Streaming giant Spotify is placing First Nations voices front and centre as it calls for applications for their Sound Up podcasting accelerator program.

Spotify has hopes to become leaders in podcasting and believes the ancient skill of storytelling is something engrained in Australia’s Indigenous population.

“First Australians have been passing down their knowledge, culture and history from generation-to-generation through storytelling for tens of thousands of years,” said Spotify Sound Up Lead, Natalie Tulloch.

“Spotify wants to harness the power of storytelling and bring it to the next generation through podcasting.”

Coming to Sydney for five days in May, the workshop is returning for its second run. The 2020 workshop is set to be facilitated by established podcaster and founder of Tiddas 4 Tiddas, Marlee Silva.

Podcast expert Rekha Murthy, who has been advising in the podcasting space for years, will also be taking the reins with Silva, teaching ten lucky Indigenous applicants how to plan, create and edit their podcast ideas.

At the end of the workshop, three podcasting hopefuls will be awarded a cash grant toward their productions and all participants from the week will be sent home with the equipment and software needed to produce their podcasts.

Tulloch said she is looking forward to amplifying Indigenous voices in the podcasting space.

Sound Up is offering ten places for First Nations applicants to develop their podcasting skills. Photo supplied.

One particular voice amplified as a result of the Sound Up program is that of Rowdie Walden.

A proud Gamilaroi man, Walden participated in the first program at the end of 2018 and is on the brink of launching his very first podcast, Search Engine Sex.

He was awarded one of four grants given in the 2018 program and was part of Spotify Australia’s first Spotify Original investment.

Walden said the program afforded him the opportunity to explore a space he’d never been involved with before.

“It’s just this really intense accelerator program for people that want to get into making podcasts. It’s essentially a boot camp.”

As part of the selection process, Walden said he had to submit a podcast idea to Spotify.

Commonplace in a world where the internet is at our fingertips, Walden wanted to explore the ideas around symptom searching online.

“All these search engines keep data on what people search and I found this list of the most searched questions.

“I found all this other info about how many people … weren’t going to doctors anymore and I thought, ‘Okay, this idea has legs.’

“This [was] the perfect catalyst for an idea.”

Walden said the program offered a steep learning curve, even coming from a film and TV background.

“This is a whole new world of telling stories … if you can’t show someone how do you tell it to them?”

“It’s this really nice process of learning about audio [and podcasting].”

In terms of the benefits for First Nations communities specifically, Walden said there’s nothing to lose.

“If you apply to the program and get in, you’re only going to come out on top,” he said.

“Even if you decide that you don’t want to make the podcast for Spotify, you’re still leaving with all of these amazing skills that you can take back to community or take back for other programs or ideas you might want to do.”

Walden said it’s been really humbling to see Spotify come into Australia and recognise the need for First Nations representation in podcasting – a predominantly white, male-centric space.

“Instead of going down the big budget, celebrity … [ideas] they know will go off because they’re straight white men, [Spotify has] gone and invested in Indigenous people … to give skills back to Indigenous people.

“It’s empowering us to make our own stories.”

Walden said podcasting is creating space for First Nations voices to reach a global audience.

“It’s a massive booming industry, so why aren’t we there?

“If you have a podcast, anyone in the world can listen to your story and you can tap into audiences all over the world, other First Nations audiences.”

Walden’s podcast Search Engine Sex will be available on Spotify in May. To stay up to date with the podcast, you can follow @searchenginesex on Instagram.

To apply for Sound Up, you can apply here:

Entries close March 15 at midnight and will take place at Spotify’s Sydney Headquarters from May 11-15.

By Hannah Cross