At first glance, the newly announced Lebanese iTunes store is destined to fail. Think of it for a moment: Who in their right mind in Lebanon will buy a song online when the illegal market for music in Lebanon is so rampant and copyright law-enforcement is completely absent? It is very easy to walk to a corner shop in Lebanon and buy a CD rom with hundreds of the latest Lebanese songs for less than $5, why would you download one song for a buck?
Add to that the crappy internet in Lebanon, the fact that not all Lebanese have credit cards, that many don’t use iOS and the fact that the store is entirely in english (that’s a completely different conversation), and you’ll realize that the Lebanese market can’t be big enough for such a store to be viable.
A piece of Lebanon
If I were to guess why the Lebanese iTunes store will actually do well, I would venture one word: The Diaspora. Lebanese who work abroad but maintain links with the homeland, those will be the real customers of the Lebanese iTunes store. Many of them, like me, have Lebanese credit cards (the requirement to open an account in the Lebanese iTunes store). They are numerous, relatively wealthy, have fast internet connections and have little other options to listen to hit music from Lebanon.
Lebanese songs are a pain to find in torrent websites, and having to wait for our relatives to send us CDs from Lebanon just takes time. There are streaming apps out there (like the excellent Anghami), but many people still prefer to own their music.
To the diaspora, the iTunes store offers the chance to buy a piece of Lebanese culture instantaneously. I think many will happily take it.