Spotify Cultivates Female Podcasters of Color with Sound Up’s Return

Podcasting continues to grow as one of the most influential ways for people to share their voice with the world. And while female podcasters of color are making their mark in this territory, there’s still a significant opportunity to bridge the gap in representation. Just consider that 22% of podcasts in the U.S. are hosted by women, and even less than that are hosted by minority women.

Spotify’s immersive Sound Up accelerator program was created to tackle this issue head on. Returning for the second year in a row, the program is designed to uplift and amplify the voices of women of color. The intensive, week-long program lead by longtime facilitators Rekha Murthy and Graham Griffith trains the next generation of leading podcasters through education, mentorship and support from Spotify.

We hand selected 10 participants from over thousands of applications for this year’s class. The aspiring podcasters were invited to Spotify’s New York offices for daily sessions, working directly with podcasts’ 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.

“It was such a pleasure to help usher these creators into podcasting,” says Juleyka LantiguaWilliams, CEO of Lantigua Williams & Co. and a speaker during the week. “Thanks to Spotify’s training, more women of color can shape the future of podcasting. These women have so much to say, and I simply cannot wait to hear all of it.”

This year’s participants include: Alyssa Castro, Christina Orlando, SK, Janae Burris, Kacie Willis, Michel Rosario, Rebecca Jackson-Artis, Shayla Martin, Yvette Ankunda and Mohini Madgavkar, who were provided one year Journalist PRO Licences courtesy of Hindenburg Systems during the program. At the end of the course, Christina Orlando, Janae Burris, Shayla Martin and SK were awarded $10,000 each to fund their proposed podcasts. 

“The response to the Sound Up program has been incredible, so we’re proud to bring it back a second year,” said Spotify’s News and Documentary Lead, Natalie Tulloch. “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.”

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 this past February, diving deep into the intersection of science and pop culture.

“It was surreal to be back and sit on the other side of the pitch competition,” said Dope Labs co-host Titi Shodiya. Titi serves as a scientific auditor at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. “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. And last month at Spotify’s office, there was a room full of exactly that. I cannot wait to for all of their podcasts to debut and continue to change the podcast landscape.”  

Spotify is committed to reaching beyond the borders of music to being the leading audio-first platform and top destination for podcasts. Through programs like Sound Up, Spotify provides curated listening experiences to connect users with culture in a visceral and personal way, while inspiring a new wave of cultural and socially-minded podcasts. 

Read on to learn how the accelerator program has expanded to London and Australia, amplifying the campaign’s impact on a global scale.