How Millennial William Thubakgale Saw a Niche and Took the Gap

How Millennial William Thubakgale Saw a Niche and Took the Gap


Vital Stats

  • Company: QPLAY MUSIC
  • Player: William Thubakgale
  • EST: September 2012
  • Visit:

The Internet is an awesome place for musicians to grow and reach fans. But online music piracy costs the industry $12,5 billion per year in the US alone. Why pirate music? William Thubakgale, 20-year-old founder of local music streaming and download site, QPLAY MUSIC, has the answer.

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“Growing up I loved music but I couldn’t afford it, so I pirated and felt bad about it. I asked around and found that many people want to buy rather than pirate but can’t afford (and don’t want) a full album for one hit song, plus many South Africans don’t have credit cards which most online music stores require. Even though I was just 18, I realised this was a business opportunity.”


Beginnings and barriers

Thubakgale is a true Millennial – even with lack of money, skills and resources, he found a way. “Using my cellphone for research, my solution was to stream music online by local artists.

“I didn’t know how to build a website and I couldn’t afford to outsource, so when I started university in 2012 and got access to a laptop and WiFi, I taught myself via YouTube. Nine months later QPLAY MUSIC launched. Now when I need to add coding, I outsource cheaply to freelancers in India.”

Coming up with a viable model

While many emerging artists will offer their music online for free, many more-popular artists want payment. But if there’s no money to buy the download, revenue has to come from somewhere.

“Advertisers,” says Thubakgale. “I have 12 000 songs attracting certain kinds of listeners. We can align the right audience with advertisers using Facebook data, which generates income to pay artists. Since banner ads aren’t good enough for advertisers anymore, we’re putting advertising into the stream – an industry first. It’s called targeted repetitive advertising.”

Keeping everyone’s pockets happy

“We pay according to the song’s popularity. A top artist or hit song can earn R1 per download, payable after reaching R1 000. But if a song is unknown or not popular it will slide down to 10c or 15c.

“It keeps advertisers happy and draws listeners. Social media like Twitter and Facebook does a lot of the marketing for us too. Artists reach out to their fans and direct them to the site.” Interestingly, traditional music is a very popular genre.

“People love traditional music, but it’s not really available online. QPLAY MUSIC addresses that,” says Thabakgale.

Advice for aspiring ’treps

“Just start. When you’re doing something new and different, don’t worry too much about competitors. Yes, I can build a search engine tomorrow, but I can’t build Google in a day. When you’re a first mover it will take time for competitors to catch up.

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“Also, strike a balance between you and the business. I started QPLAY MUSIC as my own creation and used my name to build the brand. But there comes a point where the brand needs to stand alone without you.”

Tracy Lee Nicol
Tracy-Lee Nicol is an experienced business writer and magazine editor. She was awarded a Masters degree with distinction from Rhodes university in 2010, and in the time since has honed her business acumen and writing skills profiling some of South Africa's most successful entrepreneurs, CEOs, franchisees and franchisors.Find her on Google+.