEO of Def Jam Records; Hassan Miah, CEO of UrFilez; Comedian and Actor, Orlando Jones; Grammy Award-Winner, James Ingram.

Guest post by Hassan Miah, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of UrFilez

Everyone pretty much agrees that the Internet has helped make the world a flatter place - the leveling of the global playing field where competitors have an equal opportunity and hopefully consumers are able to access things like never before. From a macro perspective, it's absolutely true but there are plenty of examples where consumers are still getting the short end of the stick.

Just one example is the availability of music across the world. In the US, we're fairly lucky, being able to access hundreds if not thousands of digital music services in a few clicks. The reality is that music - the food of life that's supposed to bring people together - is still unfairly skewed towards the established markets. It's me and you in the West who benefits most from digital music technology and what major and regional artists have to offer. Sadly, it's been that way for some time; decades in fact.

Why is that the case though and how is that possibly fair?

Everyone should have the right to access music. Music is something that is incredibly special, something which belongs to every culture and something that has the power of transcending boundaries. From the dawn of time, people have listened to music and over the ages this has evolved; from banging on a couple of rocks and basic wooden instruments to classical orchestras, rock bands and today, when anyone can write their own songs on a home computer.

So that brings us to the very latest stage in music's evolution - the purchasing and availability of different tracks online and through mobile applications. Again, it's Western fans that have been able to use the services of iTunes, Pandora, Amazon, and so forth. But fans based in the emerging markets have still been missing out. It's a sad fact, but the majority of these individuals have had to rely on piracy to get their music online, as there is such a huge lack of any decent music platforms in places like the Middle East, Africa and parts of Asia.

The established music services that you know and love so well (and probably use on a regular basis) have pretty much left the emerging regions to their own devices, simply because it's too hard and doesn't fit with their marketing strategy. But why is it that these regions should miss out? The emerging markets are home to billions of music fans and they all have the right to listen to their biggest idols, both from home and abroad, just like you do.

Technology shouldn't be an inhibitor, it's in an enabler - it has the ability to facilitate the supply of music to any region and that's why I, and the team at UrFilez in New York, made it our mission to ensure that everyone has the right to access the very best music through the best platforms and at the best price.

I was incredibly proud to have been in Bahrain at the end of September to launch our new service to the Middle East and the broader emerging markets. Through UrFilez, fans in this vibrant region will now have access to not only the big international names and labels but can also experience what other countries all around the world have to offer.

I know first-hand the joys music can bring and its emotive power. Music has been my life and that's what's given birth to UrFilez. It wasn't an easy undertaking to get to where we are today and there was a lot of preparation that went into our journey but we're very glad we did it. It's high time that the emerging markets have the opportunity to sing along to the same tune.

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Please see: UrFilez Launches DRM-Free MP3 Music Service in the Gulf -- NEW YORK, Sept. 26 /PRNewswire/ --


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