Profile of Abu Dhabi-based music streaming service Anghami, which has 1.4M paying subscribers and 70M total users, as it goes public via a $220M SPAC merger (Yinka Adegoke/Rest of World)

profile abu dhabibased 1.4m 70m spacadegoke

Anghami is a case study in how the music business is being gradually transformed from outside its core centers of New York, Los Angeles and London.

When Lebanese founders Elie Habib and Eddy Maroun began developing a digital music service back in 2012, they had relatively modest ambitions. At the time, the global digital market was dominated by Apple’s iTunes Store, which had sold 20 billion songs by September that year; Spotify had launched in the U.S. just 12 months earlier. The founders wanted to build a product that re-created the record store or lounge experience, where users could share the music they loved with friends.

But in just a few years, their app, Anghami, now based in Abu Dhabi, has become a vital part of shaping the music business in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. It has 70 million registered users and nearly 60 million songs in its library. It’s also set to be the first Arab tech startup to go public on New York’s Nasdaq stock exchange, thanks to a $220 million SPAC merger with Vistas Media Acquisition Company.

Anghami’s trajectory has also been something of a case study in how the global music industry is being slowly transformed from outside its core centers of New York, Los Angeles, and London.

The majors — Universal Music Group, Sony Music, and Warner Music Group — spent most of the decade from the late 1990s to the late 2000s in a high-profile battle with internet-enabled music pirates in the United States and other Western markets. But in the Middle East — where the music industry consisted of indie labels, including Rotana Records, the region’s biggest, and Sout El Hob records in Egypt, there were next to no digital options but piracy.

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