Earlier this evening I was filled with excitement to discover a new video streaming service built to make sure music artists in South Africa can earn money from their craft, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Called WatchaTV, the business model is simple - fans pay to watch a music artist perform, the platform keeps 50% and 50% goes to the music artist.

So far, good. This is much needed considering music artists make fractions of a cent ($) every time one of their songs is streamed on services like Spotify, Apple Music, and others.

The music industry has undergone many phases over the years. One such interesting phase is during the 1930s when The Great Depression was underway. This was a time was a new medium for transmitting sound, radio, was born. It also happened to be a new music medium that was not only free but also sounded better, and as such, it lessened the appeal of phonograms. Interestingly, by the 1930s, this led to all of the big music recording players in the USA being acquired by the radio corporations: RCA bought Victor in 1929 to create RCA Records, and CBS bought Columbia Records in 1939. In 1931, the European affiliates of Victor and Columbia merged to form EMI. Somehow this pattern persists to this day, the medium for distribution determines the power dynamics. 📷 Old Minerva radio

Then, slowly but then suddenly, I started seeing tweets about problems with streaming the concerts on WatchaTV. Specifically, the problems seem to have started when one of South Africa’s more popular jazz artists, Mandisi Dyantyi, started his live concert.

First, it was complaints about the concert constantly buffering.

WatchaTV buffering for many users during Mandisi Dyantyi's live concert.

And then, the site crashed. No one was able to access it. For me, this was strange that in 2020 a video streaming service would crash irrespective of the traffic.

I then did some quick investigation. The problem became apparent.

The technology stack that WatchaTV is built on.

A quick look at WatchaTV’s technology stack had me screaming inside. I just couldn’t believe that in this cursed year of 2020, a streaming service that has one of the music industry’s more respected professionals and leaders as an investor was running on an AfriHost web hosting plan that runs on a Microsoft IIS (Internet Information Server). As someone said when I expressed my frustration when looking at WatchaTV’s tech stack:

“Afrihost o sokola ka e-mail, what more video streaming (Afrihost struggles with e-mail, what more video streaming),”

I also held back an imaginary tear when I realized that they had no CDN (Content Delivery Network) that would handle things such as video compression and delivering the streaming in a format and size suitable for the viewers connection and device. This is what you get when you run such a service on AWS or Azure, in 2020, a CDN is standard.

For example, even for our relatively simple publication, iAfrikan.com, we have both CloudFlare and AWS Cloudfront as a CDN to deliver images and podcasts whenever you access the website. This ensures they are delivered quickly and in the best format for you at the time. Also, it means if on one specific day we experience a huge spike in traffic, no issues, the infrastructure, to put it simply, scales too.

Realizing this about WatchaTV drove me insane. I first reached out to one of the shareholders to highlight these issues and offer some tips. They were gracious and said they would chat to their tech team about it.

What really frustrates me about examples such as this is that I come across more and more people who don’t seem to take pride in their work. To respect their craft. It’s 2020, you shouldn’t be battling with video streaming. C'mon.

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