Owning and Earning a Platform with Sangeeta Pillai

Owning and Earning a Platform with Sangeeta Pillai
Owning and Earning a Platform with Sangeeta Pillai

Sep 15 2022 | 00:27:36

Episode September 15, 2022 00:27:36

Hosted By

Stuart Barefoot

Show Notes


On this episode of the Audience podcast, Stuart is talking with Sangeeta Pillai from the award-winning Masala Podcast about what it is like to create a podcast that talks about taboo content. Sangeeta has important messages to share about diversity, feminism, and inclusion. She shares those messages today, as well as her experience winning multiple British Podcast Awards. Sangeeta talks about her journey into podcasting, what it is like to be backed by Spotify, and how podcasting should change.

If you have any questions about this episode or want to get some of the resources we mentioned, head over to Castos.com/podcast. And as always, if you’re enjoying the show please share it with someone who you think would enjoy it as well. It is your continued support that will help us continue to help others. Thank you so much! Never miss another show by subscribing at castos.com/subscribe.

Today you’ll learn about:

  • What is the Masala Podcast and who is Sangeeta Pillai?
  • Creating a podcast to inspire change
  • Exploring a taboo subject in a constructive, positive way
  • Bringing women of color into feminist conversations
  • The organic evolution of the formatting of a podcast
  • The importance of season breaks
  • Promotion, marketing, and keeping creative control
  • The experience of winning a British Podcast Award
  • Supporting creators of color and from different backgrounds


Masala Podcast: https://www.soulsutras.co.uk/top-feminist-podcast-masalapodcast-mediakit/

