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Spotify Reprising ‘Sound Up’ Podcasting Boot Camp for Women of Color

Todd Spangler

Spotify is bringing back Sound Up, its five-day accelerator program to educate and support women of color in developing new podcasts, to New York City this summer.

It will follow the same format as its inaugural Sound Up program in the U.S. last year. Spotify will select 10 women for an all-expenses-paid week-long podcast workshop in the Big Apple. At the end of the week, participants will pitch their concepts to an industry panel that will pick three winners — who will each receive a $10,000 grant to produce up to five episodes of their podcast.

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Spotify is now accepting applications for the 2019 Sound Up program, at this link. The deadline for entries is June 21 at midnight ET. The program will run Aug. 12-17 in New York.

Podcasting is a major new focus for Spotify. This week, Spotify announced a mulityear pact with Barack and Michelle Obama, under which the former first couple’s Higher Ground production company will develop, produce and host a range of podcast shows. The audio-streaming company has said it expects to invest up to $500 million in podcasting in 2019, which has included acquisitions of three podcasting companies: Gimlet Media, Anchor FM and Parcast.

While Sound Up is a way for Spotify to cultivate new podcast creators — particularly those underrepresented in the field — the company says there are no strings attached to the program. Participants aren’t obligated to distribute their work on the platform. In addition, they will own the intellectual property of their podcast ideas.

Last year, Spotify’s Sound Up elicited over 18,000 applications. The three winners were:

  • Titi Shodiya, a scientific auditor at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, who co-hosts podcast “Dope Labs” with Zakiya Whatley, looking at the intersection of science and pop culture;
  • Janina Jeff, a geneticist at biotech company Illumina, whose podcast “In Those Genes” will focus on genetics and the black community, with cohost Ashley Huderson; and
  • Kristina Ogilvie, secretary for a disaster aid nonprofit in Washington, D.C., whose podcast concept was “Your Job Seems Easy,” an interview show that explores the working lives of women of color.

Of those, only Shodiya’s “Dope Labs” is currently in production, after debuting earlier this year on Spotify and other platforms. A rep for the company said Jeff and Ogilvie are continuing to develop their projects, and noted, “While we fund production and mentor all three winners, attendees and winners are not required to produce their podcasts with Spotify (or at all).”

With the 2019 Sound Up, Spotify promises an “immersive experience” in bringing a podcast concept from idea to pilot. The sessions will include podcast technical production, storytelling through audio and marketing.

To be eligible for Spotify’s Sound Up, applicants must be U.S. citizens but no prior podcasting experience is required. According to the company, “Applicants just need to have something unique to say and a desire to use the podcast medium to tell their story.”

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