Last month when Rotana, the largest rights holder of Arab-language music in the world, announced it had agreed to a strategic partnership with Anghami, the leading Arab music streaming service, it was the latest step for Lebanese-born Elie Habib and Anghami co-founder Eddy Maroun in establishing the 10-year old company as a digital cultural force.
Habib is an engineer who had co-founded other tech companies before hooking up with Maroun in 2011, to try to address what they saw as an opportunity with the music business in the Middle East. “We could afford to buy music, but we didn’t have a choice; piracy was the only option to listen to music from the region back then,” Habib told Rest of World last year. “We were mainly thinking of our love for music.”
Since its launch in 2012, Anghami has built up a library of more than 75 million songs from the region and, in doing so, is leading a move to truly globalize the music business, which had previously centered around just its power bases in the West. Anghami is also a pioneer, as the first Arab tech startup to list on Nasdaq in New York via a merger with a publicly traded special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), which valued it at $220 million in February. From being a hopeful alternative to piracy a few years ago, Anghami now has some 75 million registered users, with around 1 billion streams per month.
Habib is especially proud of using tech to play a key role in getting the Arabic-speaking world to value the music of their favorite artists. “We needed our users to be paying and wanted to change the mentality of free music,” he said. The next step is to enable the creation of even more music from the Middle East and North Africa region by working with local labels and artists to help discover talent, with initiatives like Anghami Originals and Anghami Labs. “Just 1% of the music in the world is Arabic, but 50% of our streams are from that 1%,” Habib said. “Part of our mission is to grow that number.”