Castos Academy: https://academy.castos.com/ 

Castos, private podcast: https://academy.castos.com/privatepodcast/ 

Castos, website: https://castos.com/ 

Castos, YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/castos  

Clubhouse video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8729ZpWpmIw 

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:00 Sometimes at media, we talk about earned versus own platforms. A lot of podcasters, bloggers and YouTubers own their platforms and have all the creative freedom in the world. And oftentimes little to no budget to go with it. And then there's to people who have earned platforms, you know, talented folks that get paid by someone else to create something in layman's terms that might be known as a job, which is cool at all. But you know, you don't always have a lot of creative control on an earned platform, but then there's a small subset of creators who have that perfect blend of earned and owned media. Speaker 2 00:00:38 I have complete creative control and I would always want that. Like, because like I said, this is my baby and I I'm very close to it, but at the same time, it's lovely to not have to worry about paying the editor. I need another mic, where do I find the money to buy it? You know? So that those kind of things go away. Speaker 0 00:00:55 Next. You'll hear from a podcaster who went from hosting a show in her kitchen to netting a deal with Spotify and winning multiple awards along the way. My name is Stewart, and this is audience, a Casto original series. Speaker 0 00:01:12 So if you own a platform like your podcast, you might be thinking that it's hard to monetize it. So here's a little insider hack, just kidding. There's no inside hack and there's really no one easy way to do it. And there's no one size fits all. Yeah, it's pretty hard, but it's not all bad news because at Casto we make it a bit easier with our integrative tools. For instance, our partnership with Stripe using our platform, you can create a private podcast and accept payments directly from your listeners. So number clunky ad algorithms that don't generate income, no more middlemen taken a 30% cut. It's a direct payment from your audience to you. Simple, learn more@casts.com or click on the link in the show notes. Speaker 2 00:02:01 I wanted to create something that was amazing. Each episode is, is a piece of work that I create that I feel really proud of, and that I give my a hundred percent to Speaker 0 00:02:13 That's sent key to ply an intersectional feminist and activist. She's the creator of Massal podcast. A feminist show geared towards south Asian women. It's a series that goes hard at all kinds of cultural taboos, Speaker 2 00:02:27 Sex periods, menopause, mental health porn, nipple hair love talk about nipple hair. Speaker 0 00:02:34 She began her podcast from her kitchen table and grew it into a critically acclaimed show. That's won five British podcast awards, and now is backed by Spotify. Also, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention that she uses Casto as her hosting platform. Anyway, even though it tackles some pretty deep issues, Messala is a pretty easy listen and Sanita takes a practical and fun approach to her show. One of the goals of our podcast is to help change the perceptions of south Asian women. And of course, giving them a platform to discuss taboo subjects. Speaker 2 00:03:08 So if you think of a regular white Western woman, and there's an issue talking about it. So to multiply that a thousand in south Asian communities, like we do not discuss sex. It's the, you know, we don't know the words for orgasm or, you know, masturbation in our own languages. Like that's how little we speak about it. So it is never discussed. You know, when girls have their periods is kept very quiet, there's a sense of shame attached to it. So none of this stuff exists in our lexicon, in our own languages. So when there's no language to discuss something and it's cloaked in shame all the time, it creates this kind of weirdness around it for women. So if you're experiencing a difficulty within that, you never discuss it because everybody knows. I mean, we all know from the time where like a year or two, you just don't talk about it. Speaker 2 00:03:58 Nobody needs to tell you that either you just pick up these cues with, from your parents, from your like aunties and uncles and people like that. So it's a huge taboo, like even now I'd say even in kind of second, third generation Britain or the us where south Asian communities live, the expectation for more south Asian women is that we get married. We have children, we have nice respectable jobs. So this stuff impacts every single one of us. So, you know, it just doesn't change. So I I'd say the oo is a lot more in my culture. Speaker 0 00:04:32 And what's the response been among? Some of your peers, is this resonating with south Asian women Speaker 2 00:04:38 Massively? I mean, long before the awards are the last two years. I mean the first season was very quiet cause I kind of did that on my own. I mean, literally Stewart, almost every single day, I get a message or an email or something on social media to tell me how much the podcast means to south Asian women. Uh, I'll get messages. Like, you know, I was in my car, turned on, I don't know, Spotify or whatever. And heard you speak about Xing and you know, something like this happened to me too. And to hear you talk about it means I am less alone. I get messages from young women in India. I got someone writing 16, I think she said young girl. And she said, I heard your podcast. And suddenly I feel less alone in the world. So the, the responses have been phenomenal. I mean, I could not have asked for anything more, uh, the awards and the kind of getting written about in the press and all of that was much later. I think the support with, from the, from the community was there from