Get to Know the 10 Female Podcasters of Color Heading to Phase Two of Spotify’s Sound Up U.S. Program

Anyone has the ability to think of a great podcast idea—but not everyone has the means, knowledge, or connections to bring it to life. That’s where Spotify’s Sound Up podcast education program comes in: Our goal is to empower the next generation of podcasters through education, workshops, and support, as well as create a space for new voices, stories, and perspectives in podcasting. And it’s already making an impact: By the end of 2020, Sound Up will have served 160 participants in six countries. 

Back in June, we announced the addition of Brazilian and Swedish programs, in addition to offerings for the U.S., U.K. and Ireland, Australia, and Germany. We also opened up applications for the third cohort of women of color in the U.S. who want to gain the skills and connections to bring their great podcasting ideas to life.

This year, Sound Up U.S. was conducted over a four-week virtual course in which 20 outstanding participants who were selected from a competitive batch of applications learned podcast engineering skills, tips for pitching their ideas, and more. Their ideas ran the gamut from historical fiction and fantasy, to innovative music shows, motherhood, women’s sexual health, musicals, and social justice. The program was facilitated by Rekha Murthy, a podcast strategist and our long-term partner on the program; and Maria Murriel, cofounder of Pizza Shark Productions.

All 20 participants had eight weeks to deliver a trailer and podcast pitch to a panel of judges for review. Now, going into phase two, 10 participants (and their ideas) have been chosen for a one-week intensive program in 2021. However, the full class will continue to have the support of the Sound Up community for their projects going forward, as well as access to ongoing opportunities for education, classes, and networking. 

The second phase of the program will be even more focused, with more one-to-one workshop support. After the week comes to an end, each participant will have two months to complete a 20- to 30-minute pilot episode, and potentially see their idea come to life. 

Get to know the 10 participants who will be moving forward into the next phase of Sound Up U.S.

Krystal Cruz


Programs like Spotify’s Sound Up are essential to making a change in terms of minority representation in media. Spotify uses their platform to hold up the creatives needing a boost and inspire them to make content unapologetically. It is no longer enough for vessels of media to only call for a change, but instead they need to actually feed the change to happen. Fueling the agents of change is exactly what Sound Up does. Programs like Sound Up make it possible to give the tools to communities to tell their stories and confidently take up space in the podcasting landscape. Opportunities like these reassure aspiring writers, producers, and hosts that they belong in any space where media is being created.”

Nicole Bassolino


“Technical editing skills aside, Sound Up has taught me how to refine a podcast idea. When I applied to Sound Up, my pitch was fairly general—I had a vague idea of what I wanted the show to be about, but beyond that, not much. I didn’t have a brief memorable sentence, an elevator pitch, or an image of who my listeners might be. From generating pseudo profiles of my ideal audience to thinking about content strategy and answering important questions like ‘Why this podcast? Why now? Why me?’ I’ve come out of the Sound Up program with a much stronger sense of direction and show identity.”

Shayla B. Coleman


The power of community cannot be understated. Being around and interacting with others who are doing all they can to breathe life into the things they care about alongside you, and who want to see you succeed, is so uniquely energizing. Knowing you’re only a message/email/phone call/video chat away from someone who’s gone through it, going through it, rooting for you, willing to remind you you’re not crazy, is that extra hidden fuel reserve you can tap into when you’re running on E.”

Winnie Kemp


“Creating and writing my own fiction podcast always felt like a goal that was far out of reach because of external circumstances (job, kids, etc.) and internal blocks (lack of confidence, feeling like I did not know enough about the podcast industry). Sound Up gave me the structure, the knowledge, and the community to become a more confident creator and invest in myself. I’m 100% sure I would be sitting at home, still stuck in the idea phase, without this program.”

Caroline Selia


From learning how to develop my show’s main thesis to learning the intricacies of sound design, Sound Up has taught me so much. I feel like I learned how to be an audio engineer, content creator, and podcast host in a way I didn’t even know was possible. Every workshop and session brought so much detail and insight into a process that felt so mysterious. And it felt even more meaningful to gain most of this insight from some of the most amazing women in the business. I will always thank Spotify’s Sound Up for making me a microphone snob to spot any sound inconsistency in any podcast I listen to for the rest of my life!”

Rene Rawls


“Programs like Spotify’s Sound Up are important because they give creative artists like myself the ‘YES . . . AND’ we need. YES . . . we hear and honor your unique voice. AND . . . we’re going to give you the resources needed to support your vision. Programs like this set artists up for success.” 

Rowena Chang


“I am so grateful for this program for helping me discover my voice. Although there is a lot of chatter in the world, we all still have stories worth sharing! The tools, guidance, and encouragement provided by the entire Sound Up team and program empowered me to take the mic—literally—and speak up.” 

Olayinka Sarayi


“I learned how to go from ideation to creation, how to structure a show, and how to really think about my audience and reaching them in a meaningful way. Beyond that, the program helped me gain confidence in myself. Sound Up taught me how to put myself out there, to take a chance on myself, and to believe in myself. I got to meet many talented women who were all there to learn and lift one another up. This program has literally been the highlight of my 2020.”

Pratima Mani


“I came into this knowing how to break down an idea in terms of narrative and character but now I have a much stronger sense of how to discuss content-strategy—for example, how to get not just other writers and artists, but also producers and partners, excited about an idea.”

Alexis Johnson


“Being chosen as a Sound Up participant was beyond my wildest dreams. For years, I have had my podcast concept on the horizon. But without direction on how to approach the beginnings of my idea or many of the resources necessary to produce the podcast, I never pushed myself to get it off the ground. Sound Up has given me the opportunity to take my passion project to a well-rounded program focused on developing industry-standard quality content that was both challenging and informative. More importantly, Sound Up brought together a group of women that will forever be connected. It brought light to us in a year of uncertainty.”


Check out In Those Genes, a podcast by previous Sound Up U.S. winner Dr. Janina Jeff that uses genetics to decode the lost histories and futures of African-descended Americans through the lens of Black culture.