Indie Spotlight: Interview with Bongani Tshabalala, Founder of BlaQsnaps Media
Indie Spotlight is a multi-layered interview series that’s dedicated to exploring the business side of the music, media and entertainment industry. Our main objective is to establish a platform whereby African music industry insiders can provide some business related information & valuable insights about the ins and outs of starting and running an independent Africa-based entertainment company in this digital age.
In this very first presentation, we had a discussion with creative entrepreneur and music photographer, Bongani Tshabalala, founder of BlaQsnaps Media: a South Africa-based full-service audio, video, photography and live-event production company.
When and why did you decide to start ‘BlaQsnaps Media’?
I started the company in 2016 then I was still working for another company and I registered the business under the name of that Company.
Is there an interesting story behind the company name?
Well, Yes I would like to believe so. The “BlaQ” represents who we are focused on (Young African artists), and the “Snaps” is how we always encourage our artists to always have an image of how they see their future. (How do you see the future of young African musicians?)
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Any thoughts on the current state of African dance music in a streaming age?
African music in general has a long way to go. However, Africa – more specifically South Africa – has positioned itself as the pioneers of dance music and I think label owners and producers need to be careful, because the streaming space is easily accessible and this makes it really easy for bad music to be released.
We need to encourage one another to produce high quality music so we can continue to break boundaries and in return create an even bigger market for ourselves.
What is that one thing that you do differently from your competitors?
We are currently the only company in our space that takes the risk of really going to the ground to find new music and artists. We invest our time and money to build their brands and distribute their music to people who virtually have no idea who they are.
What have you learned about running an indie company so far?
For me, the lesson is how music has created a community of either business people or artists from across the globe.
I can literally be able to work with a company or an artist from anywhere in the world, which creates and even greater opportunity to allow us to have access to a huge international market.
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Can you list three key challenges that you face?
Sounds cliché but I find opportunities in every challenge I encounter. If I had to accept one challenge, it would be:
(1) how difficult it is to position ourselves as a company to artists that in most times have been cheated by their previous employers, (2) just earning trust from an artist who has just produced a song that they believe will be their breakthrough, and (3) how one has to tell artists that their music is not good enough for release.
What’s the proudest moment from running ‘BlaQsnaps Media’ so far?
When we first put out our very first record on all digital platforms, entitled ‘Monna Wa Motho’ by Vaal-based rapper Masedi.
What’s your ultimate goal for the company?
The goal is to obviously have it grow to a multi-national company, but current short term goal is to build the widest network as possible.
We want to hear how other countries relate to our sound, and that can only be realised if they receive our music and we would like to be in the forefront of that establishment.
Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?
My advice is this: don’t follow in my footsteps – I want to be alone in this space [hahaha, im kidding], but I want anyone else that wants to follow in my footsteps to realize that this isn’t just about making money.
This is also about giving an opportunity to a young African child to be seen and heard by the world.