day one, Speaker 0 00:05:37 A lot of people who like to explore taboo subjects in media, they really lean into shock value or sometimes even the taboo nature of their subject is kind of a, a punchline. You explore taboo subjects in a way that's very constructive. Speaker 2 00:05:52 Absolutely. I mean, I'm definitely not setting out to make anybody uncomfortable or really, really, you know, upset or anxious in any way. Because for me, this is very personal. This is what I've grown up with. And I know the cost of stuff like this. So I think the point of the work I'm doing is to gently investigate and question some of the preconceptions. We've got some of the things our parents have told us and their parents have told them. And to then ask ourselves, is this what we wanna be doing? Is this what we wanna be thinking going forward in 2022? And also again, even looking at, even if you're looking at some of the things, say our parents have said they carry their own cultural conditioning and baggage, you know, it's not their fault. So it's not about upsetting antagonizing. It's just about asking questions. Speaker 2 00:06:43 It's about asking questions about what do we, as south Asian women want for ourselves? What kind of sex do we want? What kind of relationships do we want? What do we wanna do with our lives and still hang onto the culture? So I don't know if you've heard many of the episodes. It's not about saying Asian culture's bad. And I love my culture. Like, you know, I've got a hundred sorrys and I celebrate the valley and I, I love over the top jewelry. You know, like that's very much as you can see <laugh> so it is, I think to say that we can be Asian, we can be proudly Asian and not have to say yes to every single thing we are being told is Asian. We can pick and choose the bits of our culture that suit us as women in this day and age. Speaker 2 00:07:27 And that help us to become who we want to be rather than just take what has been passed down. As you know, that's just how culture is. Culture is fluid. Culture can be changed and should be flexible. I think how do we take the beautiful bits of our culture? Like the Kamasutra like our festivals, like the clothes we wear, like the amazing food we eat, you know, the rituals, the traditions, how do we take all of those and how do we then do away with some rituals that might not be relevant now that might make us feel lesser than we are. And that's all it is, Speaker 0 00:08:00 You know, speaking of your, your past episodes and I'm not an academic, so I hope I'm using this term correctly. Intersectionality or intersectional. Yes, this is a feminist podcast, but you're also talking about things like, you know, disability and sexuality identity, those types of things, even something that maybe to, to a white man, like me would seem very, just innocuous, like humor. Like to me, like, of course anyone could be funny, but you know, you at season four, episode one, I mean the, just something as simple as our, our Indian women allowed to be funny, it's a niche, but you also, within that niche, you, you you're able to branch out a lot. It seems like. Speaker 2 00:08:38 Yeah, absolutely. And I think that kind of intersectionality, I think, is missing in a lot of media. I don't know too much about what's going on in the us media, but even in Britain where I think we're 7% of the population, south Asian people, we don't see a lot, lot of representation of south Asian women identities, whether it's humor, whether it's whatever, it's very one dimensional where I depicted as the terrorist wife or the corner shop lady or whatever, you know, you don't see a lot of that. So in conversations or feminist discourse, kind of, I try and kind of butt in and I'll always say, but think about it from an intersectional lens, because otherwise you're leaving a lot of women behind in where, as you, as we progress with feminism in the world, if we don't bring women of different cultures into that conversation, you know, you're not really moving forward. Speaker 2 00:09:30 Not that we can understand every single aspect of every single woman's life. But if we open up the feminist conversation to talk about what does this, you know, this particular thing, what does it look like for south Asian women, for example, sex, okay. Or sexuality, while that might be hard for like a white, British person, bright, British, British woman. If you are south Asian and you come out as queer people's families, dishonor them, you know that, so the choice between, do you want a family or do you wanna be true to your sexual identity? It's very harsh. So, you know, it is important to add the lens of culture to feminism, because without that you lose a whole bunch of people who are gonna listen to that and say, well, that's not really relevant to me. Speaker 0 00:10:12 Obviously it's resonated with, with Indian women specifically, but what's the response been from, from people who aren't Indian women, has there been any pushback? Have people been embracing it? Like what's, what's that dynamic? Like Speaker 2 00:10:24 Actually I've been really lucky. I've had touch with only positive feedback. I mean, you know, so far I'm amazed. I've really not had anybody say they don't like it, or they don't like it for this reason. And white English women actually have also got in touch. And they've said, you know, you are exploring things that are very relevant to us. So whether that's the body you are born or sex or menopause, you know, this is a universal female experience. And in my culture, it's a little bit more intense. So they're like, it's really interesting to sort of explore this cuz you're touching upon themes. Like I just did an episode on motherhood. So many women wrote to me and not necessarily just Asian women to say my God, you know, that is so true. You know, when you decide to have kids or not have kids or whatever, the kind of pressure