Helen Herimbi, senior music writer at The Star newspaper’s entertainment supplement Tonight; Craig Stack, founder of the music website My City By Night; and Tecla Ciolfi, founder and editor of the music website Texx and the City and South African editor of the streaming platform Deezer, were speakers at our #CreativeHustles event, two weeks ago, focusing on music journalism. On the video below, they all give pointers on how to be a music journalist.
After the event, we asked Tecla a few questions on her career as a music journalist.
Live SA: How did your career start?
Tecla: I started writing for a free music publication called YOUR LMG, which stands for Live Music Guide, around 2006, while I was doing my first year at UCT. That period also saw the launch of my blog, Texx and The City, while also working at the old Zula Sound Bar in Long Street. I worked around a lot of people in the music industry and I was exposed to a lot of gigs, so I started writing reviews for YOUR LMG. I also began writing on my blog. I wrote some profile pieces on up-and-coming artists and basically used the connections that I had from my work, to gain entry in this industry.
Live SA: What does it take to be a music journalist?
Tecla: Your passion for music is more important than anything else. If you’re passionate and driven to write about music, then your work will pay off just as much. Expose yourself to the different genres of music. I love and listen to all types of music, including hip-hop, electro, gospel, rock n’ roll, and just everything. My advice is: the more open you are to experiencing new genres of music and just new things in general, the better your work will be in the long run.
Live SA: What’s your say on studying for this industry?
Tecla: I honestly think this doesn’t matter. For instance, I don’t believe that if I hadn’t studied at UCT, I wouldn’t be where I am today. It’s your passion and commitment to where you want to go and where you want to end up; that drives you more than a degree. At the end of the day, a degree is really just a piece of paper.
Live SA: Please walk us through your job.
Tecla: I wake up everyday feeling very fortunate and honoured to be in this industry. I knew from a very early age that a 9 to 5 job wasn’t necessarily going to be my thing, so I had to hustle and grind a little bit harder to be where I am now. I now also feel that I have grown, and developed into that professional niche, and I still got a lot that I want to do and accomplish. It’s a great rewarding job that I feel grateful for everyday.
Live SA: What are the dos and don’ts in this industry?
Tecla: Objectivity. A lot of writers tend to be quite biased since our music scene is very small, and some music writers are friends with band members, DJs and so forth. So, you might feel obligated to write something nice. There comes a time when you meet people who appear to be too glowing and then conversely, some appear to be very harsh. They will just slate a band or performance because they either think they’ll get lots of hits and lots of traffic on their website, and that doesn’t really serve a purpose. So basically, I always tell my writers to be as objective as they can. If you really love something and you think it deserves a shot, then you have to say why. If you also don’t like something, then state the reasons. Like, if you criticise a band, or a lead singer or whoever performing; then give the reasons as to why you perceive them negatively.
Live SA: Any advice you can give to aspiring music journalists on where to start?
Tecla: I would say attend as many gigs as you can and find out what you like. For me, I started with rock n’ roll music as an entry to writing on music. Then later grew to writing about other genres. You basically need to attend as many gigs as you can, and educate yourself about everything that’s happening in the music scene as possible. Find out about new musicians, people to look for and so on. I would also suggest for one to consider an internship, make money with your work too. I believe that everyone has to make money for a living. If that fails, start your own thing by creating a blog. It really doesn’t cost any money to create a domain name. Start up your own wordpress site and just consistently start churning out content.