Interview: Tecla Ciolfi On The Journey To Starting Her Popular Podcast ‘Texx Talks’
South African music journalist Tecla Ciolfi launched her podcast 'Texx Talks' at the height of lockdown in 2020. Since then, it has become one of the most notable music platforms in the country.
Tecla "Texx" Ciolfi has been a part of the South African music industry for approximately 15 years, in different capacities, most notably as a music journalist (Rolling Stone South Africa, Cape Times,Your LMG) — as well as the founder and editor-in-chief of the music blog Texx and The City. Between 2013 and 2017, Tecla was the South African editor for the French streaming platform Deezer.
Her recent venture into podcasting is an expansion of Texx and The City. In her weekly podcast Texx Talks, now in its fifth season, she interviews some of the country's top musicians. She's previously hosted the likes of Nasty C, Jeremy Loops, Shekhinah, and a lot more. And in South Africa's burgeoning podcasting scene, Texx Talks has become one of the country's most notable podcasts.
As podcasting begins to take a stronghold in South Africa, Tecla is determined to be on the right side of history. Established at the beginning of 2020, Texx Talks managed to rack in 100 000 streams in just 12 months — and found itself topping the Apple Podcasts charts.
Texx Talks is scripted and one of the few South African podcasts that can proudly label themselves productions — sound bites, effects and beats are used to provide context where necessary. And, most importantly, no moments are wasted spewing redundant information anywhere.
Below, Tecla breaks down the history of Texx Talks, touches on working with brands and monetising podcasts among many other topics.
NB: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
On how her podcast started
"Myself and my two producers — Jonathan Inggs and Matthew Loots — went into this very blindly. Jonathan approached me with the idea to start a podcast. He is very influenced by podcasting in the States, which is already well established. His idea was firstly, why don't you have a podcast? Secondly, now is the perfect time to jump on the podcasting bandwagon in South Africa, and Africa, before things start blowing up.
We recorded our first season at the beginning of 2020 before COVID-19 struck. I did in-studio interviews with Zolani Mahola (Freshlyground), TRESOR and The Kiffness and other artists who each excelled in their own genre field. One of the main things I wanted to prioritise in the planning of this podcast was the inclusivity of all genres."
On launching during lockdown
"When we launched the podcast at the beginning of April, South Africa was already in lockdown. I think that the success of the podcast owed a lot to the fact that everybody was at home and online.
Season one did very well. Then we were suddenly faced with the issue of how to conduct interviews in the middle of lockdown because my preferred interview style is face-to-face. But that doesn't translate as well when you're in front of a computer screen. We use a program called Zencastr to record, what we did at the beginning, which was a little bit strange, was we would record voice on Zencastr but then I would WhatsApp-call the subject so I could see their face because Zencastr didn't have a video option.
We also had the challenge of getting equipment. I'm not technologically savvy, at all. I am lucky in that I have been working with the music store TOMS (The Only Music Store). I spoke to the marketing manager and they very lovingly came on board and sponsored all of our gear."
On the importance of quality
"Our goal was very clear. We wanted this to be a quality product. So, production was of the utmost importance. Luckily, we were able to procure equipment that we otherwise would have had to spend thousands of Rands on. We didn't have that kind of money! The set-up for a standard podcast can be quite pricey. Through all of that, we've weathered some very interesting storms. We're now on season five, and we're still learning!"
On profitability and brand partnerships
"Jonathan and I have been working together in the music industry, in various capacities, for the past seven years. Between the two of us, we've worked with a few brands! Between all of us, we pooled our resources and have had a few seasons sponsored by a brand that's aligned to our content. With the podcast being an extension of Texx And The City, whatever brand we align ourselves with has to make sense in the grander scheme of things.
So, [the first two seasons] mahala (for free), and then season three, we pitched this idea to Ray-Ban, to coincide with their summer campaign that was at the end of 2020 and they loved it. We also ensured that the musicians we interviewed over that period made sense.
For season five, we have Puma on board. I've worked with the brand over a few years, and understand it very well so both of our brands are aligned. We tap into that culture and our audiences overlap.
However it's not always the case that these sponsorships are money orientated. [At times], [a brand] is like, 'We like you, we want to work with you, but we don't have money, our budget has been spent, but we can give you product!'" So it's all about being flexible and being able to work with a big brand, and vice versa, in order to make a sponsorship make sense. I'm not just collaborating for the sake of."
On free speech versus bigotry
"The problem is podcasters who have branded themselves as controversial. It becomes dangerous because, for them to maintain the momentum and rates, they're going to want to be controversial all the time.
You get people who say things just for the sake of saying things, which is very dangerous in a society where, for instance, people are murdered daily because of their sexuality.
That kind of c'est la vie (that's life) attitude to podcasting and content creation is irresponsible. The main problem is that there's nobody holding these people to account. There's no equivalent of the Broadcasting Complaints Commission for podcasting — nor is there a board or union. That's something that'll probably have to be looked into in the near future."
On surviving solely off podcasting in South Africa
"At the moment, there are very few people that can confidently say, 'Podcasting is what I do for a living. I don't make money from anything else.' However, podcasting is still in its infancy in South Africa. There is still ample room for growth and more case studies.
Unlike the music industry, we don't have a yearly roundup or breakdown of statistics or demographics. We don't have the analytics, yet, in order to start charging accordingly. We're using case studies from The States to base our rates off because there's no real model for South Africans to base our campaign packages on — but I can only speak from experience!
I would like to think that in the near future, being a podcaster in this country will definitely be a viable career option. We will be able to make a decent salary from it, but not at the moment!"
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