you get put on by society to be a mother, to be a certain type of mother is huge. So I think these are universal themes and I think they resonate with women. Mostly haven't had many men get in touch, but I, I'm not sure a lot of it is relevant. I think men listen and they say, oh, that's actually really enlightening. And I loved hearing that point of view cuz then when I'm with my partner or sister or whatever, I can then put that lens on. Speaker 0 00:11:37 I do wanna talk a little bit of shop. Do you use a structure that's simple but effective in that you're, you're breaking up maybe topics within those within the episode lightly signed posting with music beds and narration to people who are seasoned podcasters and creators. That seems pretty obvious. But for people who are new to it, a lot of times the impulse is, yeah, I'm just gonna kind of record a conversation, maybe slap the intro and outro and then, you know, everyone's gonna enjoy this this hour and 15 minute long conversation I, I had with a person. Uh, how, how closely are you working with say like your, your editors or editor? I think you cuz you just have one, uh, one, yeah, just, just the one. So with a small team like that, I mean how, how closely are y'all working together to make those edits and to turn what I imagine are pretty long streamlining conversations into something a little more digestible. Speaker 2 00:12:26 The interview's normally about, it's never more than an hour and I tend to cut it down to about 35, 40 minutes. Cause I don't know if people have the head space to listen and the kind of edit is fairly organic. I think between me and the editor, we kind of figure out themes, do the interview, then figure out the themes. And then I record my kind of narrative bits and then we literally stitch it together. So I'm very closely involved. Like it's, it's my baby like, and it will always will be. And I'll be very, very involved. So yes, we work very, very closely to get that and I listen to each other and then I might go back and I've changed editors and, but you know, most people, uh, that I've worked with get, get it and are very happy to add to it. And my bring in something like, oh, maybe that bit you should change that to that. Speaker 2 00:13:17 And which I'm very happy to listen to. So it's been fairly organic if I'm honest, like I never even sat down and thought about what is the structure of this podcast gonna be? It kind of just evolved as, as I had stuff to say about periods or the first time I got my period in Indian, how much of a hallelu I created, you know? So it sort of seems to organically evolve, um, so fairly loose structure, but at the same time I kind of stick to it and I, I hear what you're saying. I get asked this a lot by kind of new podcasters, which is like, oh, why don't I just sort of interview somebody and I'll stick on two bits at the end and I'll just release it. And I think it's, it's important for new podcasters to understand that that's gotta have some sort of structure, even if it's a loose one, it's gotta be interesting for people who are listening to you, who are giving you like an hour of your time of their time. Speaker 2 00:14:07 So make sure it's as amazing as it can be. And also I think for me personally, it was very much about believing in, in the fact that I could have a longer monologue. So in the beginning, the first season I had very short monologues and as I've grown in confidence, I've said, okay, my voice and the things I have to say have value and people are interested. So I think that's been the progression. So it's been interesting for me personally as well to watch myself do that. So yeah, it's been a very interesting experience. I've really enjoyed doing that. The narrative bits of Speaker 0 00:14:36 It. I mean by, by season four, it sounds almost like something you'd hear on like the BBC or NPR or something like that. And that should, that should be taken as a compliment. Speaker 2 00:14:46 <laugh> thank you very much. I do take it as a compliment Speaker 0 00:14:48 Compliment <laugh> you know, I mean another, another thing you you're doing that, that I was really excited about when I started my research for, for this show was, was the season breaks. That's such a big thing. I have my own opinion about why I think shows why more podcasters should take the seasonal approach, but I'm just curious how you arrived at that decision. Speaker 2 00:15:08 Like with everything in my life and the podcast, it was very organic. I wanted to create something that was amazing. Each episode is, is a piece of work that I create that I feel really proud of and that I give my a hundred percent too. And if I were to do, I don't know, a weekly podcast, I couldn't sustain it. So it's my own personal. And there are some podcasters that do it beautifully. I'm guessing they have large teams. I don't. And even if I did, I don't know if I want to be doing a podcast every week, it's a lot. So I think that the joy of a season is you can kind of get all in and work crazy hours and deliver a beautiful season. And it's also got an arc. I think a season is like a beginning, middle and an end. Speaker 2 00:15:52 And you choose episodes that kind of flow in that arc. And then I get a break. I get away. Think about what the last season was like, think about what I might wanna do in the next one. I get a lot of people approaching me as well to say, Hey, have you thought about such and such? Have you thought about doing an episode of this, which is lovely, cuz then I can think about what actually people wanna hear as well. I really, really feel it's important for creative people to take breaks cuz that's when we recharge. That's when we think and mu and that's when the best ideas come, uh, running us over, I get 24 7. I don't think creates the best work, but that's my personal opinion. I'm sure there are people out there who thrive on that. I