And Renay knows this: “I cannot afford to fail. When you stick your head out so far above water, as a black person, you have to work twice as hard and twice and much. If our Sony project fails, the industry will use it as an excuse to not fund black projects.”
“And the podcast industry is not an inclusive space — neither is TV or film, a well known fact,” agrees fellow podcast industry titan, Noleca Radway.
Noleca is the Director of Operations of Domino Sound, a queer, Black woman-owned network and production company creating authentic, inclusive and disruptive media content. She is the producer and host of progressive parenting podcast, Raising Rebels, the director of The Cheat Code and executive producer of The Color Grade.
Noleca is also the host of the English-track at today’s Podcast Netwerk’s Podcast Conference in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
“You realise, in the end, the system is never going to let you tell your story in the way you want to,” Noleca continues, “There are so many podcasts, and somehow, they’re all kind of the same. When you eventually get to the top, you realize the vision of what it’s [podcasting] supposed to be — is the same, everywhere.”
That’s another podcast industry open secret Renay Richardson can confirm firsthand; before founding Broccoli Content, she was blowing minds and changing lives at the likes of Acast, Audible and Panoply.
“It’s a system everybody is comfortable with,” Renay explains, “they’re all so secure in their ways they don’t believe they need to change, to adapt. Audio also stays under the radar when it comes to inclusion conversations, I think because you can’t see it. People tend not to investigate — who exactly is making all these shows?”
“So, my Acast shares had vested,” begins Renay — sharing Broccoli Content’s origin story — “and I decided to buy recording kit instead of taking the shares. That’s the kind of crazy stupid self-confidence you need to start an independent podcast production company. I have it.”
“I’d heard about Arts Grants, here in the UK. I wasn’t sure about it, but I was like, I think you can get free money to make things. At first my application was rejected, but they gave me feedback, so I implemented it. My second application was accepted.”
“Everybody said we couldn’t make a show about race in the UK. They said we had to tailor the story to a white audience. I got the grant and we made it anyway. When it went to #2 on Apple Podcasts, people wanted to work with me.”
“In the UK, if you wanna make shows for the BBC, you have to become a limited company. So, that’s a whole thing,” explains Renay.
“It’s so crazy how many ways the system is set up to keep people out of it,” observes Noleca.
“Luckily I’d been an agent's assistant for years, so I had a strong admin base,” Renay elaborates; suddenly reminded: “That’s the other thing — ANY deal you do, ever, make sure you get every single part of the entire deal outlined. Including who exactly you’ll be working with at each stage of the project.”
“That’s great advice. When people say ‘we all need to make our own mistakes, I’m always like, no. You don’t need to make your own mistakes. You can learn from other people’s mistakes,” Noleca laughs.
“When I worked with the producer who did Peaky Blinders, whenever we had an idea, he would ask us to explain it in a sentence. If we couldn’t, he’d say, ‘You haven’t got an idea.’ So, that’s how my team works now.”
“Five people. I deliberately want to keep a core team. I want to keep it small. When you get money, you get excited. ‘Yay, let’s hire lots of people just because we can!’ No. Don’t do that. A lot of people who get funded don’t have a clear idea of what their goal is. My people know what Brocolli’s about, they’re on-mission. If I die, they could carry it on and it would still be what I wanted it to be. I deliberately do not want to hire a big bunch of people.”
— which, you should know, boasted a truly mind-blowing podcast industry program — including the likes of Renay Richardson of About Race; Joanna Aveillan from Acast; Josh Rivers of Busy Being Black; Ashley Carman, senior reporter for The Verge; and Chana Joffe-Walt from Serial Productions, who helped us unpack the industry-redefining podcast, Nice White Parents.
The Saturday, September 19 program in its entirety is available for you to listen to on the Podcast Festival website, in exchange for a small donation — which, I promise you, will pay for itself twice over, within the first five minutes of your streaming session. Enjoy!
A selection of the sessions from the conference will be published on the Podcastfestival podcast feed - hear the podcast version of Renay Richardson’s session here!