Awtar - Ethiopia’s first music streaming app


Awtar has a great initiative to bring a solution to the copyright issues that artists in Ethiopia have been facing for decades.

Awtar has been the name we all have been hearing when music and copyright issues are discussed in Ethiopia. Awtar is a music streaming app that lets you listen to your favorite Ethiopian songs and albums for what can be considered a fair price. I am going to be reviewing their app and the platform as a whole today.

Firstly, Awtar has a great initiative to bring a solution to the copyright issues that artists in Ethiopia have been facing for decades. This is a good step forward in creating a system that will reward artists for their works which we all enjoy. But from the listeners’ angle, users should be able to have a good experience using your app. Users subscribe to streaming services like Spotify and Apple music not because they cannot find songs for free elsewhere. They subscribe and pay their money for these services in return for the overall experience provided. These experiences may not be the main priority for Awtar since they may not have a catalog of millions of songs, and recommending you to your favorite music would not be on top of their to-do list. But a pleasant User interface would have been a great thing to see.

The first time I tried to use their app was when Haile Roots released his album exclusively on Awtar. I was disappointed when I couldn’t find the album on Spotify but it made sense as a way to grow Awtar since Haile Roots was a major stakeholder of it. So I headed on to the App Store and tried to find Awtar but, I couldn’t find it since Awtar was only available on Android. This was frustrating since I couldn’t listen to the album on my phone in any way. Luckily, I was able to download the app on this phone.

The signup process required a phone number and was fairly easy although the UI was not that pleasant. So one thing I noticed while signing up was the unnecessary amount of one-time pins I was receiving even after I had finished signing up. I received about 15 texts all day and this is a very costly bug to have to lay around in your app. So I finished logging in and got to the home screen. This screens’ UI is looked like it was an app that was developed 7 or 8 years ago. I found a New Releases tab that luckily had the Haile Roots album in the first card. Finally, I could listen to the album I was looking for, so I impatiently clicked that album and headed to the tracklist. You might be guessing what I got by now, it’s another unpleasant user interface. At this point, I am certain the whole app will look like this, and I have to live with it.

So the tracklist screen has the list of all the songs on the album and there is a download button that gives you a small dialog to help you choose which payment method you are going to use. Awtar does not have a subscription service, you purchase songs and albums you want to listen to individually. The price for a single song is 3 birr and for a whole album, you pay 15 birrs. This is a very fair price especially compared to the price of CDs which you may listen to only in your car. But I would have preferred a subscription model in which I pay monthly to stream to any song I want to. I hope Awtar will progress to this model in the future.

Coming back to purchasing the album where this all started, you have four options to pay for your purchases when using Awtar, which are Amole, Ethio Telecom, Yenepay, and Hellocash. I chose Amole since it is the one I use for other payments too. This process is fairly easy but one thing I noticed was that if you have no money in your Amole wallet, you won’t get notified, your downloads just fail, which took me about a day to figure out why I couldn’t get to download the music. So I transferred some money to my wallet, but I couldn’t still download the songs since the app thinks I have already purchased the album, so I had to remove and reinstall the app. After reinstalling the app I finally was able to download the album. The music quality is great and you can even get the lyrics for the song you are playing on the player. But the user interface is even worse than the interface screens.

Finally, I was able to listen to the album I was looking for, not on my preferred device, but I was listening anyway. To conclude, my take on Awtar is a great business, a very bright future but bad tech. They should work on improving their app, especially on the user interface and experience since these things determine whether your users come back to your app or not. And I know our favorite artists including the late Elias Melka and many people have worked hard for years to get Awtar to where it is now. This is a very good leap forward to the music industry but this should not all go to waste because of one bad app. I hope Awtar will work on its app to make it perfect and reachable to ios devices.

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