don't, I need the breaks. So therefore the podcast has breaks. Um, so for me it's a very personal, personal journey. Speaker 0 00:16:42 I, I, I'm really glad, you know, you've used the word organic. Now you have this relationship with Spotify. So how did that come about? Speaker 2 00:16:48 Again, very organically. I saw a competition, this Spotify ran something called sound up, which is to find more women of color podcasters and non-binary podcasters. Uh, so this was uh, 2018, November, 2018. Uh, and I'd had this vague idea about a podcast. I didn't even know what a podcast was. And I always talk about this. Like I had to Google what a podcast was like, that's how little I knew. I was like, how's this different to a radio show anyway. So someone sent me this link to say, you should look at this. And it was literally in the last day of this competition I entered and I got shortlisted my idea from a solid podcast from, I think they had 750 applicants that year. So I went on to win that competition, got a little bit of money to then buy the equipment and to, to hire somebody, to edit the podcast. Speaker 2 00:17:38 So it kind of started from Spotify signed up. So I that's the relationship. So I've had an amazing relationship with them actually, because they were there in the room when I first pitched the podcast and it was the first time I'd pitched a podcast to anybody and I did the first season. And then they approached me to say, would you be interested in, uh, us sponsoring it? So they've been absolutely wonderful. You know, they really let me get on with it. They're like we completely trust and believe in your vision, you know what you're doing? So it's a very light hand I think, uh, in, in the episodes. So I pretty much do what I want to do. Speaker 0 00:18:13 Yeah. I mean, it's that perfect. I think intersection of earned and owned media, you own it, you own the process, you have complete creative control, but you also know how have a bigger platform Spotify is in your corner promoting this thing. And then of course, uh, there's, there's the ad revenue. That's probably pretty good for a creative project. Speaker 2 00:18:34 Yeah. So I think it's, it, it definitely is a mix of the two. I have complete creative control and I would always want that. Like, because like I said, this is my baby and I I'm very close to it, but at the same time, it's lovely to not have to worry about paying the editor role, you know, like small podcasters, that's a big issue, you know, cause we're how do we fund this season or how do we pay? So and so, whatever, you know, I need another mic, where do I find the money to buy it? You know? So that those kind of things go away. So the beauty of it is like your focused on creating the best podcast you can create. And Spotify might come in and say, we can't use the word X because that's problematic, but, but it's very, very, very minor. Like I think it's the perfect marriage of kind of a big corporation, cuz I think a lot of people have this impression of a big corporation being very dictatorial and Spotify have not been like that at all. They've been very supportive. They've been very, really open brief for me to do what I do. And I think that trust means a lot where, uh, Spotify say, you know, you know what you're doing and just go and do it. I think that's absolutely wonderful. Speaker 0 00:19:44 I mentioned earlier that she's won five British podcast awards. Now I've never won an award and I may never. So I was curious to know how that even happens. I mean, aside from being very good at what she does. Speaker 2 00:19:58 So you enter, so if you're so the rules of the British podcast award. So if you've had a podcast within a certain that year, that kind of whatever year from January to whatever and you have X number of episodes, you can just enter. And I entered, I think three categories, this Sienna one, two. So there's about 15 or 20 categories now I think. Uh, so that's the process and the entry fee's pretty low. I think I've had, I've seen other competitions where the, the entry fee's really high and I don't enter those. And I think come on, you can't expect an independent podcast to do like Stu up 150 pounds per entries. Ridiculous. You know, British podcaster was a very affordable. So yeah, it was literally you send a, send a clip of the audio. Obviously you tailor each one to whichever category you're applying for and that's it. Speaker 2 00:20:49 And you, you kind of write little notes about the impact of the podcast. Who's this thing, what your audience has said, anything that you think will help and that's it. And then you hear back if you've been nominated, which I did, and then the award ceremony happens and it's quite a big deal in the UK. It's quite probably the biggest kind of podcasting event. The first year I watched it on zoom cuz you know, lockdown COVID et cetera. Last year they had a, a ceremony at the, uh, in a park with like picnic blankets with our names on it. It was quite cool. And this year I was in Spain when, so I watched it in Spain on uh, livestream, which was really cool. So yeah, it's, it's amazing. It's, it's very exciting to be part of a community of podcasters. And I, I love this about podcasting and I say this to a lot of people perhaps because it's new and it's full of kind of independent people. It's very supportive. People are always happy to have a chat. People are even when I was starting my podcast, a number of people I spoke to about different things. Like I didn't know anything. So I'd be like, okay, what sort of mic should I get? How do, why do I host it? Cetera? You know, there loads of questions people always have the time Speaker 0 00:21:52 It might take on like the generosity and, and podcasting is the, the roots of it are so DIY yes. I mean, even, even in the time that I've been doing this, you know, I, I remember, you know, 10 years ago it was a lot harder to