For many podcasters the answer to increasing the medium’s reach among new listeners is bringing in more diverse hosts and programming. It’s led to the creation of programs like the PRX-Google incubator and shows targeting young people from companies that include NPR and the New York Times. Spotify has its Sound Up accelerator program, which has just selected the 10 participants from over thousands of applications for this year’s class. Three of them, Christina Orlando, Janae Burris and Shayla Martin, were awarded $10,000 each to fund their proposed podcasts. And seven others, including Alyssa Castro, SK, Kacie Willis, Michel Rosario, Rebecca Jackson-Artis, Yvette Ankunda and Mohini Madgavkar, were provided a one year license of audio editing and production software from Hindenburg Systems.
“The response to the Sound Up program has been incredible, so we’re proud to bring it back a second year,” said Natalie Tulloch, Spotify’s News and Documentary Lead. “At Spotify, it’s vital to give voices and platforms to those that would not normally have the opportunity, and the women that come through these doors continue to amaze us with what they have to say. The participants have unique backgrounds, personal stories, and pivotal experiences that others resonate with, and we’re thrilled to give them the chance to share it with the world.”
Spotify’s Sound Up program brought the participants to its New York offices for an intensive week-long education where they worked directly with podcast’s biggest power players to cultivate storytelling, production, and marketing skill sets. The experience culminated with a pitch session in which participants competed for the opportunity to have their podcast pilots funded, produced, and featured on Spotify.
Past alumni of Sound Up have received podcast development deals, connections to industry leaders, and production grants to take their concepts to the next level. Dope Labs, one of the three podcast winners from Sound Up 2018, and recently renewed for a second season, is a new original podcast that launched in February that focuses on the intersection of science and pop culture. Host Titi Shodiya was among those who selected this year’s winners.
“It was surreal to be back and sit on the other side of the pitch competition,” said Shodiya. “I’ve learned so much from this program and have honestly watched my dreams become reality by launching a podcast on something I’m so passionate about. Seeing women of color raise each other up is really inspiring, especially in the podcast space because there aren’t that many of us.”
Juleyka Lantigua–Williams, CEO of the production company Lantigua Williams & Co., was among the speakers who educated the group on the ins and outs of podcasting. “Thanks to Spotify’s training, more women of color can shape the future of podcasting,” she said. “These women have so much to say, and I simply cannot wait to hear all of it.”
Based on the success of Sound Up in the U.S., Spotify has expanded the program to the U.K. and Australia.