UrFilez to launch 'Spotify-style' app for Middle East


CEO says company's second app will offer 'à la carte' streaming service to users in the region

By Adam Grundey
Feb 21, 2012

UrFilez, which recently launched its first music app – a personalized radio service similar to Pandora – in the Middle East, is set to follow up that offering with a 'Spotify-style' app for mobile, smartphone, tablet and broadband users in the next few weeks, according to co-founder and CEO Hassan Miah (pictured).

It was commonly thought that the Middle East's lack of transparent and effective copyright and royalty laws would be too much of a barrier to anyone looking to launch a comprehensive music streaming service in the region. But UrFilez has, for the most part, managed to negotiate the labyrinthine landscape.

"It took us a while," says Miah. "Unlike markets like Europe or the U.S., which have relatively strong structures in place for how they do it, we had to do completely separate negotiations with each of the labels." EMI, Warners, Sony and Universal are all on board, he says, along with "most of the Arabic labels, except for Rotana." He's hopeful that the latter – the largest Arabic label – will sign up shortly.

It wasn't just copyright and licensing issues that proved tricky. "Our big challenge was that we insisted each country's pricing be based on the GDP of that country," Miah says. "When we start charging, our price – even in the richest countries like the U.A.E. – for the Spotify equivalent will be maximum five dollars per user per month. In the U.K., I think it's about 10 pounds a month. And in low-GDP countries like Egypt, it'll be a fraction of that. That's a big advantage we have over the other guys; we've worked through the economics."

Reaction to UrFilez' first app – which launched in Bahrain in September, and in the U.A.E., Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt early this year – has been good, Miah says. "The reception from those who use it has been amazing. It’s feeding on itself. The social buzz part of it is going fantastic."





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