make an RSS feed than it is now, which you can do with two or three clicks and you had to go online and do research and yeah, the Reddit forums were, were very active and I think it was Jack reciter who, I don't know if you know him or not. He does a great show called the dark net diaries, very successful cuz millions of downloads every episode, I mean very easily. He could just be like, all right, I've made it. And he could slam the door on his lay up the ladder, but he takes time. You know, he's still very active on Reddit. If you have a question and you know, I, I'm a big believer, there's no question that's like too stupid, you know, Speaker 2 00:22:37 Absolutely Speaker 0 00:22:38 Googling. What is, there's nothing wrong with Googling? What is a podcast? I mean, if we wanna, Speaker 2 00:22:43 Yeah, I did it and I talk about it all the time because I think it's important for people to know, like anybody that's new, that we don't come into the world with all this knowledge, you know, anybody can start a podcast really and should feel like they can. And people should know that even successful podcasters have just, you know, started and worked their way out of it. You know, like have figured it out. Speaker 0 00:23:04 I listened obviously not to every one of your episodes, but I listened to a lot of them. And what struck me as kind of an interesting parallel, I think it was season three, episode six where you talked about the com suture and how it's still relevant today. Yeah. You know, that book was actually written specifically for men I think. Right. And then basically it was the, the premise of it. And I didn't know this until I heard your episode, but you know, the premise of it is how did, how, like, how are you just like a better partner or lover? How do you become like this cosmopolitan citizen? And of course it's a little bit, it's been a little bit repurposed at times and everyone's got their own perception on it and anyone can read that book and take something different away from it. So where I'm going with that is people who aren't south Asian women. So what do you hope we take away from it? Speaker 2 00:23:49 Two things. I think one is interesting information like the Kamasutra like did, you know, there are 500 different love bites, you know, or whatever, you know, there's such interesting, phenomenal facts in the Kamasutra, which can make you a better lover, make you a better partner, make you a better, better, man. You know? So those things won. And the second I think, I hope it changes the perception of south Asian women in, in media, you know, as these very kind of one dimensional characters who are subservient and our doctors or lawyers and kind of get married and have babies or whatever that that perception might be. I think when you listen to the kind of variety of, of, uh, experiences that we have opinions that we have things that we get excited about or laugh about, or get agitated about, you get a real understanding of a whole culture and what the women in that culture are. And I think that's super interesting. So I hope that changes the perception of, of south Asian women in media. So that's my second hope so interesting. Infor informative bits like the Kamasutra and change perception would be, would be a dream. Speaker 0 00:25:01 And I always end every conversation just by kind of opening the four backup to you. Is there anything that you think I should have asked, uh, as you thought about our conversation today that I haven't, or was there anything you were hoping to talk about that you haven't got the opportunity yet? I I'd like to give you that chance now Speaker 2 00:25:18 Is to kind of broaden their podcasting repertoire, like listen to different kinds of shows like mine and other creators who, why not be from your specific culture or genre because you learn something completely different and you'll support people who are creating interesting podcasts because podcasting pretty much even now is a white man's game. Like unfortunately if you look at the top list, it's white men talking about white men topics, right? So <laugh> support people like me and other creators who are not in that very kind of niche genre, like tell us, listen to the podcast, tell us what you think. You know, show us some love on social media, uh, you know, leave reviews, things like that. And it really helps. And then podcasting becomes, and I I'm very passionate about this as a media, but I think it still needs to grow. It still needs to become diverse and represent a lot of the populations of the world. And I read an interesting statistic apparently, and maybe it was the UK, but the larger numbers of new listeners are kind of from ethnic backgrounds of podcasts. I didn't know this. So that's the growth market. So even if you're thinking about it from a marketing point of view and you wanna tap into well talk to diverse audiences, it's really good for good for communities and good for your kind of marketing initiatives as well. So that's what I'd like to say. Speaker 3 00:26:40 Hey there, listener it's Matt, before you go, I want to offer you the aspiring podcaster two special items. Number one, if you haven't started a podcast yet, or you want to find a better podcast hosting company, start here at casts. Use our coupon code audience 20 that's audience two zero. When you sign up for a new account@casts.com, start a podcast like the one you just heard or about gluten free muffins, whatever it is will help you get your podcast out into the world. Number two, did you know that our academy is free enrolled today for free@academy.casto.com get access to our courses, videos and templates all for free. Thanks for listening to the audience podcast today. We hope we're helping you become a better podcaster. All that's left for you to do is share this episode on social media buy for now.

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