Sachetization of music. Are you ready?


Sa-che-ti-za-tion. Have you heard this term before? Because for me it is completely new. Not that I don’t know what ‘a sachet’ means. But how does it relate to music?

My Google search for the word ‘sachetization’ returned only 2,100 results. So it is quite new, or rarely used term. On the other hand, I am sure that most of us have an experience with various types of sachets – small packs of products. 

What first comes to mind are individually packaged one-serving tea-bags, sugar or sweetener, or coffee dairy creamers, served in restaurants and bars in many countries over the world. 

Then there are small packs of soap, shampoo and conditioner available in many freshly cleaned hotel rooms. Many hamburger joints and chains give you a handful of tiny bags with ketchup, mustard, vinegar, or relish with a serving of your bun with meat. Or condiments included with your lunch or dinner on long-haul flights. 

And in those “long forgotten times” when we were feeling safe to walk on streets and get close to each other, marketers used to walk on busy sidewalks and hand out small servings of chocolate, mayonnaise, shampoo, or other products as ‘trial servings’. 

All these belong to the marketing category known as the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) or consumer packaged goods (CPG). 

No surprise, that large multinational companies adopted this strategy and use small packaging as a tool for reaching consumers at the bottom of the ‘pyramide’ in the poorest countries all over the world with substantially reduced purchasing power. It is deemed as a way to get ‘premium’ products to impoverished consumers. So the goal is affordability… Really!?

And as the consumer packaged goods proved to be working, other industries also pursue the same path. Financial industries with micro-payments and micro-credits, and telecommunications with various ways to sell ‘small packages’ of phone calls, minutes, messages, and data megabytes. 

We can look at sachetization from two different angles. The positive would be that, it brings products to poor people, communities, and nations, which would hardly be able to afford to purchase them in larger packaging. This is well described in an article Sachetization: An innovation around poverty?, by the Nigerian company Narametrics. 

On the other hand, I tend to agree more with those who see this marketing strategy from a negative perspective. What first comes to mind is the amount of the plastic waste this generates in countries that don’t have infrastructure to deal with it. One such country is Philippines and if interested, here is the document that deals with this issue, appropriately titled Sachet Economy: Big Problems in Small Pockets . Beside the plastic waste, the document mentions yet another way how this sachetization impacts poor communities – it changes their buying habits and also changes the local culture, like ‘tingi’ retail: 

Before multinational companies flooded the market with sachets, Filipino communities already had systems that afforded the same benefits, without the environmental cost.

No surprise, that these multinational companies are trying to establish themselves in countries like Philippines and Nigeria. They represent two regions that are expected to grow substantially in the near future. The award-winning professor at the Wharton Business School Mauro F. Guillén writes about this in his recent book 2030: How Today’s Biggest Trends Will Collide and Reshape the Future of Everything: “Consider that by 2030, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa will be vying for the title of the world’s most populous region.”

So what does all this have to do with music? Good that you asked.

Have a look at the article The sachetization of music consumption, by Maarten Walraven-Freeling, published by an interesting website Music x

First I have to say, that I understand the author’s point and where he comes from. I have had similar experience while working for a large multinational music company, as the author does. It is always about finding the most efficient marketing, and about constantly growing sales. It’s business.

My problem is, that this is also about music, which has become a commodity sold for a consumption. The article title states that clearly. 

But music shouldn’t be a consumable. Music is an important component of cultural expression and cultural identity. And what this ‘sachetization of music’ can potentially mean, is a death blow to the local music culture in those poor countries which, as of now, just cannot afford paying for music services like Spotify, Apple, or Stingray. 

Those poor countries are still rich in their own music heritage, which is still alive and naturally maintained and developed. And because of that, they are great sources of inspiration and of new music ideas for the more wealthy parts of the world. Unlike the developed countries, where music is mostly relegated to a passive form of consumerism, active music making and participatory community music making are still important parts of life in those poor parts of the world, for which this ‘sachetization’ will be mostly aimed for. 

I am aware, that I may sound here like being against progress. Also I understand, that in many of those developing countries, mobile phones are often the only available tools to access information and knowledge. But do these impoverished people need to be ‘milked’ more, even if only in ‘sachet’ size payments for an imported music? Especially when there are much more important things that could immediately improve their lives – like clean water, reliable electricity, healthcare, food? I don’t even want to get here into a discussion about the cultural colonialism or imperialism. 

I am just worried, that like through burning the Amazonian rainforest and with it a source of oxygen, and a natural habitat for many unique animals and plants that could be potentially a source of remedies for our modern ailments, with these drip-drip-drip type of music consumerism imposed on those developing countries, we inadvertently destroy their natural local music culture. And with it will be gone potential sources of new music genres, rhythms and styles for us and generations that come after. 

So what could be done to prevent this cultural loss from happening? Because I am not that naive to expect, that this could be stopped or averted.

The best solution would be to help to maintain and support the local music culture. Get involved local artists and music communities. Include their own music in the sachetization process, so that they also could benefit from it. And instead of only imposing on them a completely strange imported music, bring their own unique music cultures and showcase them to the rest of the world.

I am convinced, that if done right, everyone could benefit from this. Music and musicians could thrive. Local music culture can survive and further develop. And the music industry could have new sources of content and revenue – although only in ‘sachet’ sizes for the beginning.

What do you think?


Photo by Stijn Dijkstra on Pexels


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