Palestinian musicians are fast reaping dividends from their presence on Spotify, which launched its internet streaming service in the Middle East and North Africa last week. It is the first major streaming company to launch a program specific to the occupied Palestinian territories, allowing local artists to reach new global audiences despite local challenges.
“As Palestinian artists, we face a lot of restrictions. Some cannot travel to perform in another country,” said Bashar Murad (pictured above) speaking to reuters earlier this week. Murad is a Palestinian singer based in East Jerusalem, an area that Israel captured, along with the West Bank, in 1967. "After the launch, my monthly followers (on Spotify) increased from 30 to something like 6,500,” he added.
The Palestinian territories are the only Arab market included in Spotify’s regional launch that lacks 4G broadband infrastructure, although some consumers use speedier networks in neighbouring Israel. The West Bank launched a 3G service in late 2017, but Gaza only has 2G service.
Spotify has been unofficially available in the West Bank and Gaza for several years via accounts registered in Israel or other markets and accessed through a virtual private network, or VPN. Spotify launched in Israel in March.