by Ella Turenne
On a clear June night in Los Angeles, podcasters of color from throughout the city gathered at the YouTube Space to participate in “An Extraordinary Evening,” a panel discussion and networking opportunity hosted by Jay Connor. Jay is also the producer and co-host of the podcast “The Extraordinary Negroes.”
The excitement in the room was palpable as the second installment of this event gathered podcasters of color from all ranges of expertise and content matter. When I asked why he was hosting the event, Jay responded, “It’s about creating community. It’s about providing resources that otherwise people wouldn’t have. It’s about forging relationships between these podcast companies that otherwise probably wouldn’t do business with us. And it’s about making sure we celebrate our accomplishments and contributions to this space.”
What particularly drew me to the event was that the evening would feature an all-women panel. Each speaker is a badass in her own right. The panel included Amber J. Phillips, co-host of “The Black Joy Mixtape,” Misha Euceph, co-host and producer of KPCC’s “Tell Them, I Am” & “The Big One: Your Survival Guide,” and Diosa Femme, co-host of “Locatora Radio.”
“I purposely picked an all-women panel because I know a lot of women face challenges that the rest of us aren’t aware of,” Jay said to me. “So I wanted to make sure we address those. If we learn these things we’re able to help each other out. We owe it to each other to uplift each other.” What followed that evening was nothing short of extraordinary: an opportunity to spill all the tea, celebrate the hard work we put in as podcasters and build with each other. In addition, it was an opportunity for people of color to be in conversation with various companies that have useful resources. The ability for us to connect with them in person is invaluable. The sponsors included Patreon, Castbox, Extraordinary Ideas and Simplecast, and partners Audioboom and SquadCast. I met a number of amazing women of color podcasters as well, including Laura Cathcart Robbins, creator of The Only One in the Room Podcast.
The conversation covered a range of tips about making a podcast to trials and tribulations of being a woman of color podcaster. There were many gems, but here are my takeaways from the panel.
Podcasting is dynamic because we can control the narrative.
In many ways, women of color continue to be marginalized, silenced, pushed aside, and not taken seriously. Producing podcast content allows us to sidestep traditional media and create spaces where we can be heard. “There’s a lot of conversations around Black feminism and it’s not whole,” said Amber J. Phillips. “How can we start to have those conversations on our own platform, with our own voice, in a way that feels good for us?” Podcasting is an accessible, financially viable medium allowing content creators a platform to share stories and knowledge directly with our communities. That kind of leverage is extremely powerful.
Building an audience is about building community.
You can create the best content or the most well-produced podcast but if no one is listening, your message is not getting out there. Your audience exists, but you have to do the work of getting them engaged. Misha Euceph talked about the guerilla tactics she used to get people to listen to her show. For instance, she googled journalists who wrote about podcasts and emailed them asking them to listen to her show.
Leveraging your individual following to listen to your podcast is another way to build an audience. These are people who are already in your community; they will naturally be drawn into the interesting project you’re involved with. Diosa Femme was able to bring her community of Latinx femmes over to her podcast, especially using Instagram. These women then uplifted the work she was doing. “What we continue to see is that women of color are the ones…literally writing about us.”
Available resources need to be more accessible to podcasters of color.
We’re in a time when more diverse content is, as Misha put it, “a hot commodity.” That doesn’t always translate into more opportunities. Misha talked about the need to have us be in positions of power so that we can have even greater control of our narrative. “Once we get our stories told, once we get some attention, let’s get into those executive producer roles so that later we’re actually in positions to lift each other up.” Amber agreed and talked about how although we have to put in the work, the industry also needs to make space for us. “It can’t just be on individual people of color to bust our asses to get into these spaces. The doors and barriers literally have to come down or else we’re always going to be in this lean in mentality as if people aren’t knocking on these doors to be let in to have these opportunities.”
For instance, Diosa talked about Spotify’s Bootcamp. Although a great opportunity, it required going to New York for over a week to participate. Diosa mentioned that this is a challenge for folks with full-time jobs or other personal responsibilities. In addition, the panelists all warned against signing up for opportunities that do not allow us to keep our intellectual property.
Their advice to companies who say they want to support the work of women of color? Just give us the loot. Provide resources that will allow us to thrive and create content that we own and our audiences love. They can also promote what is already out there instead of looking for brand new content. Great content exists and they can benefit from bigger platforms.
Finally, don’t pigeonhole us for things just related to people of color. We have expertise in many content areas and can share that expertise in different ways. “Allow us to be the voice of those industries,” said Misha. “We’re not just experts in being ourselves.”
There’s a lot we can do to empower ourselves.
All of the panelists mentioned that sharing knowledge is gold when it comes to being successful in this space. Teaching what we know, creating artist collectives and being diligent about practicing our craft are all ways in which we can crowdsource information. Misha has a great resource she created called How to Make a Podcast to help folks learn about the ins and outs of podcast creation. Misha also mentioned that you have to know how to speak money. “If you can translate your audience into why a sponsor should give you money, you will all of a sudden have more power than everyone else in the room.”
Ultimately we can all agree that being a woman of color podcaster has its challenges, although there is strength in community and learning from the growing pains we’ve all experienced. It’s important that we continue to surround ourselves with women who get it, who celebrate the hard work we’ve put in, and can give us honest feedback so that we can excel.
No one will believe in us as much as we do. As we say, the hustle is real and one of the big takeaways for me was that if we hope to achieve success in the podcast space, we have to keep at it. Our audiences are out there waiting for our genius.
Ella Turenne is an artist, changemaker and entrepreneur. She is the creator and co-host of Fanm on Films, a podcast highlighting the work of Haitian creatives in film and television. Ella also created the limited series podcast The WOCpreneurs Project to capture the stories of women of color who are operating businesses in the digital space. Ella was a Leadership LA Fellow and an Arts for LA ACTIVATE Fellow and has had extensive training focused on equity and inclusion, facilitation and the intersection of art and social change. For more information, visit www.ellaturenne.com.