Why the Lebanese iTunes Store may do Well

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.

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  • http://twitter.com/AliSleeq Ali ‘Bluesman’ Sleeq (@AliSleeq)

    I don’t live in Lebanon, however I use the US iTunes. With the advent of the internet and communication, I don’t think an app store is what binds us expatriates to Lebanon.

    Also, if you can’t find free Arabic songs to download, then you are doing it wrong.

    • Mustapha

      I didn’t say I can’t find, I used to pirate music myself, but eventually you realize that you have more money than time.

      Before, I used to look for the song on torrents, download it, make sure it’s good quality, if not, look for another version. Once I’m satisfied with the quality, I have to fix the metadata and then look for the album art.. That took time and effort, I’d rather pay a dollar to avoid all of that..

  • http://stateofmind13.com eliefares

    The Lebanese diaspora won’t use the Lebanese iTunes store if their country of residence has a store.
    Glancing at the top songs now, most of them are not even stuff that the diaspora would buy (Pink and Calvin Harris?) and I don’t believe that’ll change anytime soon.
    To have a better judgement on the market penetration of the iTunes music store, we have to get the numbers of sales.

  • Lebanese Dinosaur

    RE: “Lebanese credit cards as the requirement to open an account in the Lebanese iTunes store.” That’s a bad thing from Apple. I should be able to buy local tunes from my single iTunes ID, no?

    • http://jilliancyork.com jillian

      Apple claims it’s because pricing varies by market.

  • http://jilliancyork.com jillian

    What’s the pricing like? The excuse I’ve heard from Apple as to why, for example, an American can’t access the Dutch iTunes store and vice versa, is because the pricing varies from country to country. (This is easily circumvented by having someone in your country of choice buy you an iTunes gift card for that country’s store. I do this constantly to get new European music and will probably try it with the Leb store too).

    • Mustapha

      So funny you’d mention this right now.. Believe it or not, I just noticed that the same song that is 99¢ in the Lebanese store is 1.29¢ in the American store..
      As for the pricing difference, I blame all those licensing requirements of the RIAA and other anachronistic practices..